Easter approaches with its egg hunts and colorful dress and the festivities of people celebrating bunnies and cashing in their Easter coupons on online shopping and at the mall.
Holy Week is here too with its shadows of darkness, its Last Supper where cowardice and betrayal transcend devotion and trust. The disciples never really understood what Jesus had in mind. Many of them still don’t.
I often worry that all of his teachings on kindness and generosity and love remain on the Cross beaten and dead to his followers; all of those wise and difficult truths; all of those calls to deeper living crushed by selfishness and fear, by greed and prejudice and the lust for power.
The governor of Indiana and his legislative devotees have passed a brutal law primarily against the LGBT community shallowly disguised as “religious freedom.” Arkansas legislators came up with an even more appalling law with even worse prejudicial intent. Why are these discriminating laws necessary?
We have the United States Constitution which certifies religious liberty for all of our citizens. But that of course is never enough for some within the political and religious community. They demand control. They apparently are not interested in freedom for everyone. But their bigotry cannot be hidden within God talk. Their hate for gays and other minorities cannot be turned into some kind of “protection for Christians.” Their contempt for people not like them is as glaring as a bloody Christ mocked and crucified.
The use of Christianity as a way of making abhorrent actions and crudely ignorant theology acceptable and even respected is the work of manipulative and deeply disturbed people. What poses as religious devotion in this country is too often little more than a thin veneer covering loathing and the scorn of others.
Is this what Christ died for, to make his followers rigid keepers of moral rules that hurt and divide people? Did he give his life for intolerance, for bullying, for preening self-righteousness, for keeping people in their poverty, for damning people for the way they were born, for breaking hearts and marring beautiful lives with cruel labels and crude talk and obscene pretentiousness?
Is the Cross a symbol of love or a weapon wielded by politicians and religious fomenters and small-minded believers to exact pain, to judge, to condemn, and to dismiss those they disagree with?
Where in our Easter celebration is there any room for open hearts, for grace, for generosity and the affection of Jesus?
“Today you will be with me,” he said to the thief on the cross beside him. A convict. A criminal. A law breaker. A nothing. And yet, included by Jesus.
Shouldn’t followers of the crucified Jesus welcome all humanity whatever their sexual orientation?
Shouldn’t followers of Jesus today, without discrimination, embrace broken souls and bring them into their circle of support? Shouldn’t they openly include those shamed and bewildered by their crumbling lives; those lost in some psychological wound; those in spiritual crisis; those hurting from prejudice from being hated because of who they are?
Can you truly follow Jesus in your life and exclude anyone?
Author Dan Barker has written, “Love is not self-denial. Love is not blood and suffering. Love is not murdering your son to appease your own vanity. Love is not hatred or wrath, consigning billions of people to eternal torture because they have offended your ego or disobeyed your rules. Love is not obedience, conformity, or submission. It is a counterfeit love that is contingent upon authority, punishment, or reward. True love is respect and admiration, compassion and kindness, freely given by a healthy, unafraid human being.”
That’s pretty good stuff coming from an active atheist. It sounds to me like what Easter is supposed to convey.