Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Giving dead Jesus a spice rub

In the story in Mark 16, three women show up at Jesus' tomb on a Sunday morning. They popped by the market on the way there, to get some expensive spices to embalm Jesus. If they were to embalm a man, that would violate cultural mores about gender separation. On the way to the tomb, they talked about how they don't know how they will roll away the stone door to the tomb.

These women had tremendous faith. Otherwise, they wouldn't have done the risky thing of blowing their paycheck on spices and they wouldn't have been willing to do this taboo act of embalming a man as women. They were undeterred by the stone.

Their faith was good for making dead Jesus smell better.

When I first gave up on belief in God, I wanted to keep Christianity. I figured I could use Jesus as a good example, to give me stability, even though I didn't believe that Jesus actually rose from the dead and gives new life. I believed that Jesus was decomposing, if he'd been real in the first place. The worst part was that I thought that by following Jesus, I could think of myself as a good person, and so justify myself.

Embracing Jesus' teaching while denying his resurrection isn't that different from what these women were doing; I was giving dead Jesus a spice rub.

There are other ways to kill Jesus and try to make him smell good, but they're subtler.

In a lot of churches I've been to, the explanatory talk before communion about how it's 'just a symbol' takes longer than the rite itself. I've heard plenty of devotional talks on why miracles don't happen anymore. I'm perturbed by how cheerfully some say that gifts of prophecy and tongues passed with the passing of the apostolic age.

Whenever pastors preach on the story of the rich young ruler, most of the sermon is fancy dancing to explain why, when Jesus said 'sell all you have and give to the poor', he didn't mean it literally.

When I tell Christians that I have trouble believing that God is real and worth having over for tea because I don't see him working in falsifiable ways, they talk up coincidences into signs. When I'm unsatisfied with their signs, they ask me what it would take for me to believe, and I say that witnessing an exorcism or a miraculous healing would help me a lot. I'm told that's unfair; I shouldn't require a miracle before I'm willing to believe.

Everyone starts out with one idea of God or another, and everyone has to whittle off the parts that don't fit with their experiences. What makes me mad is when people aren't disappointed the God they're left with.

Yes, the women in the story, Mary, Mary, and Salome, had their faith misdirected. They lowered their expectations for Jesus because they were sure that he wouldn't rise from the dead and they didn't want to be disappointed. They had some sort of faith, though, when no one else had any to speak of, and, misguided as they were, these women showed up where they expected to find Jesus. They didn't find the dead Jesus they expected, and this terrified and amazed them.

No comments:

Post a Comment