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Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday - I think I'll take a pass next year

Today is Good Friday. I did a special edition of The Christ Enlight Blog Talk Radio program this morning because it was Good Friday. I then went to an ecumenical Good Friday service to support some colleagues. After it was over, I came home and did a Christ Enlight Podcast because I was so disappointed - not really so much with the service, as with the whole issue of Good Friday. Obviously, I am still thinking through my issues because I am writing about it here as well.

I know I am not a Christian - I am a follower of Jesus and of Buddha. I think the whole problem I am having is really with the fact that once a person moves beyond the horrifically bad idea that is atonement theology, they eventually have to come to terms with the fact the liturgical season of Lent doesn't make sense any more, and Good Friday is in need of dramatic revision. Stay with me here, because I think I may be coming to some clarity.

Atonement theology holds that Jesus was sent to Earth and murdered by his heavenly Father, God, because God created humanity sinful, then God converted to Judaism which said to be close to God you had to keep the Jewish Law perfectly. Since no human being can do that, God had to find another way to avoid sending each and every human to God's customized torture chamber for all eternity. So, God looked at the Jewish Law and rituals and noticed that animals were offered as a sacrifice for sin. God then decided to send God's only Son to Earth, have him suffer a horrible death to pay for humanity's sinfulness that God had created humanity with, and then God would only have to send some people to the eternal, customized torture chamber - those people who Christian priests and pastors tell God to send there, because apparently God can't make decisions without help from humans.

It probably won't surprise you to know that atonement theology is on the wane. We are still left with the liturgical season of Lent, in which we are supposed to walk about very long-faced and punish ourselves because Jesus had to die for our sins. Except, we don't really understand Jesus' death in that way any more - so please tell me what all of this fasting and penance is about, again? Some will answer, "Oh, it's to turn our attention toward God." Well, that's nice, but aren't we supposed to be doing that all year? The whole thing culminates in Good Friday, in which we are supposed to be especially sad and mournful. To show us how sad and mournful we are supposed to be, clergy often gather and drag a large - but remarkably light weight - cross through the city streets to get attention for themselves. I mean, to show people what Jesus did, in case they didn't know already. Then they end up in a church telling a bunch 
of old people (who don't have jobs to be at so they can get to church on Friday) and fools like me a bunch of nonsense about how sorry they should be because we all killed Jesus with our sins - except that we didn't really, but I guess people don't find enough excuses to beat themselves up in daily living, so they look to religion for a few more reasons on Good Friday. I mean, it's not like we are living in a society filled with depression and eating disorders...

Ritual, and the symbols within it, have to have meaning for them to be useful. As I left the Good Friday service today the clergy handed us a section of purple ribbon as a token of our having been at the service. It's an excellent example of a symbol without any meaning or context - what in the world does a piece of ribbon have to do with anything even remotely connected with the execution of Jesus? Yes, it was purple and purple is the liturgical color of Lent, but that doesn't give a piece of ribbon meaning. People were tying the ribbon around their wrists, I suppose as a reminder of how self-loathing they should be on this day, just in case they missed the point not just today, or this Lent, but in all of the Lents combined in their lifetimes - but that doesn't make it a meaningful symbol.

You see, it's not Jesus that has lost his meaning - it's most of the Church that mindlessly repeats rituals year after year without either updating them or accompanying them with preaching that will update them that has lost its meaning. Rather than update the symbols, we add more symbols without meaning like letting adults draw on paper in a corner during worship, or dance in another corner, or God only knows what else - all of which creates even more symbols without meaning and on and on it goes in a seemingly endless circle of nonsense. In the midst of all of this what comes blasting through for me, loud and clear, is that my time would have better been spent sitting meditation for the hour that I spent in that church, because what went on there had no connection whatsoever to the reality which I inhabit. That's a stinging indictment of Church, and it's a stinging indictment of me for sitting there!

When we do things which contradict our deeply held beliefs we create what's known as cognitive dissonance. That's probably a pretty good description of what I am experiencing tonight. Finding the resolution of that dissonance is a spiritual practice in which I obviously need to engage!