Sunday, March 23, 2008

An Uninspiring Easter Message

Our message for Easter 2008 is this: George Bush should be impeached.

We believe this is a faithful application of the Easter message in the New Testament, and a distinctively American message that would have characterized America's Founding Fathers.

The real meaning of Easter has been all but lost in a nation that once called itself a "Christian nation." So now that the traditional Easter activities are over, let's see if we can figure out the real meaning of Easter.

Each year millions of Americans show up at church dressed in new Spring outfits. Children sometimes bring their colored eggs and chocolate bunnies to Sunday School. Other than at Christmas, this may be the only time they're seen in church. They hope to hear an inspiring, uplifting Easter message.

An Easter message suggesting that Bush should be impeached would certainly not be considered "inspiring." For millions of Americans, that message is unsettling, impolitic, even sacrilegious. A sermon only the Rev. Jeremiah Wright would preach. The only thing more socially unacceptable than mixing religion and politics is mixing religion and bad politics.

Except perhaps, bad religion and bad politics.

And that pretty much describes the Bible. Which may be why Easter is being left out of contemporary Sunday School lessons. As editors of the "First Look" curriculum explained, "We have made this choice because the crucifixion is simply too violent for preschoolers. And if we were to skip the crucifixion and go straight to the resurrection, then preschoolers would be confused."

Adults also find Easter to be "bad religion." Not because of the violence, which is actually fashionable at the box office (and churches long ago stopped censoring movies). If the violence had been perpetrated against the rich by the poor, it would pass muster with the Religious Left. But the violence against Jesus was actually directed against the Religious Left. And the Religious Right.

Violence is an inescapable part of the Bible. The God of the Bible is a very angry God. And contrary to the popular myth, Jesus was more angry and violent than the God of the Old Testament. But what offends modern sensibilities is that this violent anger is directed against us. The Bible says we are "sinners in the hands of an angry God."

In order to escape God's anger, the Hebrews were instructed to slaughter animals in the Temple. Jesus was said to be the last sacrificial animal, "the Lamb of God." His execution was not an unforeseen event, but was planned and predestined even before we were created (Revelation 13:8). The violence directed against Jesus by the Jews and the Romans was actually the anger of God toward us, and Jesus became the scapegoat, the propitiation of His Father's wrath. Some ostensibly Christian leaders have found this account to be a form of "cosmic child abuse." (Government schooling, which leaves millions of children functionally illiterate and unable to comprehend the concept of "propitiation," and thus the meaning of Easter, is not child abuse, of course.)

An angry God is bad enough, but anger directed at us -- that's intolerable. That's bad religion.

Easter converts bad religion into bad politics. The Lamb who was slain in an act of cosmic child abuse becomes a cosmic dictator (Revelation 5:12) and terrorist, taking vengeance against His enemies, driving them to say to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!" (Revelation 6:16)

These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”
Revelation 17:14

It is now our duty to serve the Lamb-King before His throne (Revelation 22:3).

This means suffering martyrdom rather than worshiping Caesar.

This means paying more at the pump rather than asking Caesar to create an empire, enslaving or killing millions, in order to keep the oil flowing to the homeland.

In his Saturday morning radio address, President Bush -- who famously said that Jesus Christ was his favorite political philosopher -- said Easter "is the most important holiday in the Christian faith." Indisputable.

But how do Christians live once they have been transformed by Easter? How do Christians serve the Lamb-King? According to Bush, Easter is lived out in the war in Iraq:

On Easter, we remember especially those who ... have lived out the words of the Gospel: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

Is this really what the Christ of Easter bids us to do: take up arms and overthrow foreign governments, killing tens of thousands of innocent women and children in the process? Or is that really bad politics?

Perhaps the first question we should ask is, "Who sez?" Where should we turn to learn the real meaning of Easter. Who is the expert? Who is the authority? Does Bush define Easter?

An encyclopedia maybe? The long article on Easter in Wikipedia begins with this statement:

Christians celebrate this day in observance of their belief that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion, now estimated to have taken place between the years AD 26 and AD 36.

Good enough. But the rest of the article consists almost entirely of ecclesiastical discussions about which day or month Easter should be celebrated, and sections on "The Religious Observance of Easter" (church services) and Non-Religious Easter Traditions (coloring eggs). Was Christ tortured to death and raised from the dead so we could have a wide variety of church services to choose from on Easter Sunday? Is Easter over at midnight on Sunday?

There is nothing in the Wikipedia article that would tell anyone if President Bush's recommended Easter tradition of armed invasion and military occupation is correct or not.

How about the Bible. Can we trust the Bible?

The men who signed the U.S. Constitution would have said yes.

The man usually thought of as the co-founder of the Harvard Law School was also America's expert on the Law of Evidence in the common law system. Simon Greenleaf also wrote a book which argued that if the Testimony of the Evangelists (the authors of the four Gospels) were to be tested in a court of law using the common law rules of evidence, the court must conclude that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical fact.

But this is actually circular reasoning of a sort, because Western Civilization is Christian Civilization, and the common law is built on Christianity. As we saw last week, while the Roman Empire was crumbling, St. Patrick and the Irish monks were creating Christian civilization. Following the command of the Resurrected Lamb-King, Christians were bringing every nation before His Throne, re-working the legal codes of the day and making them conform to Biblical Law, as did Justinian, Ethelbert, and Alfred.

John Locke, quoting the Puritans, said in the late 1600's,

[T]he Law of Nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others. The rules that they make for other men's actions must . . . be conformable to the Law of Nature, i.e., to the will of God. [L]aws human must be made according to the general laws of Nature, and without contradiction to any positive law of Scripture, otherwise they are ill made.
Two Treatises on Govenment, Bk II sec 135.

The Delaware Supreme Court echoed this in 1837,

Long before Lord Hale declared that Christianity was a part of the laws of England, the Court of Kings Bench, 34 Eliz. in Ratcliff's case, 3 Coke Rep. 40, b. had gone so far as to declare that "in almost all cases, the common law was grounded on the law of God, which it was said was causa causans," and the Court cited the 27th chapter of Numbers, to show that their judgment on a common law principle in regard to the law of inheritance, was founded on God's revelation of that law to Moses.
State v. Thomas Jefferson Chandler
, 2 Harr. 553 at 561

Easter therefore transforms individuals from enemies of God to the friends of God (John 15:14; John 15:15; James 2:23; Matthew 11:19), and transforms nations from empires of conquest into something we may not have a word for: a "Vine & Fig Tree" society.

A government or legal system that does not begin with Easter ends with a gulag.

President Bush avoids the bad religion and bad politics of Easter, and transforms the event into a Hallmark Card:

Easter is a holiday that beckons us homeward. This weekend is an occasion to reflect on the things that matter most in life: the love of family, the laughter of friends, and the peace that comes from being in the place you call home. Through good times and bad, these quiet mercies are sources of hope.

I'm a family-values kinda guy, but Easter is not about family. This political muzak provides a comfortable atmosphere for Bush's murderous imperialism: millions of refugees; hundreds of thousands killed; hospitals, schools, roads, utilities, all destroyed with American weapons of mass destruction; all for the purpose of keeping gas prices down. And Bush actually portrays this covetous aggression as "living out the words of the Gospel: 'Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.'" Americans aren't giving their lives for the people of Iraq; we're taking their lives to protect our cushy lifestyle. It would have been more Christian for us to liquidate our assets and give them to the Iraqis. Instead, we have spent a trillion dollars to liquidate their assets. And in God's judgment, we may find our remaining assets liquidated. Past Presidents have urged Americans to pray "that He would turn us from our transgressions and turn His displeasure from us." The idea that God is displeased with America is costing Obama points in the polls, and wasn't heard in many churches this Easter.


"He is Risen" The New American
Why Easter stubbornly resists the commercialism that swallowed Christmas - By James Martin - Slate Magazine
An Historic Look at Easter - CWN
Has the 'notion of sin' been lost? -
Pro Libertate: Reflections on Resurrection Sunday: We're Commanded To Be Free

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