To die, and to be reborn. It’s a powerful notion, so powerful and pervasive in human societies that there is no surprise that Christianity puts death and rebirth at the core. And it provides an easy way to take a measure of someone’s beliefs.
Are you a crucifixion person or a resurrection person? Do you believe we are born to suffer and die, with our ultimate reward coming in some other place, some other time? Or are you a resurrection person, immersed in leaving behind suffering and building a new life, immersed in being reborn here and now?
The Roman church decided early that they would be a church of the crucifixion. The Gnostic gospels, proclaiming the reality of being reborn on Earth, were edited from the canon, removed from the Bible, around 300 CE. The power of the church and its leadership was consolidated by this choice. By saying that divinity of the human was denied until the next life, no mere human could challenge the church, and the church could say that suffering was good for you, that your rewards would come in the afterlife.
Crucifixion: The power play
Today, power is still consolidated by leaders who speak for crucifixion. By emphasizing suffering and victimization of the group, they disempower individuals who speak for transcendence, attempting to make them subservient to the group. To empower individuals is to invite challenge, for people reborn in a present relationship with God are not under the control of man, not subject to the demands of the group for compliance on an earthly plane. Instead, they speak for the God they know intimately, even when that voice says change is needed, that we must defy convention to be right with God.
To be a crucifixion person is to deny the possibility of bliss, passion, ecstasy and power in this world. It is to live in suffering, a suffering designed to rationalize and support the need for sacrifices in order to receive a distant ephemeral reward.
To be a resurrection person though, is to embrace the idea that God is alive and living in everyone, reborn in every moment we reaffirm our connection with her. It is to face God everyday, a God who works though the divine callings in the hearts of each of us, teaching us where we need to be new.
This is a terrifying idea for crucifixion people who support the status quo, believing their suffering to follow the rules of the church and community is the only true way to serve God. They need to believe that God demands suppression of the individual and sacrifice to the mores of the group. Crucifixion people see a vengeful God, one who punishes us for following the joy in our hearts rather than following the tenets of the church and community. Their God enforces obedience to a set of laws rather than encouraging new creation from personal divine inspiration.
Resurrection: A queer idea
Resurrection is a very queer idea indeed. It honors those who follow their own unique connection to the Godhead by being born anew in every moment, rather than honoring those who suffer the most by being crucified in every moment. It honors creation, both the creation of a creative connection with the universe, and the creation of a Creator who made an incredibly diverse and beautiful world. To be a resurrection person we must celebrate the queer and unique beauty in every person, for it is impossible to embrace our own resurrection unless we embrace the resurrection of others, resurrection not beyond the reality of pain and conflict, but beyond the belief in suffering and fear.
Resurrection comes with a kind of responsibility that doesn’t come with crucifixion. To be a crucifixion person we just have to follow the rules, be a good follower in the congregation. To be a resurrection person though, we have to follow our hearts, even when that puts us in conflict with those who want to maintain the status quo.
To be a resurrection person, one has to be an individual and a leader. Resurrection means that we are active agents of God, playing our part in creation — and not just one of the group, believing that meek obedience will bring some kind of reward in a better place — or worse, that strong enforcement of social norms is following the call of God.
Resurrection requires a commitment to make this world a better place, more like heaven, rather than believing that this place is meant to be where people suffer and die for the glory of a distant God who is only truly known to church leaders.
Resurrection demands an active romance with the possible, rather than just an infatuation with the flat symbols of devotion.
Resurrection: A heroic journey
Joseph Campbell is clear: The hero’s journey has always been a journey of death and rebirth, of crucifixion and resurrection. To be a resurrection person is to be a hero, to be one who is willing to endure death to become new. The only way to be a resurrection person is to be willing to let parts of us die so we may be reborn, and those are most often the parts that have given us comfort.
For many, belief in the validity of suffering is at the heart of their comfort. A belief in suffering as central releases personal responsibility and puts the onus on those who refuse to suffer as God demands. This gives those who have chosen suffering the power to lash out at people who refuse to suffer like they do as the ones who cause all evil.
Resurrection people may seem to mock the price crucifixion people choose to pay to be right with God, but resurrection people do pay a high price — the price of being crucified daily by the crucifixion people who want to inflict the lesson of obedience and suffering. As Buddha said though, loss is inevitable but suffering is optional. It is those who endure loss and pain without succumbing to suffering who make this world more like heaven; it is those who transcend pain and loss who have the power to make change.
Are you a crucifixion person or a resurrection person? Which would you like to be: Reborn in every moment, or pinned to a cross for the rest of your mortal life? Are you willing to pay the price for whichever choice you make?
These are hard questions to answer. While crucifixion people will tell us that the lesson of Easter is that we can be reborn in a new life after we die if we sufficiently suffer the Cross here, Easter reminds me of one thing: Jesus was a resurrection person, unwilling to succumb to social pressure to play along against what he knew to be true and right, and willing to die to be reborn more in the image of God.
As I wrote on the talisman I gave Rachel Pollack on her bat mitzvah, which followed her bar mitzvah by 40 years:
She is who is
reborn in every moment
will truly know
the glory of G-D.
A self-described power-femme drag-mom trans-theologian who finds it very hard to practice what she preaches, Callan Williams is a native Canadian who graduated from high school in Massachusetts and loves Western swing and Latin music, show tunes and cabaret. She blogs at https://callan.wordpress.com