I count myself and many of my friends among those who were joyful and grateful at the historic outcome of the recent presidential elections. All of us (some LGBT and some heterosexual) had been a shade discouraged and felt somewhat depressed over the events of the past eight years, and were not only grateful to have seen the person who we had been supporting in the elections emerge victorious, but also felt a definite sense of confidence and reassurance that the right person for the job was in place.
There were some slight apprehensions at first among my other bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender friends about our new President’s support of the LGBT Community, echoing as far back as the issue with his South Carolina Gospel tour involving Pentecostal Minister and Gospel Artist and self proclaimed “ex-gay” (and evangelically homophobic) Donnie McClurkin back in late 2007, and reaching as far forward as the choice of “mega-church” Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. Make no mistake, when they say Pastor Rick’s Saddleback Church is a mega-church it is no exaggeration: the complex is a sprawling campus larger than most office complexes, community colleges, or medical buildings and even sports its own traffic signal at the entrance.
I can understand the apprehension many had about this in some ways. Although he may be amongst the kinder and gentler in demeanor of the population of Christians who value and cherish being anti-LGBT rights or anti full acceptance of the LGBT Community as a valued tenet of their Christian faith, Pastor Warren is still preaching the same misguided and fearful ideas about sexuality, sexual orientation and spirituality clung to in fear by a disappointingly large group of evangelical Christians today.
I did not engage in being critical of the new President Elect in these controversies. I forgave Obama on both counts. I really see him as someone who is willing to listen to all sides of an issue and be inclusive of all people – be they LGBT or heterosexual, conventional or unconventional, those of a liberal theology or a conservative evangelical one and encourage everyone involved to seek common ground and agree to disagree rather than side with one or the other. The only way we can begin to bridge some of the divides which have developed and torn so many apart in a time when cooperation is more critical than ever is to begin to honestly communicate with all parties, and I feel he is making a sincere effort to do so. For the naysayers who remained certain that he was “throwing the LGBT community under the bus,” I reminded them that he also had liberal Christian minister Rev. Sharon Watkins and openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson as well as the Washington D.C. Gay Men’s Chorus involved in the inaugural events, and that he acknowledged the LGBT community in the acceptance speech and those of all faiths and even no faith in the inaugural speech. And for the first time since I can remember, there is a section outlining and detailing support for the LGBT community on the White House Web site. I cannot see the last administration doing anything of the sort.
It remains my hope that our new President can play a role in reuniting all of the division, brokenness and discord that has unfortunately beset this country in recent years. It is to me very profound that it seems as if someone was elected without any type of judgment and for no other reason than he was considered the best possible candidate for the job, which is how I feel things should always be. I entered this New Year with a genuine sense of hope that perhaps as far as matters political, new precedents have been set and perhaps all of us who have different methods of thought or belief can slowly begin to accept each other on a higher level.
For the most part, the friends of mine who were initially skeptical were able to emerge hopeful that this will signal the beginning of better times and that good things are imminent. Everyone else remained in a state of relief, moving forward and looking forward to seeing what the fruits of the new leadership in the country will bring forth.
Despite all of the celebration of many following the outcome of the 2008 Presidential Election, and regardless of whether it left us feeling elated and others cautiously optimistic about the future, there has been somewhat of a dark cloud in the ensuing months over one of the measures on the ballot in California. I am speaking, of course, of Proposition 8.
For those not aware, this was a ballot measure in California which was designed to “protect the sanctity of marriage” by stating that “only a marriage between one man and one woman is valid or recognized in California.” During the lead up to the election, the majority of fundamentalist churches as well as a slick and deceptive advertising campaign (not that all advertising is always sincere, honest and pure, but many of these ads were outright deceitful in their content, some insinuating that “schools will hold mandatory classes that will teach your children how to be gay” and that sort of propaganda tailored to cater to Mr. and Mrs. Homophobic) playing to all of the fears, prejudices and ignorance of those determined to cling to it went into overdrive. The end result? It passed. It was by a narrow margin – but it should not have passed at all. A larger percentage voted in favor of better treatment of farm animals than voted to prevent discrimination or in favor of marriage equality.
Born in the depths of fear and ignorance, crafted by the prejudiced and fearful and designed to legislate and sanction discrimination cloaked in the guise of “protecting the sanctity of marriage” (from what, I have no idea), this measure effectively dampened a lot of the hope of the LGBT community and supporters. The measure was backed in a somewhat conspiratorial fashion by conservative organizations, and I feel that what upset people most is that people-however misguided by a fear based propaganda machine constructed of mistruths-for the first time voted in favor to legislate discrimination.
This dampened more than a few spirits. As bisexuals in a poly-fidelitious relationship with another bisexual woman and man, and part of the LGBT Community with many friends in same gender relationships and marriages, my girlfriend and I were vehemently opposed to the measure, as were all of our LGBT friends and most of our heterosexual families. But it was not just us. One of my best friends, who is as heterosexual as they come but far from narrow minded, was disgusted by the outcome (and I should also mention that he usually votes Republican). He told me that he thought this was a tremendous leap backwards for normally progressive California and he felt ashamed that this is as far as we have come, when the majority – even if it was a narrow one – cast a vote in favor of discrimination and made an attempt to legislate morality, especially when “Jesus never said one word against anyone’s sexual orientation, He said we’re supposed to accept everyone as they are and treat them with respect.” Between my friend’s thoughts on the matter and Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment regarding Proposition 8 passing, I ended up getting pretty broken up about it myself.
Some friends of mine and I in the midst of discussing the matter half joked about finding one of those other Levitical laws that those in favor of such ballot initiatives and anti-LGBT rhetoric seem to conveniently avoid, such as eating shellfish, and getting it on the ballots as a measure during the next election.
Perhaps we would run a campaign to ban the sale of shellfish on Biblical grounds or prohibiting the sale of clothing made cotton/polyester or any other fiber blends (we eschewed the thought of suggesting a measure to instate the death penalty for cursing one’s Mother or Father as too sinister). After far too much caffeine, we finally arrived at the selection of a proposed ban on all shellfish, using, “Don’t Be Shellfish” as the tag line, and crafted visions of Public Service Announcements filled with all sorts of false data about imagined health risks of ingesting shrimp and featuring ominous music with menacing computer generated lobsters lurking below the surface a children’s wading pool, complete with a deep announcer voice: “The Lobsters, cherished by many as a delicacy, may seem harmless – but they’re after your children.”
The entire point would be strictly to demonstrate just how silly and foolish it is to attempt to create legislation based upon taking the Bible as literal truth, or attempting to extrapolate beliefs based upon outdated laws and ideas based on primitive knowledge, culture, and understanding which no longer apply, but we thought better of it. Eventually we dismissed the concept as a fanciful and amusing attempt to try to alleviate a very disappointing turn of events, and determined that while it was a worthwhile exercise to lessen the tense feelings, to actually act on it would be frivolous and that our time would be better spent considering more productive and proactive methods to educate and inform and illustrate the hypocrisy of such a serious issue and destructive measure such as Proposition 8. The exercise was good for a laugh, though, to break the tension.
But as with most experiences we feel emotional about, it really made me think, and that continues to affirm my belief that even in times of disappointment, God always gives us something to grow from. The thought that continues to run through my head is how a person – or a group of people – could be so dependent upon the idea that others must live, think and believe as they do and that they think is the “only” acceptable way, and determined no matter whom they hurt to have their way about it.
Such as those who either blindly supported or put their energies into something like Proposition 8 and all of their focus into something which in reality does nothing to “protect” the institution of marriage but only serves to create more division and brokenness in the lives of others. Is the concept of commitment and marriage so fragile to those who would support such a misguided cause that any variation upon it which deviates from the traditional poses a sudden (however imagined) threat to the very foundations of their belief in it? And if this is in fact the instance – what is the true and deep meaning of it to them? Is it only valid if certain commitments are kept while others are insignificant?
Are the rigid, solid and narrow definitions and conditions which they insist must be present for marriage or love to exist the only real thread that holds it together and validates it? If so, I think the whole institution is on precarious ground: if the foundations of what you believe in are so fragile that should the definition expand to be more inclusive that the whole institution could collapse, then perhaps the foundation should be restructured on sturdier ground.
I just feel that things as sacred as bonds and relationships should never be in any danger of feeling threatened by diversity or the realization that one way does not fit all: look at the world, examine and take an honest look at life, and as much as some would desire for life to be easily spelled out in black and white terms with no reason for thinking and asking the difficult questions and learning to operate on faith when we either do not know the answers or find them in disagreement with what we want them to be for others, that’s not the way God made things. We are all different, and we’re all supposed to be. The key is faith and discerning how we can all work together to cooperate despite our differences and yield the best we can out of the abundance we have been blessed with.
There is also a considerable, formidable amount of hypocrisy among many regarding those parroting the need for a discriminatory measure to create a solid and uneditable, unchanging definition of marriage that I have witnessed. All too often I hear about someone who suddenly decides to abandon their marriage or commitments as effortlessly as they would to trade in their old car for a newer model they had their eye on, or as a convenient way to escape a time of trial. While I am never one to attempt to define what someone should or should not do, I find it hypocritical when people who would judge others for being committed and loyal to a same gender or to same and opposite gender partners think little of wanting a way out or running away from commitments out of a feeling of necessity in times of duress or out of selfishness.
I have a difficult time understanding how others can even begin to feel threatened and feel the need to utterly crush any opposing point of view to what they or their peers deem acceptable and valid. As a bisexual who is honestly and openly committed to both a woman and a man, I definitely am not one to even being to attempt to define the concept of love and commitment by the terms by which the vast majority do. I know I am not alone in that as I know many other kindred spirits in similar relationships (God has an interesting way of bringing those with like minds together to support one another). And while it is unusual to some, for those of us who have made it work and realized that there is a way and we too are blessed, it is very meaningful and a gift from God.
But I cannot imagine for one moment ever suggesting to anyone that the nature of my relationships make them any more valid than those of another in a different type of arrangement and certainly cannot fathom the idea that someone could feel threatened or invalidated by whom I or anyone else who is not like them choose to love, however alien, unorthodox or different our relationships might be to them. Being seen as unusual is not a negative; it only means different, not bad and to God, no one is unusual. We make up those definitions and create those barriers when we allow our fears to cloud our knowledge of God Who Knows that no one of us is any better than the other but that we are all equally loved. I think that the key is remembering that God truly makes each person different, and no matter how different or outside of our reality someone might seem to us, we are called to live and work together in harmony and find the good – the God – in each other rather than hyper criticize or find something to dislike. I choose to every day to try to see the good in everyone, even those who I might completely disagree with on some issues.
Love and commitment are different to me, more based on trust, honesty, integrity and fidelity (even if my personal experience and understanding of fidelity is to two people rather than one, it is still genuine and still based on honest commitment and trust) than anything else, and if I have learned anything from all my experience of God, it is that love, and especially God’s Love, is something that is given freely and does not come with limits. Real love frees, not restricts and is not bound by one way of thinking. Everyone’s experience of love is different-some people find love with a person of the opposite gender, others find love with a person of the same gender, and some of us find love with both. And in my heart, I feel it is a serious missing of the mark, or sin, to try and redefine what love should or should not be for another or to deny them equal rights and acceptance based upon that, or anything else for that matter.
As I was considering what possibly would motivate those who are so determined to destroy the rights of everyone to express and experience love as God made them to and be free to be married to or love whomever they wish, I arrived at the conclusion that this type of discriminatory and hurtful manner of belief is, as similar ones are, borne of fear and insecurity which is an ugly by product of said fear. This got me to thinking about even deeper issues related to faith, ones which go far beyond ideas about sexual orientation, sexuality, or same gender marriage. There’s an amazing similarity to the way people seem to insist upon one unchanging, narrow definition of love, marriage and sexuality and the way many have come to feel about Christianity and insist that it too is something which has to have one static, rigid and inflexible definition that is required for all who consider themselves to be a Christian to adhere to in order to belong.
Although I have received my fair share of criticism for being bisexual and the nature of my relationships from both non-Christians and Christians (mostly conservative Christians, but a few liberal at times as well), I have received far more criticism for the spiritual nature of some of my beliefs about God, Christ, and what it is to be a Christian. Sometimes it is my insistence that I cannot see God as a “He” or a “She” and instead see God as beyond human constructs of gender. At others it is my skepticism about the Virgin Birth, my understanding of the book of Revelation as pure metaphor to illustrate the importance of faith during times of trial as opposed to being a futuristic vision of prophecy, my belief in creation through evolution, my understanding of the Trinity as God being in all things all the time, my ideas that other religions are valid paths to God, or my lack of belief in literal locations called Heaven or Hell. But while most people who would engage in a respectful civil discourse on seem to be able to agree to disagree on the above points, there is one that always seems to be the great divider, and that is my belief regarding the Resurrection and what it means.
It’s part of the Nicene Creed and likely one of the most cherished, deeply held and sacred tenets of the Christian Faith: that Christ suffered, died, was buried and on the third day, He rose again and ascended into Heaven. The empty tomb. The belief that on the third day, there was an actual, physical literal Resurrection of Christ. But as with many other beliefs, my thoughts on this are unorthodox as well.
I’m not by any means stating that it did not happen. I was not there, and I cannot say anything for certain. I do believe as Jesus taught that with God anything is possible, and if anyone could have, He would have. I am convinced that something happened, and I am certain in my heart that He did not die and rose again in a spiritual form. I have faith as many of us do have or want to have that the ending of this life is not the end, but rather a transition to something else. To what, exactly, I cannot be sure and although I am wholeheartedly convinced of it I don’t expend a great deal of energy on considering it as I feel that would prevent me from making the best of this life, here and now, that God blessed me with. I just know that life does go on, somehow, beyond this one.
I feel in my heart that they witnessed Christ returning in a spiritual form. Reading the portions of the Gospels about some of these experiences are to me very cryptic and mysterious; although there are a few accounts that refer to him in a physical form (such as is Luke 24:5: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? Jesus is not here, but has risen”) the majority, or at the least an equal amount seem to me to be somewhat ethereal, cryptic and mysterious in their nature.
Perhaps the most profoundly so is the encounter with Mary in John 20: 11-18, primarily the verse which states, “When she (Mary) had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.” (John 20: 14). It is only when he says her name that she recognizes Him as “Teacher.” In Mark 16:12, it states of one of the encounters with Jesus after His death that, “After this Jesus appeared in another form to the two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.”
These to me seem more to be experiencing His Spirit rather than an actual physical resurrection. And these, and a few others, fill me with a sense of wonder and reflection on what the real nature of the Resurrection might have been as well as just what exactly didn’t make it into the Gospels. My other favorite verses in the parts of the Gospels after the Resurrection are at the end of John and Matthew. Two verses at the end of John really open up a mystic sense of wonder for me:
John 20:30: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book.”
John 21:25: “But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”
Talk about inspiring speculation indeed! I can only imagine the possibilities, the things which were not related, the stories or parables that were not left in the Gospels for whatever reason.
But the one verse that always stands out to me whenever I reflect on the Resurrection and what it is to me is Matthew 28:20, said by Jesus after his Resurrection: “And remember, I am with you always.”
This is one of the truest, deepest and most significant meanings I read into the Resurrection story: Although He may have died on the cross, so that we might all have the teachings which would bring us closer to God and bring us life more abundantly, His Spirit has never left, and will never leave us.
You might be amazed at how many consider this point of view – that of one which does not require the literal and physical Resurrection in order to be a Christian – to be blasphemous. This often goes beyond anything – sexuality, sexual orientation, open mindedness, cultural ideas, anything. I have met very liberal minded Christians who were very accepting of my being bisexual and having two partners, of my openness about other religions, and liberal viewpoints on sexuality, society and culture but who were very theologically conservative and still clung to a lot of old fears about thinking open mindedly about interpreting the Bible. One was shocked, aghast and ready to string me up on heresy charges when I dared to suggest that the Resurrection might not have been a literal physical event but a spiritual experience with deep metaphorical meaning. We eventually held a civil discourse about it, but afterwards they still commented that they considered me more of a “Jefferson Bible Christian” who wanted to take the miracles out of the Bible. I disagree. To me, there are miracles everywhere and there still are today, but the miracles are not what convince me of the reality of God, God just IS.
Perhaps one of the experiences that drove the point home to me the most about how and why there are many who are insistent on never tampering with any type of open interpretation of what many consider sacred, untouchable and never open to any type of debate on core matters theological was a message board debate regarding the Resurrection I became involved in once when I still had the time for that type of diversion. The whole topic was centered around the concept on whether the Resurrection was a literal, physical event, metaphor, or something in between – a spiritual Resurrection and metaphor.
It was very enlightening from the perspective of someone merely watching but not electing to participate at first. There were several who were preaching fire and brimstone to any who did not take things literally to the letter, there were a few who echoed my own sentiments but as with my own, had learned to love the questions and wanted to discern the value from what they learned without the imperative for a set “answer”, and there were others who dismissed it as metaphor. The one comment that really stayed with me, though, was the following that one person stated:
“Jesus is God and He rose from the dead to prove it – that’s what cements my faith. Without that, I have nothing.”
This to me was terribly tragic. If they did not have rock solid proof that one event happened literally and unquestionably, their faith in God was suddenly rendered empty and meaningless? Without proof, suddenly everything they knew of God lost meaning? And how was this actually proof?
And think of how so often we hear those who are insistent on one rock solid and static definition of marriage, of gender, of sexuality, or sexual orientation, or most of all the Christian faith and the interpretation of the Bible state that without that definition, their faith becomes meaningless. All too often the case and rationale, all the arguments and apologetics for Biblical Inerrancy, Legalistic Christianity, and the Bible as literally true and unevolving render down to the idea that “either you believe all of it or none of it, and if one part is errant then it all must be false” and vice versa. This to me was like that; while I wholly support someone’s faith in whatever they choose so long as they are not forcing their view upon others or utilizing it to mask their own prejudices and justifying hateful and discriminatory behavior towards others, my heart goes out to anyone whose faith is built on a foundation that can sometimes be shaken or that demands that type of proof and reassurance.
I finally spoke up after that comment, and I stated very simply that while my personal opinion was that the writers of the Gospels were relating both the spiritual encounters some had with Christ after his Crucifixion as well as the beautiful metaphor that God and the Spirit of Christ will never leave us and that will bless us with new beginnings and life if we believe, that I wasn’t certain exactly what happened. I almost left it at that. But then I added the statement that brought the flaming arrows: “But it doesn’t matter what exactly happened on that day to me. It could have been metaphorical and that would still do nothing to subtract from my faith in God through Christ. The belief that Christ literally rose in physical form isn’t why I am a Christian, that is not what I base the foundations of my faith in God or following Christ’s teachings upon. My personal faith is based in my belief that God spoke to us through Christ, and that Christ’s Spirit is eternal and cannot die, and will always be there for us and it is not reliant or dependent upon whether or not the Resurrection was a literal event.
I shouldn’t have to tell you that was anathema to most everyone involved in that conversation. Although it was far from any intent to offend anyone with my honest statements, from the reaction you would have thought I had suggested there either might not be or was no God or Jesus. Things degenerated into the beginnings of a mini-flame war, and not in the mood to don cyber asbestos (as I never have been), I gracefully bowed out.
In retrospect, I should have mentioned Thomas.
On one of the encounters in the Gospels following the Resurrection-the one with Thomas (from where we get the now rarely used term, “Doubting Thomas,” now no doubt long replaced by some more culturally relevant term I haven’t heard yet), who will only believe Jesus has risen if he can touch Jesus’ wounds, Jesus says something which I feel is the key to truly understanding the deeper meaning of the Resurrection and what it represents:
John 20:26 -“Blessed are those have not seen and have yet come to believe.”
That calls to my mind the aforementioned and many a message board debate where I have heard Christians vehemently in opposition to anyone proclaiming themselves to be Christian yet remaining skeptical of or open to interpretation to the true nature the Resurrection or any part of the Bible that questions or challenges a literal understanding. Too many seem to want to maintain the “I’m from Missouri, Show Me” idea about faith. In the absence of concrete photographic or hard evidence, they fabricate it from a literal interpretation and often angrily defend it at the expense of others, with the idea that any opposing view must be silenced lest it be considered relevant or possible.
One thing I discern from Christ’s teachings and have learned from life experience: while Grace and God’s Love are not ever things that have to be earned (just look around and feel and think with your heart, they are given freely, abundantly, and without expectation) faith is something God allows us to do a lot of the work on. Yet so many who have faith seem to me to look for it in all the wrong places – and become angry to the point of hostility should any of those be challenged.
As with most rationalizations and defensiveness regarding any type of openness in interpretation of Biblical events, once again with the case of the Resurrection, it always seems to return to the issue of “proof.” If others need to believe that they need to cling to a literal understanding of events as proof. If, like Thomas, they elect to maintain the idea that seeing is believing rather than believing being seeing – that’s fine with me as it should be with anyone else.
But that is not what the foundations of my faith are built upon. It isn’t because He may have physically rose from the grave – it’s about how God was flowing through Him, and how God comes to us still through His Spirit and His teachings, and I don’t need to see the nail marks in His hands or see Him walking outside the empty tomb to feel His Presence and KNOW He is “with me always.” I don’t need to know for a solid fact that He walked on water, or performed any of the miracles. I do believe that something happened after His death where He made it known that He was still with us, and that He lives on in Spirit, and not only did wondrous things but encouraged us all to allow our faith to do the same in our own lives and to allow God to flow through us through love, kindness and compassion.
It is what He did, for me, for each and every one of us that is truly meaningful – not His birth or death, but His Message, God flowing through Him. The Message that we were to not be afraid, but trust in a Loving God rather than be enslaved to religious ritual and fear. The Message that Heaven was not far off in some lofty castle by means of which to enter we had to perform tasks but rather as close as our own hearts and that we would reach it by allowing God to flow through us to one another. The advisement to forgive rather than judge, to love rather than hate, to value compassion and one another over wealth and power. The teaching that each and every one of us is a valued and loved child of God. Perhaps most of all, the knowing that these truths are timeless and eternal, always valid regardless of how much knowledge we attain or how much things evolve, will never die, and will go on forever. And that is all I need to know to believe.
There are two other meanings I interpret on a metaphorical and a metaphysical level from the Resurrection:
One is that I feel that it is meant to represent that nothing can ever separate us from God’s Love, not death, not adversity, not hardship and that with faith and Love, anything is possible, even the most seemingly insurmountable of odds, situations or circumstances (a theme prevalent in a multitude of passages in the Bible, including the much misunderstood and sometimes maligned book of Revelation.) It has also served to strengthen my own faith at the times when I have found it shaken for whatever reason or another, and it does affirm on some level to me that the end of this life is not the end of our existence, that we do go on somehow (although I don’t care to concern myself with the particulars; I’m more concerned with making the best of this life I do know at the moment and would seek guidance from God in regards to that rather than what will follow.) I just agree with what Emmet Fox said about what comes after this life – it’s the same God on the other side, so there is nothing to fear.
Another message I have read from the Resurrection story is that it represents the opportunity for a fresh start, a beginning anew. There was a time in my own life where I was not physically deceased (although many who knew me during that time consider it a miracle that I did not end up in that state!), but I was spiritually dead and when I finally embraced the idea that God Loves me as I am-bisexuality, unorthodox relationships, uncommon beliefs, quirkiness and all the other things that make me who I am and was willing to guide me to having a more fulfilling life, I felt as if I had come alive again. When I read and studied what Jesus really taught without all of the dogma and legalism, and embraced His teachings as a gift to illustrate to us how to be closer to God and live a more abundant life, I was truly filled with a sense of clarity and feeling alive again, and a feeling of Oneness with my Creator who Made me as I am for a reason, and had a place and purpose for me in the world. I think back now to the very first time I attended a church service after many years, and it was an outdoor Easter Sunrise service and having those thoughts at that time – thoughts I am now able to have at any time, in church or not.
Finally, a belief that I reflect upon anytime I think about the Resurrection and the Message at the end of Matthew that Christ’s Spirit will be with us always is that we are made aware of that Presence – the Loving Spirit of God and of Christ – anywhere there is hope and Love. Every time someone responds with Love rather than out of fear, Christ has risen again. Every time someone chooses to sow hope rather than despair, He has risen again. Every time someone is able to catch that ray of hope, that spark of faith that helps them to dust off and carry on anew, He has risen again. Each time we search our hearts and souls when faced with difficult decisions and discover the courage to do what we need to do or go where we need to go, He has risen again. And anytime we are able to look around us and in our hearts know the reality of God in all things, in our lives and experiences no matter how diverse and in all of us – and are able to comprehend that believing is seeing and we can believe without having to see – He has risen again.
But these are merely opinions and thoughts of my own. The main point I hope to convey is that I don’t think it matters one iota how you view the Resurrection. If you believe it was a literal and physical event, there’s nothing wrong, incorrect or invalid about that, it could well have been. If you believe as I do that it was a Spiritual Resurrection and His Spirit carries on and remains with us eternally, always with us and as close as our heart, that’s fine too. Or even if you are uncertain or unsure if anything happened at all and it might just be a metaphor or a parable, that’s okay too. God is too big for there to be a one-size fits all faith.
The semantics, at least in the grand scheme, are not what I think matters and regardless of your own personal interpretation, one thing is for certain: none of the above alternative suggestions to a literal physical Resurrection do anything to disprove the reality of a Loving God who is there for us, or the very real and true teachings of Jesus – however you see Him – that gave us a path of clarity to better know God and have a better life. If a literal meaning of the Resurrection disappeared or details seem elusive, rest assured that none of those things would disappear, become inaccessible, nor do they need to become any less real for any who believe them but who are open to considering other interpretations of the story.
As with all things, matters such as the Resurrection or faith in general, there is a very important lesson I have learned time and time again in life and through life experience, and which is constantly being affirmed, especially from those of us who elect to approach God and faith with a sense of wonder and openness and have learned to love the questions rather than needing precise answers at every juncture:
Never allow your faith to be one that limits the Love of God, or places it in a box of limited human imagination or restrictions. Never let it be one that is built upon the concept of “seeing is believing,” but rather one of “believing is seeing.” Even if God seems elusive, keep believing, because you will have an experience of God when you least expect it. And most of all, more than anything, when reflecting on God, when reading the Bible, when thinking about what it is you believe, follow your heart and not the fears or ideas of others in the process.
Reducing one’s faith down to unwavering and unquestioning allegiance to tradition and dogma, or basing one’s faith solely anchored on a literal interpretation of one specific event, or of rigid ideas and limitations on God’s Reach and God’s Love, or on a very narrow, limited framework, stifled and stagnating with no room to breathe, evolve or expand as life and life experiences bring new knowledge and understanding can result in creating a faith on shaky ground that could easily collapse like a house of cards when shaken to trembling.
But a faith that is centered on very strong cornerstones – one that embraces the reality of God and the teachings and Wisdom given to us by God through Jesus but does not profess to know all of the answers, one that can grow and expand as we are blessed with new understanding, experiences, and knowledge and can withstand that growth is a healthy faith indeed – one on a strong and firm foundation that will not buckle and can withstand the storms of life, of doubt, of anything.
When considering various ideas and thoughts that might differ from all we are accustomed to, even long held beliefs we were dared to never question “lest we endanger our faith,” we might experience the temporary illusion of the very foundations of our faith shaking. But if we possess a faith that cherishes Christ and embraces the wonder and mystery of a Loving God who loves and accepts us as we are, no matter what, is centered in love, and yet maintains an open heart and mind to all the possibilities and is free to breathe deeply of all the wonders God has yet to bring us, it is a faith that even when shaken, will forever remain rock solid.
John Campbell is a native of Alabama.