The WORST Easter Message I've Ever Heard
Don't ask me how, but somehow I came across a link over the past week to Newt Gingrich's blog and his reflection on Easter. The graphic above should give you a pretty good idea of how his reflection landed on me, so if you think Newt can do no wrong and you're his biggest fan, you probably don't wanna read on. For the rest of you...
First off, go give it a read: Newt Gingrich Easter Reflection
Now strap in, cuz this little tome of Newt's has got me a wee bit nauseous. So please, join me on the journey of my internal dialog with myself as I trudge my way through the worst Easter message I've ever heard.
Newt was born a Lutheran, became a Southern Baptist during his college years, and in 2009 he became a Roman Catholic. So, nothing too insane.
Yet, his blog is the worst kind of mixture of conservative religious dogma, political and religious propaganda and in-your-face evangelism that it makes ya wonder: What on earth does any of this have to do with the heart of the Easter message, Newt?
God help me.
Let me say right off the bat that I can never stand it when someone refers to Jesus as Christ all the time. It is not a proper name, it was never his name, its a title. Jeshua ben Joseph of Nazareth is who we're talking about, and he's far more than a mere title. Quit it. Most unchurched people probably think its actually part of his name, like people think the wise men and the shepherds were at the manger at the same time (different gospels, folks; never happened), or that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute (she was possessed - not the same lady) or whatever…..just quit it.
I also never appreciate when someone preaches at me about "what Christians believe" and then throws a list at me; like it is a blanket shopping list that pertains to all followers of Jesus. And given that's where Newt starts, he's got some work to do to get me on board.
He says, "Christians believe that Christ was crucified, died and was buried." Yep.
Then, "Christians believe that Christ endured the agonies of our sins to take upon himself the burden of every human." Hold it…...
Some Christians resonate with that belief, which in some circles is known as "Atonement Theology" - a belief that Jesus was some sort of cosmic stand-in for the ways in which we're all flawed and suffered the most horrific and agonizing kind of death in order to make our broken relationship with God (because of our crapiness) whole again.
I've never connected or resonated with Jesus' death on those terms. Jesus' death means many things to me, but not that. It's the reason that, at a very core level, I couldn't emotionally connect with "Passion of The Christ", even though I desperately wanted to. So stop saying "Christians believe…", because not all of us do and I don't appreciate you speaking for me.
"On the third day he rose from the dead." I imagine you're saying that in a literal, "you can get in a time machine and go back and watch it happen" kind of way. Something happened that morning; something so dramatic and powerful that it drove men out of hiding for fear of their own lives to proclaiming in public the ministry of Jesus in such a frenetic way people thought they were drunk. My child-self believes the Easter story from beginning to end. My adult-self realizes that the mystery of that morning and the weeks following is something beyond me and my ability to understand it, and it isn't as simple as just saying "he rose from the dead." And I kind of like it that way.
"The Core of Christianity is fact based faith." Whoa, whoa, whoa!!!!!!!!!!!! What?!? You better follow that up with something pretty substantial, Newt….
And besides, isn't a faith based on fact not an authentic faith to begin with, because they have nothing to do with one another? Newt, you're getting me off track....
He says Jesus was a historic figure. This is true, because even though the majority of everything we know about him comes from the gospels that did and didn't make it into the Bible, the Jewish historian Josephus also makes mention of him; the only source outside the Bible to validate his existence that we have found to date.
He speaks of the historical fact of Jesus' death, which is also mentioned by Josephus in his "Testimonium Flavianum" as occurring under Pilate, so I've got no problem there, either.
But he then speaks of the historical factuality of Easter morning, and says that "If these facts are true, then Christianity is true" and "If Christianity is true then salvation is achieved through faith in Jesus Christ who died for our sins so we could be saved and go to Heaven through faith in him."
Wow….how many Pandora's Boxes can you throw into two sentences, Newt?
When you say "Christianity is true" because Easter really happened, you lose me. For me, the Truth found in the life and ministry of Jeshua ben Joseph hinges in no way upon whether he rose from the dead or not - it never has. Its part of the story, yes, but it isn't where I hang my hat as pertains the core of my faith.
My core rests in Jesus' compassion, his loving and inclusive image of the world as he sees it through his eyes, his justice-fueled anger at the ways in which the powers of the world kept themselves locked in ivory towers of self-righteousness and hypocrisy at the expense, suffering and abuse of so very many others; and how all of that is a glimpse into the authentic Spirit of God at work in the universe. For me, that is far more powerful a testament than hinging my faith on a supernatural event; whether it historically happened or not.
I'm not even gonna get into the whole salvation only achieved through a faith in Jesus thing, for one simple reason: For Jesus, Jesus' entire ministry was never about him. For Jesus, it was all about God and how we should be treating one another. His intent was never to start a new religion about himself, but to reform the Judaism he so deeply loved to open up a more loving and inclusive world.
But we can explore John 14:6 another time...
Because then Newt says this:
"Easter is exactly the right time to assess the growing threats to Christianity."
Huh? It is? Jesus came back into the world in a new way that profoundly speaks to the very heart of us about the hope of New Life and you think that's the perfect time to sit around and do a theological threat assessment?
My God, you're a piece of work. But please, continue...
"Christianity today is under siege on two fronts. On one front is growing secular tyranny which violates the first commandment and seeks to place human wishes and human desires ahead of God. On the other front is an irreconcilable wing of Islam which is seeking to drive Christianity out of every country it dominates.
…Isn't it time to stand up to the growing secular tyranny and irreconcilable wing of Islam which seek to destroy the very religion which offers hope and salvation to us and all of humanity?"
I'll tell you what it's time for, Newt. It's time for you to shut up, because you are depressing the crap out of me. My God, you sound about as stupid as Fergie:
What kind of Easter message is this? How, in any way, is this a message reflecting the Hope inherent in Easter?
I am SO glad you aren't anyone's minister. Truly. Can you imagine going to church for an Easter message and hearing THIS?
But beyond that, this is the most dangerous, damaging kind of self-righteous faith that spews fear, idealogical dogma and a fundamentally flawed ability to articulate matters of faith while being horribly exclusionary to other Christians and other world religions.
It makes me want to scream.
And it so blatantly has nothing to do with Easter, that Newt should truly be ashamed of himself for publishing such a diatribe about something of which he clearly has no grasp.
Easter is the perfect time to reflect on grace, forgiveness, peace, the ways in which we find new life, and how we help others find new life in their living, too.
But not this crap.
Seriously, that was the worst Easter message I've ever heard.
Please stop writing about religion, Newt. Please.