I’m going to go ahead and say it. Easter Sunday 2020 was just…weird.
Even for folks who aren’t regular church-goers, Easter is one of the two days a year (along with Christmas Eve) when almost everybody with some kind of faith tradition in their background attends some type of church service…if only to keep peace in the family.
And even for people who no longer consider themselves “Christian” or who find themselves in some phase of spiritual deconstruction—folks I’m learning to relate to as “spiritual exiles”—Easter can still bring with it a sense of something sacred, something on a spiritual level that might contain some comfort or hope.
But with church doors closed and families staying home due to COVID-19 restrictions, our routines were thoroughly disrupted this year.
And although most churches offered some kind of online worship experience for Easter, my bet is that a lot of folks who might consider themselves spiritual exiles probably didn’t find much with which to connect.
As someone who has spent a fair amount of my own life feeling that way, I totally get it.
But I think there might still be an Easter for spiritual exiles.
A deconstruction journey to Jesus
One of the things that I’ve often said about my own deconstruction and reconstruction process is that, even when I had lost faith and trust in much of the institutional church, there was still something compelling about Jesus.
So my journey into deconstruction actually became a quest for a deeper understanding of Jesus and why the way of Jesus seemed so diametrically opposed to the way religion often operates.
Part of that meant taking a really close examination of basically everything I’d been taught to believe about Jesus. The virgin birth. The miracles. The crucifixion. The resurrection. And everything in between.
I had to think deeply about what I believed. About what I was going to continue to believe, what I was willing to let go of, and, perhaps most importantly, why.
And what I’ve found is that the Jesus story holds meaning not so much because of the miracles and apparent suspension of natural laws that seem to defy reality (and thereby “prove” the power of his divine nature), but because it points to a deeper reality.
Spiritual cognitive dissonance?
I think part of our problem is that our religious narratives often seem to be trying to force us to accept spiritual ideas that don’t seem to align with reality as we perceive it.
And so we feel this pressure to accept concepts that are otherwise incongruous with our lived experience.
And while some people would just say, “that’s what faith is,” I don’t actually believe that’s true.
I don’t believe that faith is forcing yourself to believe something that seems unreal.
I think it’s more like seeing reality through a whole different lens.
Material vs. supernatural
Take the resurrection story of Easter, for instance.
In his book, The Universal Christ, Fr. Richard Rohr contends that we actually see the pattern of resurrection all around us every day in all the natural cycles of all living things.
It’s in the material, not the supernatural, that resurrection makes sense. Rohr states:
“[T]o believe that Jesus was raised from the dead is actually not a leap of faith. Resurrection and renewal are, in fact, the universal and observable pattern of everything. We might just as well use nonreligious terms like ‘springtime,’ ‘regeneration,’ ‘healing,’ ‘forgiveness,’ ‘life cycles,’ ‘darkness,’ and ‘light.’ If incarnation is real, then resurrection in multitudinous forms is to be fully expected.”Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p98
So maybe instead of getting too bogged down with trying to rationalize an apparently supernatural event, it might be more helpful for us to see Jesus’ resurrection as a living archetype for the way everything is designed to be:
“Every resurrection story seems to strongly affirm an ambiguous—yet certain—presence in very ordinary settings, like walking on the road to Emmaus with a stranger, roasting fish on the beach, or what appeared like a gardener to the Magdalene. These moments from Scripture set a stage of expectation and desire that God’s presence can be seen in the ordinary and the material, and we do not have to wait for supernatural apparitions.”Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p29
If Rohr is right, maybe there’s a physical, material way of viewing what is often only presented as a spiritual concept. Maybe we’re trying too hard to look past reality instead of looking into it.
Comfort in ambiguity
I know some of this might sound a little reincarnation-y to a lot of you.
But if you’re fixated on exactly what resurrection means or looks like in your own post-mortem bodily experience, I’m afraid I don’t have those answers.
And honestly, I’m not sure anybody really does.
All we have is various forms of theological speculation…as Rohr points out above, there’s still a lot of ambiguity.
But one of the other things I’ve learned as a spiritual exile through multiple waves of deconstruction and reconstruction is that ambiguity is okay.
Most of us going through that process generally become comfortable with the mystery of it all.
In fact, it’s religious certainty we often mistrust the most.
So maybe there is an Easter for spiritual exiles.
Maybe there’s a reality all around us that we just have to open ourselves up more to see.
Maybe resurrection is right in front of us, every day, in any number of ways.
And maybe that’s something worth celebrating.
Happy Easter, y’all!