Friday, March 30, 2012

What's missing in the Presiding Bishop's Easter message?

Watch the following video of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's Easter message.

What's missing?

Did you catch it?

Not once does she mention Jesus!


Allen Krell said...

This is not unique to 'liberal' churches. Over the past several years I have been seeing the same thing in fundamentalist evangelical circles. Somewhere along the way many have forgotten that Easter is about the resurrection of Christ.

Bryan Owen said...

Thanks for sharing that observation, Allen.

Regardless of where a Christian falls on the theological spectrum, for that person to fail to even mention Jesus in an Easter message simply boggles my mind!

The PB's talk about "greenness" at the beginning and closing of this video brought to my mind the following passage from Shirley Guthrie's Christian Doctrine:

" ... Easter is often understood after the analogy of trees and plants that 'come to life' again every spring after passing through the 'death' of winter. This analogy of death and an afterlife is common in pagan mythologies. But the story of the resurrection is not such a myth. It does not describe the potential we have in ourselves to survive or revive after death, an automatic 'immortality of the soul.' The New Testament does not teach that either about Jesus or about us. It is much more realistic and serious about death than that. Jesus' death and our own deaths are not just a 'passing over' to a new and higher form of life. Rather than being the sentimental (and false) assurance that death is not so bad after all because our inmost selves do not really die but live on forever, the good news of resurrection is that God is stronger than death. It is the assurance that God can and will give us eternal life we do not have in ourselves. It means hope in a God who raises the dead, not in the immortality of human beings who do not really die."

Frankly, the PB's message isn't even as interesting as the error Guthrie describes. Instead of equating the analogy of Easter with spring in a way that highlights the purported immorality of human beings, the PB equates 'resurrection' with life-giving mission activity. Mission is important, to be sure! But you don't have to be a Christian to do that kind of good work. And you don't need Jesus for it, either. So there's nothing intrinsically Christian about the PB's Easter message.

Bill Dilworth said...

Well, come on, Father! What's more important - this Jesus fellow or the Millenium Development Goals (peace be upon them)? Get your priorities straight!

Bryan Owen said...

Ha! You've nailed me, Bill!! :)

On a serious note, I have no problem with the Millennium Development Goals per se. But they are no substitute for the core of the Gospel!

C. Wingate said...

Actually, Bryan, I do have a problem with the MDGs: not so much with any individual ideas in them, but the way that they have been delivered as inarguable tenets of progressivism. Economics does not have an enviable track record as a science, and when one binds one's moral goals to economics, one has in effect engaged in a sort of idolatry.

Bryan Owen said...

Hi C. Wingate. I see your point. I guess what I was meaning to say is that I have no problem with the MDGs as moral goals. Working to eliminate poverty and hunger, for instance, strikes me as a worthy moral goal (and by no means just for Christians). But tethering those moral goals to a particular economic theory for how to achieve them can, indeed, be quite problematic, perhaps even idolatrous.

I would add that making the MDGs the central message of the Gospel is also idolatrous!

Bryan Owen said...

In light of this year's Easter message from the PB, check out the differences between two brief Easter messages posted by A. S. Haley entitled "Compare and Contrast: Two Easter Homilies."

Allison said...

Is it necessary to mention Jesus when she's mentioning resurrection?

And "now the green blade riseth..." I take to be, on the surface, talking about spring, sure. But really, deeply - it's about Jesus rising, right?

Bryan Owen said...

Hi Allison. You ask:"Is it necessary to mention Jesus when she's mentioning resurrection?" I think the answer to that question depends on whether or not one believes that Jesus is central to the Christian proclamation (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:5). Perhaps another way to approach the matter is to ask whether or not one wishes to talk about the resurrection in a Christian manner (what happened to Jesus on the first Easter and its implications for the world) as opposed to talking about it in other possible ways (e.g., as a metaphor or an analogy for 'new life,' which can be embraced pretty much anybody - perhaps even atheists - and does not depend on any particular connection with Jesus).

So while it is certainly true that the words of the hymn "Now the green blade rises" by John M. C. Crum refer to Jesus, the PB's use of that language in no way commits her to anything particularly Christian when she talks about 'resurrection'.

For an interesting essay that goes into such matters in much greater detail, see "What do people mean when they say that Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schori has denied the resurrection or the divinity of Christ?"