Let us be clear about historical data. Nicolaus Copernicus was a Dominican monk of the third Order who had the misfortune of suggesting against established teachings of the Church and the ancients that the earth is not the center of the universe. Because of his privileged position, he was tolerated but Galilei Galileo was not that favored.
For supporting Copernicus, adding that not only is the earth peripheral in the universe but also rotates on its axis to make night and day, and revolves 365.25 days around the sun, it had too many implications on the power and authority of the Vatican that Galileo had to recant to avoid the gallows.
The death of theism was formally pronounced with a quiet toll from the Death-of-God theology within seminaries in the ’60s but the renegades were not yet mainstream. Now Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong writes of it with considerable following across the denominational spectrum. His way was paved by the likes of Anglican Don Cupitt of England in 1980 when he wrote Taking Leave of God and emeritus Professor of Religious Studies at Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand, and Sir Lloyd Geering of the Presbyterian communion who penned Christianity Without God.
(For the uninitiated, the Episcopalians are high Church Anglicans after the American revolution who were Roman Catholics in England until Henry the VIII failed to get Rome to bless his union with Anne Boleyn; the Methodists are low Church Anglicans that flourished in the American frontier, and on Saipan, worship in the same CK sanctuary but separately with cousins, the Episcopalians.)
We bother with this because in spite of the death of theism widely assumed in seminary circles of Christendom in my time, the Ptolemaic three-story universe still dress our telling of the “resurrection” metaphor of Easter. The earth is stuck between heaven and hell, and the bodily resuscitation of crucified Jesus redeems the sins of the world!
Truth has to this day been the province of “who say so” until the educated lay started demanding that one makes a commonsense explication of rite and ritual, along with the metaphors that accompany two millennia of theism.
Isaac Newton had a deep appreciation of the laws of nature known to be reliable and constant. Charles Darwin gave its motions a developmental push so that the laws of nature may be inviolate but the nature of life itself is evolutionary, he noted. Then came Sigmund Freud who pointed out our perception of nature resides in our psyche, and in that perception do we determine our existence and behavior. We get in trouble when the internal psyche diverges too far from the external reality. Given the laws of nature, its evolutionary character, consigned in the treasures of the psyche, Albert Einstein came with a blanket declaration that all is relative, subject to chaos and change.
We’ve noted how at one of my classes in a private Catholic school, a young fellow was astute enough to ask if I was an atheist. Before I could answer, another student responded with, ” No, he simply decided to be responsible for 86 years of his life.” Yes, I am no longer theistic, if that means glorifying Jesus as having bodily risen from the dead as a demonstration that he was the son of Santa Klaus up in the sky. Jesus was about being profoundly human, not a pseudo Zeus/Theos/Dios/Yu’us of piety.
In my time, the death of God became academic, the profundity of being human became constant; it took the limelight and that’s how I suggest we view Easter, if we deign to view it at all.
To rise from the dead would want us to rehearse what it is that we are dead from, or die to, to exist whether we like it or not. The Christ story is instructive; we die to our illusions. “We will get over the Romans,” was the firm and determined illusion in the synagogue. e shall have a Messiah from the House of David who will help us banish these infidels from a foreign land and liberate us from their pagan clutches.
Being “saved” is one illusion that still pervades our dreaming these days. We think someone or something (the BSI for the CNMI, maybe) will take us away from whatever we perceive to be keeping us down.
Easter is not about believing that a Jesus of history, crucified by the Romans with the collusion of the local Jewish leaders, rose again from the grave so we might be able to say that “death has no dominion,” and we shall banish evil if only we believe in the supernatural power of the beloved. The metaphor might have been useful for Ptolemy to Aquinas but Copernicus slammed the door of ever hoping that the “supernatural” world would intervene in the affairs of the earth.
“You were ordained clergy?” my friend asks. “Yes, and a true one, too,” I answer, which is beside the point. We are for the power of authenticity. What have we died from, and how did we rise on the other side of that death? That is the life question, my friend.
I trust you had a meaningful Easter beyond eggs and bunnies!