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Easter Spotlights the Core Church Muddle: 'Death Trips' Drive Eternal Life

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by http://www.kingdominsight.ning.com

Considering half our Christian faithful expect the Second Coming of Jesus within 40 years, why then is church commitment flagging? "Not affiliated" tops America's fastest growing non-religion. Those without affiliation has reached 20%, compared to 15% only six years ago, and a whopping 32% from ages 19-29 are non-churchgoers (compared to only 9% unaffiliated over 65). More dramatic still, according to Pew "strong Catholics" now total only 27%, reduced from 40% since '05 (vs. 46% in 1974), crowning a four-decade low.

If the Jesus sequel, and thus real world-ending "climate change," doesn't flush out the wayward, then the west's most established institution is lost in the desert. If god in the flesh, and the final disposition of souls, won't drive earthlings to the pews, Christianity must do more than "rebrand" its "life-line to immortality" message. Now if Jesus was spotted riding a New Jersey-size asteroid plunging at top speed, churches would sell-out corner rafters.

In fact, befuddled Christians deny the present like fallen, rightwing fellow travelers called Republicans. Sure, let's rebrand the surface but not the core. "Superior sound bites," goes this ploy, "will convey our sanctity and moral relevance. 20 centuries verify that our right beliefs and righteous dogma will best offset godless iniquity." Excuse me, but for millions it's not the promotion (stupid!) but outmoded assumptions, messengers, and delivery.  

Cross from Life to Death

Beyond pagan fertility rites (bunnies and eggs, if not bonnets), Easter again reinforces what's most unpersuasive about the Catholic, if not Christian core: obsessions with death, sin, Armageddon, and afterlife. That distorts the source, the evolved martyr's compassion and mercy that promoted peace, tolerance, even "love thy enemy." Does the church honor the spirit of its savior's words?   Do adherents follow the scriptural Jesus as ardently as some fetishize the unliteral Bible? The ideology suspicious of this world, linking sainthood with eternity, deflects a full commitment to do good in this time and this place. Why bother with daunting dilemmas when ultimate reality looms, with guarantees of personal salvation?

The Good Friday-Easter procession dramatizes Jesus' gruesome agony on the cross, then resurrection, heralding a gospel of death that assures afterlife. But how persuasive is this reconfigured mythos by which a god-man far away and a half-dozen empires ago is crucified to offset mankind's "original sin"? That sin, from the beginning of time, is committed by two figures, with zero historical standing in a paradise beyond any GPS, who nibbled the "Tree of Knowledge." If only a detail shatters, so does confidence. Item: what about that ABC report, on the evangelical scholar certain Jesus didn't die on an actual cross (maybe a pole)? So much for the "crux" in crucifixion or the legend the cross was cousin to the tree in the garden. Christianity without a cross falls like Humpty-Dumpty; western religion stripped of Edenic transgression dies on the vine, as it were (some make the "apple" a grape).

Ultimately, does Christianity not rely on an especially magical, even peculiar exchange? Are not the redeemed those who best sanctify Roman torture, death, sacrifice and victimization of the innocent? Research now shows celebrated "saints" were punished for breaking explicit Roman laws, not for beliefs. No matter, actual life leads to execution delivered by non-believers, which then paradoxically assures heavenly good out from evil. However, the elaborate narrative, though raising Christianity above forgotten cults, breaks down if any portion is rejected. If original sin is a poetic fable, then Jesus didn't die for it; if there's no immortal soul, and no heavenly transport, let alone heaven, then wherefore comes perpetual joy? If any detail falls, or isn't accepted on faith, then Jesus was no deity, simply an enemy of the imperial state crushed along with countless others.

Defeat of Death Terror


True, Easter shows how Christian lore brilliantly improved on Jewish ambiguity about afterlife. Salvation from works or faith resolves the ultimate dread -- what to do about death? -- with enough details to stuff a dead saint (see Dante). We "know" more particulars about the stairway to heaven than ocean depths or outer space. The genius of church scribes -- elevating dying, crucifixion, victimized martyrs and saints, later enhanced with alleged physical reliques -- powerfully bridged mortality with immortality. Talk about staking out the heavenly property first. Who needs personal "near-death" experiences when a mass shines a white light at the end of dark tunnel? While Jews conceded souls return to God, they fell short fleshing in celestial blueprints, nor promising hard linkages between the finale and one's good works, holiness, contacts or temple fundraising.  

There's potency galore in a liturgy (and popes) assuring both dominion into heaven and dominion over the earth, especially dealing with outsiders. "If salvation depends on rivals affirming Christianity, and they refuse, then killing fits the crime." Simple choice: die now unshriven or die later, with prospects. And it came to pass superiority of Christian/Biblical "dominion" reigned over lesser beings, especially heretics and non-believers without equal numbers or firepower. As Dubya's born-again mania echoed, "you're either with us or you're against us."  

Along the way, Jesus the Prince of Peace got turned upside down, a lever for perpetual crusades going strong today. That's what comes from partnering with the Roman Empire and subsequent like-minded predators. Combining religious consent with technological mastery, church-friendly imperialism brings its crosses and altars, its myths of good vs. evil, to poor suckers otherwise locked out of heavenly gates. Christianity is hardly alone as a militarized dogma but, unlike creeds born after military triumphs, from Moses to Muhammad, Jesus is a most unmilitary figure of mercy, non-violence and love. Improbable, as I stated.

Yes, Dogs Go to Heaven

Incidentally, the primacy of heaven has incredible staying power, endorsed by huge American majorities as their favorite top resting place. Only long after 17thC. atheists began to doubt God's existence did iconoclasts openly undermine heaven.   Not until the 20th C. did wits belittle a fairytale paradise "up there" somewhere beyond musical spheres. H. L. Mencken compared the impossibility of democracy with equal fables, "Arcadia, Santa Claus and Heaven." Heaven (and hell) for him reflected "the puerile egos of inferior men," awarding provincial Christians "a device for getting revenge upon those who are having a better time on this earth." Unashamed assaults on religion by Marx and Nietzsche anticipated Mark Twain's wit: "There is no humor in Heaven" and "Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company."

Finally, widespread current notions that eternal life recapitulates domestic family life are new, emerging in the 19th Century. Before that, no one dared assume (or declared as desirable) spending eternity with fellow family "inmates," especially saintly ones. Then, there's the modernized, if rank sentimentality about pets in heaven, per Billy Graham's stunning logic, "God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in heaven and, if it takes my dog being there, I believe he'll be there." The mind reels, wondering about chocolate and sex. Even skeptical Robert Louis Stevenson nodded, "You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us." Salute the sainthood of dogs.

Unclear whether felines pass muster, though I expect any moment a special email approving consecrated cats fit alongside divine dogs. Talk about unlimited human projections and a most malleable belief system. "Is this heaven," a perplexed ballplayer asks in Field of Dreams . "No, it's just Iowa." Budge over, Uncle Max, and whose turn to walk the pooch? 

 

Educated at Rutgers College (BA) and UC Berkeley (Ph.D, English) Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, U. Chicago) for business, founding and heading SOTA Industries, high end audio company from '80 to '92. From '92-02 he did marketing (more...)
 
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And so I figured I'd mull over the status, problem... by Robert S. Becker on Tuesday, Apr 2, 2013 at 8:26:22 PM
Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven lies not i... by Philip Pease on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 10:25:06 AM
No question about it, that heaven is not out there... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 11:12:10 AM
Just a question to pose. Loved this:  "Jesus ... by Burl Hall on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 5:14:17 PM
What exactly is the kingdom of heaven(God) NT. nev... by anna kakol on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 11:33:31 AM
If one worried about afterlife is wholly reliant o... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 12:26:01 PM
, ministers, and priests have always been around t... by anna kakol on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 1:34:13 PM
The mindset (death leads to life) and language (ro... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 1:45:41 PM
I'm in total agreement with what you are saying.&n... by anna kakol on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 3:40:36 PM
you are no Joe the Plumber.  Aristotle the sc... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 3:52:30 PM
I'm sorry I hit a sore button with Aristotle, I'm ... by anna kakol on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 4:32:55 PM
Especially since you reminded me that St Aquinas, ... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 4:47:30 PM
What would I call heaven?  That is my meditat... by Philip Pease on Friday, Apr 5, 2013 at 10:23:56 AM
I don't so much disagree as point out that replaci... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Apr 5, 2013 at 11:25:08 AM
The thing is, I can believe whatever I want to bel... by anna kakol on Friday, Apr 5, 2013 at 2:03:00 PM
it's the heavy-handed narrative overlaid on commen... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Apr 5, 2013 at 2:32:10 PM
1) What if Jesus is not coming again? After a... by E. J. N. on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 2:36:00 PM
You certainly know how to trample on fellow Christ... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 3:46:22 PM
The person who fulfills prophecy, according to Isa... by E. J. N. on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 8:37:35 PM
my language was not about your words but how some ... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 1:03:28 AM
I know what you mean and I appreciate that comment... by E. J. N. on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 12:06:51 PM
He mocks at "Christians" yet doesn't have the ball... by Michael Dewey on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 5:07:33 PM
I mock no true Christians. Nor Jesus. And since I ... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 7:03:36 PM
Without attacking the Religious Right.  They ... by Michael Dewey on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 7:36:31 PM
And he spoke of these times we are in.  Its s... by Michael Dewey on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 7:51:54 PM
The 4 beasts being America, Russia, China and the ... by Michael Dewey on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 8:03:00 PM
One, from Mark Twain: Everybody wants to go to hea... by Daniel Geery on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 4:20:00 PM
since 2006.  Nice hop you made from Jesus to ... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 5:05:31 PM
With the economy in the news at least 6 times a mi... by Michael Dewey on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 4:43:57 PM
having trouble following your references here, "pl... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 4:54:10 PM
Yes, I have had talks with people who would be fin... by Michael Dewey on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 5:43:13 PM
you have to see your neighbor as yourself; worthy ... by molly cruz on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 5:26:29 PM
--humorously skeptical take on heaven; strongly re... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 6:57:35 PM
The ethics in the world beyond heaven?... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 8:18:46 PM
I find all the ethics I need in this world. If you... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 12:53:58 AM
To address some important issues. With all their... by BFalcon on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 10:16:12 AM
And note my kind words for Jesus's message, though... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 11:40:29 AM
But you can't take half the religion, "the good ha... by BFalcon on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 1:03:07 PM
What, if all religion an all-or-nothing enterprise... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 2:13:26 PM
is beyond our comprehension.And, of course, religi... by BFalcon on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 5:23:40 PM
ditto: what Jesus said about loving your neighbor ... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Apr 5, 2013 at 11:02:48 AM
according to a smart, bonobo scientist on Science ... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Apr 5, 2013 at 2:54:40 PM
But avoid the simple question.If there is no "good... by BFalcon on Friday, Apr 5, 2013 at 5:13:15 PM
if you want something fixed for ever, then you mus... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Apr 5, 2013 at 6:30:52 PM
In the article you say:" church-friendly imperiali... by BFalcon on Friday, Apr 5, 2013 at 11:26:52 PM
It may be me, not you.  Let's try one concret... by Robert S. Becker on Saturday, Apr 6, 2013 at 10:59:13 AM
And I don't deny "the earthly reasons" not to, the... by BFalcon on Sunday, Apr 7, 2013 at 10:20:44 AM
In no realm but religion are absolutes (or objecti... by Robert S. Becker on Sunday, Apr 7, 2013 at 11:24:33 AM
And cleverly.The question is not whether there are... by BFalcon on Sunday, Apr 7, 2013 at 12:54:01 PM
and frankly, I am not finding your questions incre... by Robert S. Becker on Sunday, Apr 7, 2013 at 1:21:07 PM
are the variable human standards based on (or stem... by BFalcon on Sunday, Apr 7, 2013 at 3:00:08 PM
Heaven or Hell; the last phase of life when retros... by molly cruz on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013 at 8:33:32 PM
Death is scary, unless it's really fast, coming ou... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 12:55:50 AM
More "Issues Oriented BS" & less focus on the ... by Alan MacDonald on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 8:16:26 AM
makes it impossible to respond.  I am not Hed... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 11:44:07 AM
Those culture wars which you view as distractions ... by anna kakol on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 3:08:48 PM
Probably shouldn't call Hedges an atheist because ... by anna kakol on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 3:31:17 PM
  It is impossible to explain faith to those ... by Bob Gormley on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 4:12:48 PM
as well as Hell. I personally am atheist but ... by Mark Sashine on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 8:00:04 PM
Kurt said, "If god were a man today he would be an... by Michael Dewey on Thursday, Apr 4, 2013 at 8:16:37 PM
http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7440-heaven... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Apr 5, 2013 at 11:08:59 AM
but in its original form the Jewish religion consi... by Mark Sashine on Friday, Apr 5, 2013 at 7:02:42 PM
Argue with the Jewish Encyclopedia.  You disp... by Robert S. Becker on Friday, Apr 5, 2013 at 8:39:52 PM
I hate to pull  a rank here but as a person w... by Mark Sashine on Saturday, Apr 6, 2013 at 11:07:16 AM
and IMO lord over those you think know less. That ... by Robert S. Becker on Saturday, Apr 6, 2013 at 11:43:21 AM
You really can't help yourself, can you? In an ear... by Paul Kibble on Saturday, Apr 6, 2013 at 12:50:36 PM
Anyone can express his or her opinion on any subje... by Mark Sashine on Saturday, Apr 6, 2013 at 2:11:17 PM
Sashine's empty claim: "But I never insulted Mr Be... by Robert S. Becker on Saturday, Apr 6, 2013 at 3:04:05 PM
Sashine: "I should have known better. Never again.... by Robert S. Becker on Saturday, Apr 6, 2013 at 3:49:34 PM
Now I call this a self-declared, harsh threat, tho... by Robert S. Becker on Saturday, Apr 6, 2013 at 5:24:13 PM
It's typical of your overbearing self-importance, ... by Paul Kibble on Saturday, Apr 6, 2013 at 8:30:38 PM
This blanket indictment is typical of your McCarth... by Paul Kibble on Saturday, Apr 6, 2013 at 8:40:16 PM
P.S.: Your last words are "Never again." Really? A... by Paul Kibble on Saturday, Apr 6, 2013 at 9:14:50 PM
I think it was  in Goldfinger when P*ssy Galo... by Mark Sashine on Saturday, Apr 6, 2013 at 9:13:33 PM
And here's a better quote from Goldfinger when the... by Paul Kibble on Saturday, Apr 6, 2013 at 9:30:41 PM
1) you claim no malice but scorn and... by Robert S. Becker on Sunday, Apr 7, 2013 at 11:52:20 AM
 ... by Robert S. Becker on Sunday, Apr 7, 2013 at 11:57:56 AM
Why not expose our  minds to questions,and do... by Chet Szarejko on Tuesday, Apr 9, 2013 at 9:58:19 AM
I think the dialogue on this topic broke down seve... by anna kakol on Tuesday, Apr 9, 2013 at 11:40:45 AM