Kennedy's 'Postcards from
Jonal entry 971 | Monday, April 17, 2006
Two of the worst media attacks on Easter of this season were one of the first and one of the last ones I saw before the "Western" Easter, April 16. I forgot to mention the first one in Friday's post because it was more than a week old already, but its memory came back to me over the weeked. It was an article on an opinion survey that was widely published, claiming that a great majority of people of all kinds, including professing Christians and even evangelical Christians in the United States (about 65 percent) do not claim, in response to pollsters' inquiries, to believe that their bodies will be resurrected. No proposition is more fundamental to Christianity, described in detail in the New Testament by the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15) and affirmed in the first catholic (whole-church) creed of the church in the fourth century, the Nicene Creed.
Repeated surveys have shown, on the other hand, that the great majority of Americans professing to be Christians (about 85 percent) do profess to believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. So I'm fairly certain that the failure to declare faith in the resurrection of their own bodies reflects only ignorance on the part of most American Christians and a failure of most of their preachers to adequately teach 1 Corinthians 15 and the other New Testament and creedal witnesses to the bodily resurrection. The Apostles Creed (more widely used by Catholics and Protestants than the Nicene Creed), also stresses the resurrection of the (believer's) body, ending with the clause: "I believe in the Holy Spirit...the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. AMEN." The resurrection of Jesus' body is affirmed much earlier in that creed, so it's obvious that this is the resurrection described in St. Paul's detailed teaching in 1 Corinthians 15.
The CBS Network chose to celebrate Easter by showing a "48 Hours Mystery" at 10 p.m. on Easter eve intended to prove that the belief of Christians that divorce is sinful led to murder as a less-scandalous alternative to divorce in one of the most evangelical Protestant suburbs in the nation, Olathe, Kansas, home of Midamerica Nazarene University. Two one-time students at that evangelical college murdered a third in 1982.
But despite how unsubtle an attack on Easter CBS's programming choice was, Long Island, New York's major daily newspaper, Newsday, takes the prize for the most egregious last-minute attack on Easter by choosing Easter eve to publish a breif homily by the senior pastor of a self-described liberal church in Manhattan, entitled "Facing up to doubts about faith at Easter time." Not only is her essay a call to nihilistic despair, ending by describing the tomb of Jesus as "the closed grave," it can only be called an epistle of hate for its treatment of Baptists on the other end of the theological spectrum from its author, the Rev. Donna Schaper, senior minister of Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village. Schaper says that she used to think judgmentally about the people who show up at worship services only at Easter, as "'the Easter Only Crowd.' [But n]ow, with more respect, I call them the 'Easter Maybe Crowd.'" She means by that that maybe there is an Easter, maybe there was some sort of a "rising," but she is now more in touch with her doubting that proposition than any faith she may have in it.
Judson Memorial is an American [Northern] Baptist and United Church of Christ denominational affiliate (Judson was a major figure in Northern Baptist history and the denomination's publishing house is named in his honor). But Schaper doesn't hesitate to attack a fellow Baptist, of the Southern persuasion, in her less-than-500-word paean to the culture of death: "I am also no stranger to doubt, with all due apologies to the foul Falwellians who are now assured I am damned to hell. Their damnation confirms me in my doubt: Such hateful certainty actually disgusts me." I've looked into the messages and programs of what she calls "foul Falwellians" and Jerry Falwell himself many times over the past 40 years, and though I don't fully agree with many of their statements, I've never found them hateful or even lacking in love for their follow Americans or Christians, even of non-Baptists like myself, much less their fellow Baptists. Though "Falwellians" may occasionally express doubts about some people's salvation, no evangelical or orthodox Christian can ever say that anyone is "damned to hell," because the sine qua non of orthodox faith is hope, hope that anyone can repent and by repenting be saved, even at the last minute like the legendary thief on the cross.
And herein is the crux of the difference between orthodox and so-call liberal Christians (who, as Ms. Schaper demonstrates, are not very liberal toward those who don't share their opinions). No believer is doubt free, and I'd bet (were I a betting man) that Jerry Falwell has preached more often on Mark 9:24, "Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief" than Ms. Schaper has. Yes, we all doubt. But unlike Ms. Schaper, orthodox Christians do not preach doubting as though doubt is some quality of faith itself. Doubting begets more doubting; believing, even when you're inclined to doubt, begets more faith and even, I can attest from firsthand experience, can work miracles.
In fact, preaching doubt is antithetical to faith in every way.
Please lovingly join me in praying for Donna Schaper and the members of her Judson Memorial flock.