Friday, April 2, 2010

Hell first, then Heaven?



It's Good Friday and though I'm not Christian, I have the utmost respect for and fascination with Easter. In the U.S. Christmas is the most widely known and practiced Christian holiday, except it's not really Christian anymore for many who observe it. From my non-Christian point of view, Easter is the central holiday. The cross is the symbol of Christianity, after all. It is such a powerful symbol.

Sometimes I wonder what Christianity would look like if some other aspect of the life of Jesus was the focus, like the miracles of healing or his teachings about love and peace. The fact that gruesome torture and sacrifice came to be held at the heart of Christianity has not always brought out the best in some who follow that path.

(I should say, straightaway, that I believe Judaism has some serious problems at the center of its theology, too, like being "the chosen people" for instance. That is total crap, if you ask me. All are chosen. Or none, whichever you prefer. Being "chosen" has always gotten us into trouble with others as well as with ourselves.)


You can see one of the duck couple who swam along with me, on the far right side of the pic.

But today is Good Friday which is why I'm thinking about the Christian model of redemption, a transformation that requires (just as in the story of Passover) suffering first, followed by transcendence. If I'm on to something with my idea that both of these spring stories are allegories of childbirth, the suffering makes sense. Women in late stage pregnancy are rarely comfortable. Labor and delivery are at the very best completely exhausting, and are often experiences of tremendous pain, like torture, strung out over a period of several hours. But then the baby comes and all the suffering is forgiven and forgotten.

Do you think suffering is a necessary part of redemption? I spoke to a Presbyterian minister recently who said absolutely not! He believes the only thing necessary for redemption is to remember that we are connected to God and each other. It's an interesting point of view, especially from clergy. It's possible I agree with him, not sure yet.

Today, just as on every Good Friday, my prayers go out to all who suffer. May they be released from their pain, may they be transformed by their experiences. May all who suffer find, in their heart of hearts, the capacity to rise. Amen.

21 comments:

The Bug said...

My Baptist forbears would say that Jesus did the suffering FOR us, so that we wouldn't have to. But then they go ahead & preach a gospel of denial & shoulds - lots of guilt there!

Reya Mellicker said...

All the saints suffered terribly. It seems to be a part of being Christian.

I thought Jesus suffered to save souls, rather than banish suffering. I might not have my theology right, though.

Butternut Squash said...

Amen. I love Easter. Maybe I just love Spring.

It is Christ's rising from the dead that makes the death important. His suffering, though horrible, does not seem to me more severe than so many other horrors I've heard of. (Oodles of criminals were punished in the same way.) And many women have suffered longer in far more miserable ways, but this is gross... I'd rather talk about Easter bunnies and chocolate.

May we all strive to bring peace to suffering souls!

ellen abbott said...

The suffering of Jesus is supposed to free us from suffering, in life maybe, but surely in death. Accept Jesus as your personal savior and you go to heaven, not hell (though I'm not sure the concept of hell as a place of eternal torture and suffering existed during the time period that Jesus was supposed to have lived). However, many people who have accepted Jesus still suffer mightily (to borrow one of your favorite words) in life so is their belief and faith not strong enough?

The concept of the dead and risen god is so ancient, ancient before christianity came on the scene, having it's roots in the harvest festivals and spring plantings and perhaps at it's core birth and death, or death and (re)birth.

Val said...

Amen.

Easter, spring, rebirth, rejuvenation, hope, love - its all good.

those blossoms look like snow - masses of it floating in the trees - a reminder of winter past and transition to rebirth....

happy easter x

Reya Mellicker said...

Yeah. I think originally these stories came from the experience of childbirth. Must have. Later they had to be expanded to include the wider context of spiritual practice, but at its core, that's what it seems like to me.

I'm curious that already a couple of you have said Jesus suffered so we didn't have to. But I thought he suffered to save souls, not to stop suffering. Interesting.

Jesus died for your sins. That's what I always hear from the dudes by the Metro station with their little P.A. systems turned up.

Very interesting!!

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Heavy stuff here. May I address the term "suffering"? It is true that even those who are Christians suffer. It is my theory that being a believer in Christ gives one a calmness in his/her heart, mind, soul; but it does not preclude physical suffering from the evils of the world or from illness. This belief gives the believer a place to withdraw to so as to find solace from the trials of life.

Because Christianity & Judaism follow the same God the stories and flaws are the same. We were taught as children that Jews are "the chosen people" in the old Testament, but it seems that Christians think they are "the chosen people" and have since the times of the Crusades. But then, there are other religions who think their beliefs are the "right" beliefs; therefore, making them "chosen".

If we could just take the the teachings of kindness, caring, tolerance, and forgiving from all religions we would be in a much better place. Down with the fire & brimstone.

Reya Mellicker said...

Thanks Lizzy! Everything you wrote makes perfect sense, and I had to chuckle at "down with the fire and brimstone." Yep. Down is where that belongs, oh yeah!!

One thing I know for sure is that during the middle ages in Europe, some very weird things happened to Christianity and Judaism. Really weird.

Reya Mellicker said...

Is this heavy stuff? I find it all so interesting.

Off to work now - wearing ecclesiastical purple today. xx

ewix said...

Well, happy spring to you all, anyway.
Good Friday really is a time to pause and think about things.... really cannot get into details of theology which often seem unkind and very tiring indeed.
Reya, you have much more energy than I do.
But your pictures of the blossoms are utterly enchanting and the duck family.
Ecclesiastical purple seems the way to go.
Yesterday I was talking with a friend about the Vatican and the 'princes of the church' and all their astounding vestments.
Organized religion seems a far cry from the simplicity of Jesus of Nazereth......

Linda Sue said...

It's all metaphor- religion. There is a book that was banned from all of Europe re: historical facts of the times and politics of Jesus stuff, not at all the story of the christian church stuff. It may also be inaccurate but if it is all stirred into the stew we might take what nourishes us...be it a chunk of meat, a pea, or a potato...whatever- it is all the same.The christain church "borrowed" so much from the pagans, to incorporate and re-name into their bizarre phillosophy of power and control, to own it- to sort of replace the sane with the insane.Whatever...Spring is spring with or without some dead guy dying a grissley death over and over again every year to make people feel bad and then feel good that up he pops again, for their original sins- what a crock..It's a silly story. But any excuse to gorge on chocolate egss and frosted buns can't be totally ridiculous, now can it...

Thank you so much for your psychic comments! Awesome, girl!

California Girl said...

I don't know if we're supposed to suffer before we can be saved. I think most people do suffer to some extent, some quite disproportionately. I have never understood that and still read treatises on the subject of suffering and persecution. My father raised us in the Presbyterian church but moved us to the Baptist church when I was 11. The Presbys weren't strict enough. Dad was well-educated, well-read and devout. The best thing he did re: heaven and hell was promise me there is a place for dogs & cats.

Chris Wolf said...

fascinating stuff! I love the many facets of this...all the questioning and pondering-tis a good day for that.

Tom said...

ditto to your Amen. Just to accept Jesus isn't enough...i think it's a cop-out. There's a lot more to it than that(which makes being a Christian a very heavy task)...That being said, Good Friday and Easter masses are for sure the most beautiful celebrations in the church, tear jerkers and powerful to be sure. Of course i haven't been for a couple years, so i can't be counted on as an expert. Happy Easter to All!
Dang, those blossums...wow!

Nancy said...

Amen.

Delwyn said...

Happy Easter Reya

I think that you are on the right track...when you make this story a personal one...how do we redeem ourselves, how do we become reborn, revitalised and renewed, not only at easter but every day...it is our responsibility and our challenge...

The cross depicts the intersection of the ego and the spirit ascending...our own resurrection...

Happy days

Natalie said...

Loving, is all any of us have to do. On this day, or any other day.

starryeyed said...

Reya,

Thank you for the cherry blossom and DC Spring pictures in the past few posts. So wonderful - just as you are. I needed it.

xoxo.

Ronda Laveen said...

Absolutely do not believe in the suffering before redemption. There is no need. We've never been separated from God/Source as many suggest. Great comments and musings.

And as Butternut Squash says, it was Christ's rising from the dead after 3 days, that is important. He was making a point.

Ronda Laveen said...

Absolutely do not believe in the suffering before redemption. There is no need. We've never been separated from God/Source as many suggest. Great comments and musings.

And as Butternut Squash says, it was Christ's rising from the dead after 3 days, that is important. He was making a point.

lettuce said...

i think I agree about the spring/death/childbirth parallel

some forms of christianity put as much or more emphasis on Jesus' humanness, rather than on the suffering and death

and it seems hard to say that his suffering is so that we don't have to, given the way the world is...
suffering with the suffering of the world seems to have more scope in it, to me