Friday, April 9, 2010


Strange Attractor ponders how to experience Easter from a non-Christian perspective, and both her remarks and the comments that follow make for interesting reading.

As it happens, DairyStateMom and I both attended her church this Easter, and I found the entire service very moving, notwithstanding my non-orthodox interpretation and belief around the resurrection. Spectacular music (they bring in timpani to accompany the organ on this day) was one reason, but not the only one.

A special feature of the morning was an anthem based on the Emily Dickinson poem "Hope is the thing with feathers" -- a completely new setting for the poem, with a soaring soprano solo at the end, that had its world premiere on that day and in that place. The senior pastor's sermon began with Dickinson's story, focusing with great empathy on how Dickinson was viewed as a failure religiously in her adolescence, admitted to Mount Holyoke Seminar for Girls as one "without hope" for salvation:

From the Emily Dickinson Museum's Web site:
Mount Holyoke also believed that students’ moral and religious lives were part of its responsibility and conducted revivals that encouraged students to profess their faith. Students were organized into one of three groups: those who professed, those who hoped to and those who were without hope. Dickinson was among eighty without hope when she entered and was among twenty-nine who remained so by the end of the year.

The sermon then made a segue to note the anniversary of Martin Luther King's last speech, and quoted extensively from King's sermons over some 20 years in which he called upon hope for the future and for justice.

And that, she said, summed up the Easter message: hope for the future and in the justice of the universe.

It was a message that I found resonated very deeply with me. One in which the supernatural miracle of Easter was muted in favor of Easter as a state of mind--yet one that I think someone for whom the Resurrection story as a more literal event could still feel at home with.

A week later I'm still turning it over in my mind. (In fact, I delayed publishing this, having begun the draft of it a couple of days ago, in hopes I could write something a bit more definitive and complete here.)

I am very much a pluralist and very much a Unitarian Universalist. I'm a skeptic, at best, on the supernatural elements that have traditionally been a part of Christian belief. I emphatically reject the traditional atonement theology that requires me to believe Jesus died for the sins of the world in order to ransom us from eternal damnation.

But in recent years, owing in part to sharing in some of DairyStateMom's faith life, and driven by that to do the reading I've been doing of late, I do find myself reconnecting with Christianity. Not Christianity as traditionally defined, mind you. But one in which I see a deep and inspiring meaning in the life and words ascribed to Jesus.

And I find myself taking great comfort in that turn of events, even as it challenges me in my day-to-day life.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your insights and the link. I like your emphasis on hope.


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