There were two different Christian opinion pieces in the Springfield News-Leader today. (Here's one - Here's one). Reading the two pieces side-by-side reinforces the perception that there are only two options when it comes to following Jesus.
Crassly put, it feels like you’re either an evangelical or a progressive, and there’s an unspoken pressure to “declare yourself” on or the other. However, this is a false dichotomy. There is a third way - a “still more excellent way,” if you prefer.
Easter is not either a past sacrificial event or a metaphor for a better life now. I find neither of those theologies inherently compelling on their own. Both approaches void Easter of its power, intensity, and urgency - though in different ways.
If we minimize Easter to a single historical event, we imply that one must believe that single historical event is all there is to it. If you believe that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead 2,000 years ago, then you are good to go. It negates the living presence of Jesus in our midst right here and now, and denies the efficacy of grace apart from human activation.
If on the other hand we minimize Easter to a metaphor that helps us through life’s difficult times, we imply that the Christian faith is no more than a glorified self-help group. If someone treats you poorly, it’s okay because God overcomes death itself so surely you can overcome your issue. It negates the transformative power of God to act with cosmic and eternal implication, not only 2,000 years ago but also in the present day.
I cannot believe that the mystery of the resurrection is a simple either/or proposition. It’s more than just a past event; it’s more than just a life metaphor; in truth it’s more than we could ever possibly describe. However, I am working on a sermon for Sunday that I hope will at least partially begin to describe it!
In the meantime, I really hope we can somehow stop ourselves from thinking in “either/or” terms. Not all Christians are conservative, not all liberals are atheists. "Social justice" and "evangelical" are not opposites, and it’s high time we stop pretending that they are.