But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." John
Last week I blogged about my online conversation, as part of a small group, with a member of the Church of Satan. It didn't go over too well -- she left in a huff, bemoaning the "waste of time" she'd just put herself through talking to us. But beneath all the anger and bluster and sarcasm, I heard the hint of a different message: They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.
The "cultured despisers of religion" in our society certainly seem to get a boost out of alienating others from God by cultivating skepticism, cynicism and a kind of spiritually and aesthetically sterile hyper-rationalism. But it's too easy to make these folks the villains. The sad fact is, a lot of Christians seem to delight in taking away the Lord from others. Sometimes it's a matter of deeming those people unworthy of knowing Christ. (As if any of us are "worthy.") Sometimes it's a matter of elevating theological abstractions and cherished sectarian "best practices" over loving others and living out the radical inbreaking Reign of God that Jesus preached and modeled in his own dealings with people. And sometimes it's just ham-handed, thick-tongued, empty-headed cluelessness.
But no matter what the motivation, the end result can be someone longing on some level for a relationship with God, but walking away from God because of the words and behavior of God's self-professed friends. I know this because I lived it. And I've seen it happen over and over again: walking wounded who, after being buffeted by a litany of anti-Christian rhetoric and/or stabbed in the back by daggers of "Christian love," come to the conclusion that if this is what Christianity is all about they're having none of it.
The good news is that the Christ who overcame death and the grave can also overcome the harebrained behavior of his followers as well as the bile of his detractors, and the disbelief and despair both groups create.
Which brings the discussion back to...us. Do we want to be conduits of Christ's love and grace to people who have perhaps only experienced a distorted cariacature of Chrsitianity? And if we do, how can we do that?
Artwork: Kristus ja Mataleena, A. Edelbert