When the original followers of Jesus responded to the violent execution of Jesus by insisting that somehow he didn't stay dead, that was brilliant! It filled people with hope, with courage, and with a sense that even the most horrible injustices can't have the last word. What a powerful movement the Jesus Movement started out to be!
Within a couple of centuries of Jesus' execution, the movement was becoming an institution, and by the 4th century CE, it was blended completely with the very state that had executed the Wayshower. Rather than using faith, imagination, ritual and story-telling to overcome violence, the institutional church had started to worship the very violence done to Jesus.
As Emerson said, what we are worshiping, we are becoming. As Christians have worshiped the violence of the cross rather than celebrating victory over the violence of the cross (symbolized by the resurrection narratives), racism, sexism, war, capitol punishment, homophobia, conquest, environmental destruction, and all manner of intolerance have been fueled in the name of the Prince of Peace.
Today, same-gender loving people are killed in Jamaica while churches and politicans refuse to speak out against the violence...as they venerate the violence done to Jesus as being somehow salvific. Today, same-gender loving people are dehumanized and threatened in Nigeria while much of the Church remains silent. Today, same-gender loving people in Uganda face possible legislation that will cost them life and liberty and will also hurt people who make any attempt to defend them. And again, Christians, violent followers of the killing cross, remain silent.
When we worship killing, its no surprise that we become killers and those who remain silent as killing happens. When the most horrific act of violence is our most celebrated act of "grace"...of course wars, torture, state executions, child abuse, and violent language against the "Other" fail to move us.
One day, I hope and pray, Christianity will be defined not by who we hate, who we deny rights and liberty, and how intolerant we are of difference, but rather by Jesus' Golden Rule...to treat others as we would wish to be treated.
Jesus spoke truth to power, and when abusive power killed him, he continued to live in the hearts of the people he had touched with his message of hope and love. They triumphed over violence by insisting that Life had and would always win out over violence. May those who still claim to follow Jesus return to that early message of Life and Hope and Compassion and Justice...a message so unlike what is so often now called "Christianity." May Christianity become (once again) the way beyond, not of, the cross.
- Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins