I love Easter more than Christmas, probably because it coincides with the bursting to life of buds and flowers; birds making nests and singing loudly; beautiful little animals and more sun! But for me there is a spiritual connection and that is hope for new life and not just baby animals. I know that my God loves me and understands the whole of me, good and bad.
I am not big on dogma and I have always struggled with the concept of the angry God needing to be avenged on the human race, demanding a living sacrifice for being the way we were created – curious, intelligent, with a somewhat warped sense of survival which can sometimes be turned to cruelty, violence, selfishness and hate. As a biologist, palaoecologist and a lover of fossils the stories at the beginning of Genesis to me are just that – our search for meaning and answers to the big questions. So when people tried to explain Easter to me in terms of repayment of a debt created by stealing of a symbolic apple, it just doesn’t make sense and insults my intelligence, which I believe was given to me by the grace of God.
Like all humans, I have tried to answer the big questions and whilst I acknowledge the massive influence of culture, my grandparents, mum and growing up living next door to the vicar, I have developed a way of making meaning of my faith.
If you are an eternal, omnipotent, being who like any parent loves the little ones they care for, the ability to understand them in the weakness of their tiny, brief lives, never having been human must have been a tall order and nigh on impossible. By becoming human and living with them, helping them to become the best they can be and, in the end, suffering the loneliness of a painful and humiliating death means that God is humbled and can empathise with the human condition even the loneliness of death- that sad height which we face alone. This is what atonement means for me: at-one-ment becoming one together. The gap between humans and God removed.
Then comes Easter. A new beginning if we want it. Where all the stupidity, ambiguous morality and badness is washed away, a fresh new start and a sign that perhaps death is not the end. I still don’t know in my honest heart about the resurrection of ordinary people like me from the death. As a biologist I wonder at the pragmatic aspects such as when did we become “human” enough to be resurrected? what about babies born with anencephaly? What makes us so special when cetaceans exist intelligently without destroying God’s creation as we do?
I am content for there to be mystery.
But the Easter story is a powerful one and versions of it exist in so many religions and cultures of God coming down, sharing our lives and wanting to connect with humans to demonstrate love and care. The stories we tell are culture bound but to be sure, Atonement isn’t just a Christian theme. For me bought up with Christian stories and worship it is a powerful touchstone to renew my life; to work and hope for better things in the world. I wish you a happy Easter and whether you have faith or not, I hope that this Easter will refresh you and bring you joy and a sense of at-one-ment with your spiritual self. He is Risen Indeed, Allelujah!