for release Friday, April 18, 2003
by Melodie Davis
Do You Really Believe in Easter?
Many people believe in God. Adults eventually get to the place where it seems logical that life is about something more than being born, living and dying. They believe in God or at least a higher power and may call their deity by one of dozens of names.
About 90 percent of North Americans say they believe there is a God. About 56 percent of the world—Muslims, Jewish, and Christian—share belief in a common God.
Religion is more in the news today than it has ever been in my lifetime. Once confined to the ghettos of the Saturday “religion” page in the newspaper or the “God” hours on Sunday morning radio and TV, stories where religion is a key player infiltrate the nightly news, the front page, and the lead story on a radio broadcast. The annual religious holidays of various faiths—like Passover, Ramadan, Easter—are presented in (mostly) good taste and with respect. So at least maybe information is getting out there: information without preaching, persuasion, or attempt to proselytize.
But this kind of religion is cold and sterile. It lacks feeling. It lacks the drama and reverence of being in the midst of 500 men all bowing toward Mecca five times a day. It lacks the emotion of a family gathering before Sabbath and hearing the familiar words of blessing chanted by the father as candles are lit. It lacks the mingling of joy and empathy as a new Christian convert emerges from the waters of baptism in a serene mountain lake.
Each religion has positive things about it, and to its adherents, benefits that put it over other religions. Hindus point to the fact that their religion isn’t based on a specific single leader or charismatic figure like Christians, Muslims, or Buddhists have. Muslims look at Christians’ belief in the Trinity (three aspects of God in one) and say Christians are not monotheistic.
And so to be a believer is to take one’s faith so seriously that you believe it represents the way to find God and true happiness. But many people, even those who consider themselves Christian, have trouble believing everything about Jesus and his resurrection from the dead. And this of course is what the Easter celebration is all about.
At Easter, we remember a God who is available in a relationship with us. No other faith that I know of quite offers that kind of opportunity. At the heart of Christianity is a claim that God loved us so much that God came to earth through Jesus, went through temptations just like humans, and ultimately died a terrible death. Jesus was more than a prophet or a great teacher, he was God and the Christian faith offers the teaching that faith is first of all a personal, intimate relationship with the God of the universe.
But there is something in the modern mind that doesn’t want to limit God. That is because so much damage has been done in times past by people preaching that their way is the only way. Today we have a new form of an old heresy—syncretism, which says that one religion is as good as the next. Christianity does say there is truth and ethical wisdom in all cultures, but at the heart of Christianity is a claim that is different: that God took on the realities of time and place, living on the earth, in the form of Jesus.
To believe in God or to be a Christian and not believe in the resurrection of Jesus renders that faith pretty dead and useless. It is not worth practicing. If Jesus is not who he claimed to be, then you have just another religion with a dead leader. But if you believe the indicators that miraculously, Jesus does still live in another form, then there is cause to have serene happiness and peace, even in the midst of suffering, because no matter what happens, you too will have life beyond this body on earth.
That doesn’t mean you have to preach that your religion is better than others, or that others are going to “hell.” But we should attempt to live the love and forgiveness that Jesus taught in such a way that others see the love, peace and happiness and want to have that assurance and security also. How often we fail! God, as the supreme intelligence of the universe and as one far beyond our scrawny imagination, is able to solve the difficult issues regarding “is there more than one way to God?” and “how will God handle those who don’t believe?”
So, you can have the best celebration possible this Easter no matter what your current frame of mind: Jesus lives, and we will too.
For a free book of John (from the Bible) write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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