[ by Charles Cameron — from the heart, may it go to the heart, as Beethoven once said ]
Yesterday, Nicholas Kristof posed the question, President Carter, Am I a Christian? His subhead read, Christians celebrate Easter on Sunday. But wait — do we really think Jesus literally rose from the dead?
Here’s a taste:
NICHOLAS KRiSTOFF: How literally do you take the Bible, including miracles like the Resurrection?
PRESIDENT CARTER: Having a scientific background, I do not believe in a six-day creation of the world that occurred in 4004 B.C., stars falling on the earth, that kind of thing. I accept the overall message of the Bible as true, and also accept miracles described in the New Testament, including the virgin birth and the Resurrection.
KRiSTOFF: With Easter approaching, let me push you on the Resurrection. If you heard a report today from the Middle East of a man brought back to life after an execution, I doubt you’d believe it even if there were eyewitnesses. So why believe ancient accounts written years after the events?
CARTER: I would be skeptical of a report like you describe. My belief in the resurrection of Jesus comes from my Christian faith, and not from any need for scientific proof. I derive a great personal benefit from the totality of this belief, which comes naturally to me.
Et Resurrexit, from the Credo, Bach’s Mass in B Minor, performed by Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin under the baton of Daniel Reuss:
I guess I’m a reverse Bultmann: I don’t want to de-mythologize Christianity, I love to re-mythologize it.
If the Bible opened with the words, “Once upon a Time, God created the heavens and the earth..” and the Creed, “I make-beieve in One God, The Father Almighty..” we would still be in story, but no longer subject to the same kind of debate as to the historicity or dubiosity of the narrative’s claims. It’s a move that the literary critic Northrop Frye made on a more intimate scale when he called the Book of Revelation:
a fairy tale about a damsel in distress, a hero killing dragons, a wicked witch, and a wonderful city glittering with jewels”
I’m not interested in this move because it’s literary criticism; I’m interested in it because it rescues the great story corpus of our civilization from blind literalism on one side and blind debunking on the other.
Bach, I believe, in his towering Mass in B Minor — written by a fervent Lutheran to the Latin, hence Catholic, text of a rite he would have celebrated in Luther’s and his own native German — offers those who cannot believe the literal truth another avenue to experience the majesty of the ideation. This at least need not be disavowed by those leabving the faith, and may serve as a welcome portal to those entering it.
Wishing you a happy and blessed Easter, one and all..