Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Promise of Easter is for Everyone - by Trista Hendren

Art by Arna Baartz

What is a former Evangelical Christian, turned atheist, turned Muslim-Feminist doing celebrating Easter? While I admit that the way Christianity is sometimes practiced often grates on my nerves, there is something that binds me to this tradition. It is this promise of equality—even abundance—among all people, that continues to give me hope.

Easter is the one thing I can’t let go of.

There is one verse from the Bible that has been ruminating in my head this last week as I thought about what I could write on Easter. Most of my work centers on the divine feminine and the empowerment of women and girls through their faith of origin. It’s been 20 years since I left Christianity and, while I don’t often read the Bible anymore, I used to spend hours on it every day. Many of those verses remain in my heart, coming out as they will.

“I came so that you might have life, and may have it abundantly.”

While it’s true that many preachers have turned this into a money mongering game, this passage means something different to me.

I used to think abundance was living a lavish lifestyle. I lived that life for many years before I realized there was no abundance in it. There is no abundance without community or integrity. You can’t fully enjoy what you have when others around you are suffering.

I don’t think Jesus was talking about money when he spoke of abundance. I think he was talking about happiness; fullness of being. In our individualistic society, we are always striving for more when abundance is right in front of us.

Abundance is spending the day with your children with a picnic basket and plenty of trees to climb. Abundance is a deep belly laugh; pure joy. Abundance is a beautiful garden or a kitchen full of friends. Abundance is spending the last weeks of your grandmother’s life taking care of her.

Yes, there is abundance even in death when a life has been lived well.

For those of us who the label Christianity is too ensnarled with disappointment and hurt, the message of Jesus still remains.

I grew up with a list of all the world religions in columns that listed all the reasons they were “wrong”.

I grew up with a feeling of deep inadequacy and sinfulness, where every week I cried at the altar begging for forgiveness.

I grew up with a template of inferiority—I was a girl. I was to remain submissive; silent.

While I planned to become a minister, it was clear to me once I started school that the only role I was being prepared for was that of a wife and a mother.

Audre Lorde posed this question near the end of her life: “What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?”

After 30 years of the indoctrination of silence and passivity, I have something to say.

We are living in a society filled with thievery. We are not living out the promise of abundance because we have forgotten that we belong to one another.

Sister Joan Chittister recently wrote, “Women are two-thirds of the hungry of the world; women are two-thirds of the illiterate of the world; and women are two-thirds of the poorest of the poor. That cannot be an accident; that is a policy….It’s time for religions everywhere to become truly religious.”

It’s time that we make amends to those who have not been treated equal. It is no secret that people of color and women throughout the world suffer disproportionately. We must begin to accept that inequality is a form of thievery and slow murder.

“The thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.” John 10:10

The way it stands now, there are billions living in horrendous poverty. There are billions of women and girls being exploited, raped and abused. This is not the life that Jesus spoke of.

Former President Jimmy Carter has issued a Call to Action to people of all faiths. I urge you to take part in his initiative.

I believe in Radical Equality between ALL people. I think Jesus did too. That is the promise of Easter to me. When we wake up from our long slumber, resurrected and transformed, to finally honor ALL of the world’s inhabitants, we will have grasped the meaning of Easter.

The year I stop celebrating Easter will be the day I finally give up on humanity.

-Trista Hendren
Published earlier this week on The God Article.

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