You don’t have to look

I have problems with Easter.

My church attendance has been irregular since I left fundamentalism, which I’ve been told is normal for people who have suffered spiritual abuse.

This year, I tried to go to church on Easter Sunday. I drove to the parking lot. Panic rose in my stomach until I thought I might vomit. I left for Starbucks.

This is the beginning of realizing that my spiritual life never has to be an obligation, nor should it. I don’t have to try to show Jesus I love him through ritual, because now I believe Jesus would want us to love others and even Him by our own choice.

I’ve had a love / hate relationship with Easter since I was a small child, because of the intense guilt I had about the story.

Since leaving fundamentalism, I’ve wrestled with doubts and whether or not I’ll feel home inside a church again.

Last year, Cynthia Jeub wrote a blog post about why Christians should stop wearing crosses, and she wrote this about me:

One of my friends was obsessed with revisiting the death of Jesus. She watched films and plays depicting his torture and death over and over, and I asked her why the resurrection got so little time in such plays. The resurrection was short and the crucifixion was long in every story. She admitted to the problem, but didn’t have a solution for it.

I thought the only way to honor Jesus for his sacrifice, to love him, was to be a witness to his suffering.

After moving out, I watched movies like the Passion of the Christ and the Stoning of Soraya M., because the torture of my fellow humans troubled me and I didn’t know how else to show that I cared but to watch.

That’s how I demonstrate that my love and compassion is real, right?

I made a new friend this last fall. She’s had her own church trauma–she was at New Life Church when Ted Haggard left in 2006 and during the shooting in 2007 and later another pastor who turned out to be a con man.

We were discussing violence in media and how we deal with it one day. She said that she looks away during the scourging and crucifixion scenes in movies and reenactments.

I had an epiphany. I’ve never been able to look away, to choose not to watch. 

I remembered what a high school pen pal once told me: “I think there’s a reason we weren’t there when Jesus died.”

At the time, I vehemently disagreed with her, believing extreme forms of remembrance to be a religious duty, something any lover of Jesus would desire. I understood, even identified with the flagellants of the medieval period.

I was in the Thorn cast again like last year, but that was my only church-related Easter activity. I’d thought, It’s Lent season, do you want to watch the Passion? No, not really. It hurts too much. And maybe it should. After all, I can feel my emotions now.

So I rested over spring break, hung out with friends.

I stopped reopening my old scars.

On Good Friday, a fellow blogger in the Homeschoolers Anonymous community, posted on Facebook:

Shade good friday

And my heart said, Amen.

——————————————–

Sidenote: I did love one of John Pavlovitz’s posts during Lent season, Waiting for Easter: A Eulogy for Jesus.

What passes as Christianity here in America often bears no resemblance to the humble, gentle Nazarene rabbi…. When I look around at the faith so often proposing to be Christianity these days, that Jesus seems gone.

Jesus isn’t just dead, but he’s had his identity stolen posthumously, too…. So yes, for far too many of his people, this is a eulogy for Jesus within Christianity.

Yes, we grieve a religion that often seems dead, and yet still cling to the slimmest of hopes, that an Easter Sunday is still within reach.

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