Christianity: The Plain English Version

Column by Rev. Jim Burklo on 2 December 2021 0 Comments

Like progressive Christians today, Simone Weil knew God as love.  Not just as warm, fuzzy, romantic, or familial love.  Rather as agape love, which embraces all beings and things - and all experiences, including suffering.  Communion with the divine was, for her, manifested in attention

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Do progressives believe in the resurrection? Sometimes, without hope in my sins being forgiven, I don't think I could have emotionally coped.


Dear Cheryl,

Jesus’s physical resurrection from his crucifixion is a narrative framed within both Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature as both metaphoric and mystic.

I preach about Jesus’s resurrection as a way to examine social injustices confronting marginal and disenfranchised people. For me, social injustices are a sin

For example, it would be an egregious omission to gloss over the unrelenting violence that took place during Jesus’s time, especially in light of the ongoing violence in today’s society toward people of color, women, Jews, Muslims, and LGBTQ+ people, to name a few. However, the deification of violence as part of a  resurrection narrative spun as redemptive suffering has deleterious implications that are not-so-benignly played out today from the playground to the courtroom.

In other words, in conservative Christianity, the cross as the locus of God’s atonement for human sin raises a myriad of questions for those of us on the margins of society. As an instrument for execution by Roman officials during Jesus's time, the cross's symbolic nature and its symbolic value can both be seen as the valorization of suffering and abuse, especially in the lives of the oppressed.

For those of us on the margins, a Christology mounted on the belief that "Jesus died on the cross for our sins," instead of "Jesus died on the cross because of our sins," not only deifies Jesus as the suffering servant, but it also ritualizes suffering as redemptive. While suffering points to the need for redemption, suffering in and of itself is not redemptive, and it does not always correlate to one's sinfulness. For example, the belief that undeserved suffering is endured by faith, and that it has a morally educative component makes the powerful insensitive to the suffering of others. Also it forces the less powerful to be complacent to their suffering - therefore, maintaining the status quo.

When suffering is understood as an ongoing cycle of abuse that goes on unexamined and unaccounted for, we can then begin to see its manifestation in systems of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, and other "isms" in our everyday lives. With a new understanding about suffering and how it victimizes the innocent and aborts the Christian mission of inclusiveness, Jesus’s death at Calvary and his resurrection invite a different hermeneutic than its classically held one.

Many Christians do not realize that with the classical view of the cross held by many conservatives as the exaltation of Jesus as male, Jesus as white, and Jesus as heterosexual, this view disinvites solidarity among diverse groups of people who do suffer.

~ Rev. Irene Monroe




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