Friday 29 March 2024

My rather tepid Good Friday...

This Good Friday I find myself more-than-usually afflicted by the life-long prejudice against the time and place of Jesus's life and ministry. 

I never have, and still don't, find it inspiring or very interesting to focus on the facts and images of The Holy Land AD 30-33-ish. 

This was enough to push and keep me away from Christianity for most of my life - since (by contrast, and like Tolkien and CS Lewis) I am much more attracted by "northerness" of a Germanic, Scandinavian and British kind. 

So, I don't much want to be constantly reminded that Jesus was of a different kind, and in a very different place (and exactly this constant-reminding is the staple diet, dished out my most sermons I have heard...). 

Therefore, my inclination is to react against the usual practice of tying Christianity (or rather being a Christian) to the historical and geographical context of Jesus. 

I don't suppose I am alone in this! It is obvious that many Christian cultures have preferred to re-imagine Jesus in terms of their own times and places, or to focus on local Saints and Heroes of faith. 

This is - however - particularly difficult in Easter; where the whole thing is very specifically located. It maybe helps account (although there are also other reasons) for my lukewarm attitude to this part of the liturgical calendar - despite its status as officially the most important Christian festival.  

Therefore: I wish a Happy (ish...) Easter to all my readers!


Note added: Although prejudice should be acknowledged as such; I can justify my indifference on the grounds that far too much attention has been paid to the historical aspects of Jesus, and far too little about what he did. I believe that understanding what Jesus did, renders the historical and geographical aspects all-but irrelevant; and something that probably should (largely) be set-aside (for most people, most of the time), once the significance is grasped. 

12 comments:

Deogolwulf said...

Well, you could always spare a thought for √Častre ...

Bruce Charlton said...

@D - Oh no... So far as I know, there is no other annual festival so bizarre as Easter; which can occur at dates spread across nearly five weeks (22 March-25th April); and therefore at times of Very different astronomical, seasonal, or agricultural significance!

Deogolwulf said...

I'm rather keen on lunar-solar calendars. When I'm king / augustus / dictator for life / glorious leader / el presidente, I shall be imposing one.

Jacob Gittes said...

What is your thought on a Christian church celebrating a Seder? That struck me as odd when a local church did that. I reacted sort of how you are in general, but to that specific thing.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Jacob - I had to look up what you meant. Sounds like a politically-correct pandering gimmick to me.

But a lot of what goes-on strikes me that way. A local church advertised a festival of Taize.

This kind of thing may be enjoyable for some people; but it beats me why modern Christians, apparently, assume that administering electroshocks would be a valid form of devotional religious practice.

a_probst said...

The locale never alienated me. All the illustrations I saw from childhood on were influenced by European painters. It might also have helped that the natural landscape of Southern California resembles Israel's more than does England's.

Michael Baron said...

I don't know if you'll appreciate it at all, but there are entire genres of heavy metal music dedicated to northness. Scandinavian bands, especially from Sweden, Norway, and Finland, have set forth an lively, manly, technically complex genre of music about being cold and serious.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpoLe2v6MVo

NLR said...

A related issue is that because Christianity originated within a particular culture and place, the question naturally arises, what is the value of other places and cultures?

I don't think this was an issue until relatively recently. For most of Christian history, people unconsciously valued both their own cultures and Christianity. (Beowulf, for instance). But then at some point, we start to see people who see no value in their own people or any contribution that they can make or that their ancestors could have made. They are just "the people who happened to become Christian". That's a lot better than one's people just being interchangeable economic widgets, but it's still not great.

I believe that the fact that there are different peoples on Earth means that there are different challenges they face and contributions they can make. In the Romantic era, people were starting to consider this question consciously, but much of seems to have been wiped out or forgotten because of the events of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Bruce Charlton said...

@NLR - There are also rather fundamental theological questions. Traditional Christian theology regards it as *essential* that Jesus was a Jew, and the Messiah, and was killed by crucifixion and lots of other very specific things.

And, of course, Christianity is an historical religion, referencing something that happened in a particular historical time and geographical place.

I found it very difficult - with this vast and very complex weight of tradition - to recognize that all such factual claims (or even actual facts) are ultimately *contingent* to who Jesus was and what Jesus did - such specifics might have happened to be otherwise, yet Jesus's role, his accomplishment, would not have have been affected.

What was helpful or essential in the past, is now a very serious stumbling block - or worse, an actual barrier that cannot be surmounted without inner dishonesty.

A said...

It is an interesting point Bruce. The current Pop Christianity places increasing emphasis on the "otherness" - really trying to emphasize it - while historically (as you point) the Saints, art, etc. rather emphasized what we could relate to culturally.

For example, Our Lady of Guadalupe clearly exhibits many features in order to appeal to aboriginal Mexicans, but has become very popular to emphasize in America among European descendants to signal openness to demographic changes and openness to other cultures.

Joel said...

I have had a similar reaction with our yearly Jewish-music themed Maundy Thursday. Thankfully it seems to be out of everybody's systems by Good Friday.

However, I am interested to know how you take the Old Testament. I have found myself becoming less and less impressed by -- and less of a reader of -- everything but the Gospels over the years. But this divorces me from most historical Christians, which is a fact that worries me.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

After a lifetime of exposure to Christianity of all sects and speaking with Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Jews, the one constant I observe is that religion is downstream of culture.