Easter for Doubters

Christian holidays after a faith transition can be tricky. Two years ago, I wrote about speaking to my congregation on Easter Sunday. I finally answered my own question about the Resurrection on my short walk to the pulpit to give the day’s sermon. It was an awkward moment of personal discovery. From that moment forward, Jesus hasn’t been the divine person who brings about an eternal salvation, but a radical with a deep understanding of God, who taught others how to be in right relationship with the people around them. The empire-challenging, social justice Jesus is one that I can embrace.

This photo shows an empty tomb in the Pantheon, with a window in the center and four empty shelves.
Photo of an empty tomb in the Pantheon, taken by Hieu Dang.

Since that episode, I have been learning how to interpret scripture through that lens, and this new-to-me Jesus has offered many insights about the nature of God and the value of humanity. But celebrating Christmas and Easter has felt complicated. One of the ways that my congregation of doubters has handled this is to embrace the religious music that goes with the holidays. We have a Sunday night where we sing obscure carols at Christmas and another where we sing the music of Holy Week and Easter.

During our Christmas sing this past year, I realized that the music held space for a divine mystery that still felt important and compelling, even if it no longer pointed to the virgin birth in my mind. We sang our Easter hymns last week and I felt joy at the idea of resurrection, without the need to for it to be literal. In particular, the song “Lord of the Dance” by songwriter Sydney Carter brought to mind the metaphor of the message of Jesus as a dance that continued long after his death. I liked the idea that we are still dancing the way of Jesus thousands of years later, that we are still learning from Jesus’ insights.

Singing the music of these holidays has ultimately become comforting to me, even if the comfort I experience is no longer in the certainty of a Jesus who brings about a heavenly salvation. Rather, the comfort is in existence of questions that I don’t need to have answers to right now. As new questions emerge, I find peace in the depth of a Christianity that can absorb and hold my questions. For right now, it feels like that is enough to make a life of faith.

Nancy Ross

Nancy Ross is an art history professor by day and a sociologist of religion by night. She lives in St. George, Utah with her husband and two daughters and co-hosts the Faith Transitions podcast.

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3 Responses

  1. Chiaroscuro says:

    I love your Jesus

  2. This is lovely. Thank you. Happy Easter.

  3. Mormonish says:

    This is the Jesus that makes sense to me, too. Thanks for explaining it so eloquently.

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