The Episcopal Church has sent me a copy of the annual Easter Message from Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori. It’s 383 words long, in eight paragraphs.
Not once in this message has the Presiding Bishop seen fit to mention the name of Jesus Christ.
Oh, she drops hints that Easter maybe sort of, kind of, have something to do with Jesus. In the next-to-last paragraph she says, “I would encourage you to look at where you are finding new life and resurrection, where life abundant and love incarnate are springing up in your lives and the lives of your communities.” It is just conceivable that this could be a roundabout approach to Jesus—albeit an approach that never quite gets there. And she concludes, “Give thanks for Easter. Give thanks for Resurrection. Give thanks for the presence of God incarnate in our midst.” God makes it into the very last line of the message.”
When I asked why the message contained no mention of Jesus, a spokesperson for the church replied, “The Presiding Bishop talks at length about Resurrection—that is the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s hardly how I would describe it. But we are talking about the bishop’s message, not the spokesperson’s.
A key phrase is, “look at where you are finding new life and resurrection.” Well, “you” could be anybody, looking anywhere, couldn’t it? So let’s go to the earlier paragraphs to see if we can tell where Bishop Schori is looking for new life and resurrection.
She opens, “One of my favorite Easter hymns is about greenness… about love coming again.” Greenness? “It’s a reminder to me of how centered our Easter images are in the Northern hemisphere.”
What? “We talk about greenness and new life and life springing forth from the earth when we talk about resurrection.” If you can find a specifically Christian perspective in any of this so far, you ought to take up dowsing.
“I often wonder what Easter images come in the Southern hemisphere, and I think that church in the south has something to teach us about that.”
What’s all this gobbledygook about the hemispheres? The quintessential Easter image is the empty tomb. In fact, it’s the only image that matters. Surely that image doesn’t change from hemisphere to hemisphere.
But here we have the presiding bishop of a mainline Protestant denomination getting all hung up on nature imagery which has nothing to do with the real sense of Easter, any more than snowmen and kids sledding have to do with Christmas. I think we have a right to expect a bishop to be more theologically focused than a greeting-card salesman.
After this we get a paragraph on Japan’s ongoing recovery from the tsunami and nuclear reactor disaster of last year, observed by the bishop on a recent visit there. That’s nice, but the concern expressed is not particularly Christian. An atheist, a Buddhist, or a worshipper of Mithras could have easily made the same comments that the bishop made. She did manage to slip in another odd remark: “The earth there is—was at that point—largely colorless, brown, in the middle of winter. No greenness.” She’s at it again.
I’m going to quote Paragraph 6 in its entirety, verbatim—otherwise you might accuse me of having made it up as a satire. Here it is.
“As we began Lent, I asked you to think about the Millenium Development Goals and our work in Lent as a re-focusing of our lives. I’m delighted to be able to tell you that the UN report this last year has shown some significant accomplishment in a couple of those goals, particularly in terms of lowering the rate of the worst poverty, and in achieving better access to drinking water and better access to primary education. We actually might reach those goals by 2015. That leaves a number of other goals as well as what moves beyond the goals to full access for all people to abundant life.”
Does this tell us why the bishop doesn’t mention Jesus? Who needs Jesus Christ? We’ve got the UN and its Millenium Development Goals!
Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) If He had only known that the UN would make His work redundant! Think of the trouble He might have saved Himself. Plus, He could have gotten out from under the responsibility for all those Christians re-focusing their lives on Him—just send them down the road to the Millenium Development Goals.
In this extraordinary message, plainly labeled for us as an Easter Message, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church reveals the object of her faith—a messianic super-state which will deliver the abundant life that Christ has always promised: deliver here and now, in this world; and without even a nod in Christ’s direction, create Utopia. All you need is government!
We have the Presbyterian Church USA with people dancing around in animal costumes as part of a worship service, an Anglican church in Canada staging “The Vagina Monologues” at the altar, and now Bishop Schori with her greenness and her hemispheres and her Christ-less Easter.
Mainline Protestantism in North America, from now on, ought to be called Flatline Protestantism.