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He'd Seen Resurrection Too Many Times Not to Believe It

God's Politics blog
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Diana Butler Bass: "Believing the Resurrection"

In the early 90s, I lived in Santa Barbara, Calif., and attended a dynamic, renewing, spiritually vital liberal congregation, Trinity Episcopal Church. There, I was fortunate enough to meet the Rt. Rev. Daniel Corrigan, an aged Episcopal bishop who was also the first bishop to ordain women to the priesthood. Dan Corrigan was a unique breed: one of those mid-20th century liberal princes of the pulpit, a Protestant minister whose stirring preaching and passionate commitment to social justice pushed Christians to enact God's shalom toward the oppressed and the outcast. He was both pastor and prophet. Even at the end of his life, Dan Corrigan wore the Holy Spirit like a mantle around his shoulders, always ready to speak for God.

One year, as Easter approached, I overheard an exchange between this octogenarian liberal lion and a fellow parishioner. "Bishop Corrigan," the person asked, "Do you believe in the resurrection?" Frankly, I could not wait to hear the answer – like most of his generation, there was no way that Bishop Corrigan believed in a literal resurrection. He looked at the questioner and said firmly, without pause, "Yes. I believe in the resurrection. I've seen it too many times not to."

Progressive Christians often stumble on the resurrection. Many will sit in churches this Easter Sunday, silently doubting or questioning the minister's sermon. They may like the music, appreciate the tradition and liturgy, and delight in the feelings of joy – but they will not really believe the resurrection....

The problem with trying to prove – or disprove, for that matter – the resurrection is that actual historical evidence of the event 2,000 years ago does not exist one way or the other....

Bishop Corrigan's comment – a comment upon which I have mediated for some dozen years – points to a different way of embracing, of believing, the resurrection. His answer both defies the conventional approach to the resurrection (as a scientifically verifiable event), and maintains the truthfulness (the credibility) of the resurrection as historically viable and real. The resurrection is not an intellectual puzzle. Rather, it is a living theological reality, a distant event with continuing spiritual, human, and social consequences. The evidence for the resurrection is all around us. Not in some ancient text, Jesus bones, or a DNA sample. Rather, the historical evidence for the resurrection is Jesus living in us; it is the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, bringing back to life that which was dead. We are the evidence.

Diana Butler Bass (http://www.dianabutlerbass.com/) is the author of Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith (Harper San Francisco).

posted by God's Politics blog, 4/4/07