Why atheism for lent?
Karl Barth once wrote that it was the Church and not the world (or the Jews or Romans) who crucified Christ. Such a statement is a powerful philosophical and doctrinal assertion. Since the Church was wrong about Christ, can the Church be trusted? Should we ever allow the Church to dictate what a community must follow or must believe? Ask an everyday Christian this and I'd be curious to hear their answer.
"But God loves the Church! Christ loves the Church."
Really? Then why the hell did the Church turn on Christ? I mean, really. Why would people do such a thing way-back-then? How could they do something to their so-called Creator, or even, to a Rabbi who brought about good news and great joy to those who had ears to hear? What kind of Church is this?
Many fundamentalists would defend the Church saying, "they were deceived" or "they knew not what they were doing". Well if that's true, who's to say the Church knows what it's doing now? Who's to say people won't be defending the bigotry that passes for right doctrine and right belief today in many churches, 100 years from now? Can we trust the Church, today? When pastors tell us that gay marriage is wrong, today, is that unlike the rabbis and priests and religious leaders and temple players of Jesus' day telling us that Jesus was wrong? Jesus, a heretic? Jesus, a blasphemer? With the Church's track record, shouldn't we have (more than enough) reason to be a little suspect? A little uncertain? A little doubtful?
The story of Zacchaeus always fascinated me as a little child. To me, it was told (and taught) as a story about a small man, a seemingly insignificant man, being heard and noticed and acknowledged by Christ, when no one else would acknowledge him. Now, I understand why people of that time wouldn't acknowledge a man like Zacchaeus. For he was a modern day homosexual. A flaming gay Christian, so to speak. His evil tax collecting ways were shunned by the most religious of society. So when Jesus said, "Zacchaeus, I'm going to your house today," (that time, the equivalent to standing alongside gay advocacy groups or clubbing at the Abbey in West Hollywood), the crowds (full of religiosity) cringed.
When you examine this story closely, it's peculiar (and fascinating) to note the language used in the Scriptures. Particularly in verse 7 of Luke 19, where it reads (following Jesus' insistence on staying over at the chief tax collector's house): 'All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”' To break it down pretty simply, Jesus basically went against everyone. 'All the people' were wrong. And remember, all these people were church-goers (or at least, the majority of them were). If they weren't, why else would they comment on Jesus going to 'be the guest of a sinner?'
Therefore, on this Ash Wednesday--where we're reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return--perhaps atheism becomes the only lens by which we can see Christ--the Christ crucified by the Church--clearly. This is why, I think, atheism is so important, so helpful. And this is why I'm so excited to be starting this journey. A trip into the dark where the Church is wrong and the excluded, outsider, "lost ones" are finally seen as right.