Atheists of the Church Unite! A Good Friday Reflection
Good Friday is our day! It’s a great day because it’s the one day the truth is on full display. Some say “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!” But I say to you, TGIGF – “Thank God it’s Good Friday.”
Good Friday (hereafter GF) is the day the truth is on full display because it’s the day in the year we have the best chance to hear the gospel! Christmas and Easter have been so enmeshed with sentimentality, consumerism, and poor theology that I fear their force has been severely blunted in our culture.
But GF, well, that’s a different story. Tough to commercialize a vile murder! Or get sentimental about torturous death! (It’s possible, I know. I remember Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. But not likely.) Bad theology is always a risk. We just have to deal with it.
GF is good news not BECAUSE Jesus died on the cross. GF is good news because JESUS died on the cross. Religion, the State, the Economy, the Military all conspired to kill him - in the name of their gods, in the interest of their security and prosperity. All these gods, through their human patrons put to death the One who would not acknowledge their authority and offer his loyalty to their service. In short, they crucified an Atheist, one who believed in none of local or national deities of his time or any other.
Easter, despite all that obscures and hides its true meaning from us, is about God raising an Atheist, an unbeliever, vindicating him in his atheism, and, astonishingly , giving this Atheist his very own name, “a name that is above all names” (Phil.2:9)!
GF thus gives Easter its meaning. And it is in the name of this Atheist that we, his followers are baptized and commissioned to live our lives. Following The Atheist, we little atheists are to go out and make more atheists, baptizing them in his name (Mt.28:18-20). Our message declares that Atheism has won the day and eternity over all religious, political, therapeutic, or consumeristic wannabes. It announces freedom for us to be atheists, to live free of their desperate grasp, to live as a human being, for the first time.
We atheists have only occasionally lived up to God’s gift of atheism to us. We have found it far easier to accommodate ourselves to the religious, political, social, and military gods and goddesses from the early days of the church till now. The early atheists of the first few centuries seem to have done a bit better than we later followers have. Their atheism was evident in the freedom, generosity, hospitality with which they lived, the way they cared for the last, the least, and the lost whom no one else cared about or valued, the way they sat loose to money and possessions, treating them as resources with which to care for others rather than to be hoarded for themselves. It was so evident that their contemporaries actually called them “atheists”; they well knew their disbelief in the usual deities and their stubborn commitment to a crucified atheist.
So, Atheists of the church, unite! This is our day! In the horror of Jesus’ death the cost and proof of God’s determination to set his world free for atheism and for life is evident in a way that, as we noted above, is difficult to coopt and accommodate. Faith in Jesus’ way of atheism defies every effort of the gods to reign us into the religious, political, social, and military orthodoxies that seek our minds and bodies to serve their inhumane and unfree values and vision of the world. Only atheism of Jesus’ kind limns freedom, faith, and humanity. His fate is that of every dissident to the prevailing deities – in fact, he is the only One to ever decisively reject them all and forever. That’s why I said above, it’s not that Jesus DIED that’s crucial, it’s that JESUS died on that cross.
And thank God, the true and living God, he did! And may we become atheists like him!