...My Classics veil their faces,
My Faith that dark adores,
Which from its solemn Abbeys
Such resurrection pours!
Is the resurrection irrelevant?
Most people believe in an afterlife of some sort, and that it is at least a niceish destination if you're a non-felon (or something like that). Most of those who do believe in an afterlife don't dwell much on the body-or-no-body issue -- they figure as long as they are still conscious in some realm and that realm is a pleasant realm, they shouldn't fuss too much over the details. Even most Christians have divorced themselves from the idea of physical resurrection. You go from the Hellenic Nicene Creed, in which Jesus is freed from his body.....
....let it stew a few more centuries.....
....and soon we want rid of ours, too.
I can understand this way of thinking, though I don't subscribe to it. To truly believe that this unjust life doesn't end in cold oblivion is quite the feat; to believe that it opens onto a pleasant scene is even harder; to believe that the next life involves actual physical restoration and perfection seems pushing the limits of what the seemingly cruel, entropic universe will allow a sane person to swallow. And whether or not we are part of a faith or philosophy that emphasizes the negative aspects of physicality, we all understand the ugly side of life in a body: the appetites that hurt us and tempt us to hurt others; the weaknesses and indignities; the illusion of control that at some point is ripped away from chainsmokers and health nuts alike. Sometimes the physical aspect of our being gives us more misery than joy and we aren't sure we wouldn't be happier and better beings without it. And even those of us who do believe in a literal resurrection don't really believe that there's no possible happy existence without the taste of physical cheesecake on our physical tongues.
So what's the big deal about the resurrection? Was it just a really great parlor trick that Jesus used to prove that he was the Real Thing, but not something that really mattered in and of itself? Could he just as easily have pulled a unicorn out of his hat? And if Jesus didn't care to keep his body, as so many Christians believe, why should any Christian wish to keep his own?
Again, I understand why people ask these questions. It's baffling enough to accept the thought that a god would spend 33 years living in a leaky, smelly human body in a dank and dirty world, but even more fantastical to believe that he would choose to keep that souvenir from Earth when he returns to a purer space. It can seem like the most laughable example of human beings superimposing their weaknesses on the gods they choose to worship -- we don't like ourselves very much, so we invent a god who's physical like us and thereby feel better about our place in the universe. Then three hundred years later we realize it's ludicrous, not to mention blasphemous, and change our minds.
Mormon doctrine runs audaciously against that powerful current of human self-loathing, however apparently logical. We believe that our faith restores truths about mankind that were lost (and/or rejected) over centuries: The body is not evil, nor is it neutral -- it is ultimately divine, and is the main reason we are on earth. Whether we live 100 years or one second, a body is the single thing we all get from this life. And the reason we wanted incarnation and eventual permanent incarnation, and why both of these have been granted every human being free of charge, is we are embryonic gods and a physical body is standard issue. A non-optional prerequisite.
And it is only that knowledge that makes the resurrection meaningful. Because most people who mourn dead dear ones don't really care whether they will see them again in a body -- they just want to know that they will encounter them again someday, in some form or another. The importance of resurrection doctrine only becomes clear when we understand that is not we who want to superimpose our physicality on God -- it is he who superimposed his physicality on us. It is not just a nice thing to be resurrected and get to wiggle our toes in the heavenly creek -- it is a necessary thing. Because the next life is not just meant to be pleasant; if that were all it was, then Christ's resurrection is just tossing another pretty miracle on the pile. The next life is meant to be expansively concrete.....mind-bendingly, fantastically grand.....grab yourself a body in the Third Dimension and then we're off to the Fourth, and the Fifth, and....
We signed up to be gods.
It is pretty ludicrous, but so is life itself.
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.
Job 19: 25-27
Monday, March 24, 2008
Posted by Marie at 10:12 PM