Lockdown Exposes What’s Real this Easter

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C and E” is a pride-filled, judgey, term used by church insiders to refer to people who only show up at church on Christmas and Easter. It’s not uncommon for audiences to double or even triple on Easter weekend. It’s similar to how the gym fills up in January. Nonetheless, Easter is big business. It’s like the church’s “Black Friday” and it’s the best opportunity to grow one’s attendance numbers. As a result, Easter services tend to be more inclusive and attractive.

With the COVID-19 lock down, churches that want to stay alive have moved into online formats. At least two pastors (Florida and Louisiana) were arrested this week for holding services. Pastors like this show their foolishness and lack of regard for human life by grandstanding in this way. If you peel back the onion, it’s almost entirely motivated by money, self promotion, and horrible theology. In reality, the pandemic is exposing the slow to adapt church mentality when it comes to virtual options for parishioners. Most have resisted the move “online” because the virtual “offering plate” doesn’t have the “everybody’s watching” effect.

Back in 2012, I served as an elder at a church in Denver and presented the future vision of our building and it was a room full of blade servers. I told them if you don’t want the church to die, and you want to reach young people, then you have to get real jobs and go online. I was ridiculed, marginalized and eventually had to leave, because nobody thought that was possible, nor did they think anything spiritual or transformative could transpire.

Now that their existence depends on it, Churches realize that producing content for a congregation costs nothing compared to the ego project of a big building, staff, and comforts. Billions of tax-free dollars each year go toward buildings, infrastructure, jumbotrons, and unnecessary externals. The net result to the city is that tax payers must foot the bill for human services that churches, who are called to serve the marginalized, mostly spend on themselves. Church success is no longer proximity to the poor, but a palatial campus in the suburbs. The gentrified church has redefined everything and we bought it, hook, line and sinker.

The sequestered pandemic is a wonderful teacher. It’s exposing problems as much as it is creating them. For example, your kids are not driving you crazy. Your kids are not getting in your way or interrupting your work. Having your kids at home is unearthing just how little influence parents truly have on their kids, and just how unwilling many are to give them the attention and focus they desperately need. The pandemic reveals how most of the world’s kids are farmed out to the State propaganda machine for social engineering where they won’t bother us. Our beloved babies are dumped off at a daycares where we abdicate our influence to those who cannot love our kids as we do. Want a better, more connected family? Now is your time.

Do you really want to go back to how it was?

Are you our your spouse bored? Are you depressed? In the past three-weeks did you begin eating more healthy and start that exercise routine that you always said you wanted but couldn’t because of your work schedule? The COVID-19 lockdown is exposing how we have used work as an excuse, and how we have escaped responsibility, community, and connectedness in our work, sports and other distractions. Now without our anesthesia, our inner suffering is bubbling to the surface. Want healing? Now is your time.

Do you really want to go back to how it was?

Next Sunday, the lock-down, in similar fashion, will unearth the depth to which Easter has actually penetrated our world. Honestly, it’s not that deep. Most people will look for some sort of a replacement instead of finding the Easter celebration within.

If the Easter story has any potency within the heart of people, then it will function just like Christmas did for the Grinch. When Easter dawns within the soul, it requires no accouterments, pomp, our performance art. Easter is a daily flow of suffering, death and renewal, not an annual event. I dream of a day when the Church has the liberation to finally free itself from its dependency and institutional power plays. Only then would it actually retell the life and suffering of Jesus as an icon and pattern to liberate the human race. Enslaved churches free no one.

Instead of freedom, Churches dole out the same substitutionary atonement theology and use fear or pride to trap people into a tribal religion. Nothing could be further from the life and mission of Jesus, their founder. The suffering of Jesus means the end of appeasing God for all people (Romans 6:10, Hebrews7:27, 10:10). Scripture reveals that Jesus’ work was not to start a new alternative religion–that was man’s great idea. Jesus’ work actually subverted institutional powers and liberated people from religion unto a free faith in God their Maker, regardless of religion, tribe, status, or creed. This is why both Church and State hung Jesus on the cross.

Therefore, if an Easter celebration is to live up to the biblical precedent established by Jesus, then the forfeiture of everything for the sake of loving the unloveable is what we should be seeking next Sunday. The COVID-19 pandemic may just be the scourge of love that allows the world to see which Churches are authentically delivering the freedom of losing it all, and which communities are egotistical, tax-free businesses that use the faith to plunder the world rather than serve it. Easter now looks like forsaking the last roll of toilet paper and going to the back of the line.

Loving is changing the world by staying home.

How is your church doing? Are its dollars spent on emptying and serving or on its buildings and other displays of superiority? Is your tithe paying interest on your churches debt? Think about it.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phillipians 2:3-10)

If Easter is ever to reflect the ethos of its founder, it’s closer now than ever. After this pandemic fades, the churches that survive will return to their institutional power plays instead of serving the world as a free community of whom Jesus is the head. Some will return to their self-promotion business and re-enlist the flock into a prison of propaganda, entertainment and elitism.

Do you really want to go back to how it was?

For this one Sunday, I am praying that we lay down our denominational distinctions, and embrace the scarcity and poverty that has been laid upon us all. May our spiritual leaders reflect deeply upon their empires and thank God for their ruin. I wonder Christendom can finally embrace austerity instead of excess? May our pastors finally follow Christ into a life where all else is forsaken. How many will let go of their full-time job as the quarterback of a cloister and enter the marketplace to minister along side of diverse congregation that will never darken the door of a church?

I hope Easter penetrates the soul enough that pastors re-enter the marketplace for their living, and no longer prosper from teaching the gospel. May the church close the doors of its expensive ego projects, align people online, and liberate the captive to reallocate their giving. In this way, the collective, de-identified community of faith, can touch the hurting world with love and in doing so, show the world that incarnation and resurrection are not only an historical event, but the daily flow of life as each of us follow in the pattern of Christ.

That would be the best Easter ever. That would be the most honest Easter ever. Perhaps if this pandemic can expose enough wrong things, then the world will be able celebrate it as the beautiful gift that it is.