Sunday, April 8, 2012

Christ Didn't Just Exist

As Easter has been coming up, I've been thinking about what my understanding of Christ is. Do I believe he is the son of God, do I believe in the Atonement, do I believe in the New Testament.

I've realized these questions show a very literalistic way of looking at the world, a trait I believe I picked up from Mormonism. In order for something to be true in Mormonism, it had to actually have happened. Joseph Smith must literally have seen God and Christ,, and translated the Book of Mormon from actual plates, and those plates must have carried a record of people who actually existed. If these things did not actually happen, the foundation of the church falls apart.

So getting back to Christ, does it matter if he was actually the son of God, or if the Atonement really took place? On some level, it might, but when it comes to how I live my life I'm not sure it does. I have no control over whether or not the Atonement happened, and if it didn't there's nothing I can do about it. I can choose to believe in it, or feel that it happened, but belief doesn't make something true.

What can have an impact on my life, and what I can control, is how the things attributed to Christ affect my behavior. I haven't done enough study on the subject to form an opinion on whether or not a man called Jesus lived. But the legacy that has become attached to his name is a beautiful thing. The idea of Jesus teaches us to love everyone, not to judge others, to care for those in need. The Atonement, whether it happened or not, is a story of someone loving people so much he was willing to suffer and die for them. the power of that kind of love is amazing to think about. Even if none of it happened, or if Jesus was just a powerful teacher, following his example can lead me to become a better, more loving person, and help me to improve the world around me. Whether or not the Atonement happened, it can still show me how to love others, even those I don't know or don't like or who are cruel to me.

So this Easter I can celebrate the example of Christ, whether he exists of not. I once heard a quote attributed to Mother Teresa: "If there is a God, I will live as he would want me to live." I may never know about the existance of God or Christ, but I can live as they might want me to.

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