[The Ascension by Brian Jekel - from Pictures of Jesus]Lisa Miller has done it again...another "controversial" (more or less) article in Newsweek. This time she takes on a question with an eternal significance.
What happens when we die? That's the question. According to Ms. Miller, about 80 percent of Americans think they're going to heaven. (Gonna be crowded!)
But when you ask these believers what form they will take, "the consensus breaks down. According to a 2005 NEWSWEEK poll, only half of Americans think of resurrection as a physical event, a revivification of flesh after death. More than a third think of it as something spiritual, an ascension of the soul that leaves the corpse behind."
That "spiritual" stuff just isn't good enough for the real God-lovers. Miller says that "a small group of orthodox Christian and Jewish scholars are trying to force the issue" by arguing "that from the beginning, Jews and Christians have understood resurrection as a physical transformation -- a literal reversal of death."
And if you're going to call yourself a "true" believer, you must believe in a physical resurrection!
Miller refers to books by an Anglican bishop and an "evangelical" Christian, both of which insist that the notion of a physical resurrection is "central to Christian faith."
Then there's a Jewish scholar from Harvard who "argues that a Jewish belief in the resurrection has its origins in the Torah (a controversial claim in scholarly circles) and a long tradition in rabbinic Judaism."
Well, I wonder what Torah he's been reading. Resurrection of the body in the Torah? I don't think so!
Fundamentalists of any stripe are interesting creatures. They tend to go backward instead of forward, and become increasingly reliant upon ancient tribal customs and beliefs to nourish their need for spirituality.
Ms. Miller also refers to St. Augustine who wrote "of the real, resurrected body. In heaven, he wrote in 'City of God,' you will be your perfect self: unblemished and 30-something. If you were fat in life, you will become pleasingly thinner; if too thin, you will become robust."
Or, as Paula Fredriksen said in her book about Augustine: "Our bodies will be the very same ones we had in life, but buff and beautiful."
Well, Augustine wrote lots of things and much of it is pure nonsense and utterly stupid from a scientific point of view and worthless so far a modern human beings go. And some of it's evil -- especially his diatribes against the Jews. So, why would anyone believe his delusions about heaven and the resurrection of the body.
Furthermore, all of this resurrection of the body theology is predicated on the belief that God can and does do miracles and should have no problem revivifying our physicality, no matter how decomposed or non-existent it might be.
Which leads one to wonder, of course, why, if God is so good at miracles, we need to go through the process of death in the first place, especially if that process includes incredible physical and mental pain and suffering.
We might also wonder, why, if God is so good at miracles, he couldn't have left us clear instructions or an unambiguous "Manual for Heaven" in which all our questions would be answered without the need for scholars and theologians to dissect materials written by ignorant goat herders living three millennia ago.
Which brings up the last point. Nobody knows anything about any of this! What happens after we die will remain a mystery until we die. The scholars don't know. The theologians don't know. The psychics don't know. The Republicans don't know. Nobody knows!
So, you're quite free to believe anything you wish. And don't worry about "orthodox" Christian or Jewish scholars, 'cause they don't know, either, in spite of their pretensions to the contrary. But, if you choose to believe that your physical body is somehow going to be put back together but in a form that would make Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie envious, you're choosing to believe something for which there is not a shred of evidence anywhere!
There is no evidence for any kind of life after death, much less a physical resurrection.