It took me a little while but I recently finished Peter Rollins latest book, Insurrection. It is a meaty readâ€”not in the style it is written but in the depth of thought that Rollins invites you into. I love writers like him who challenge the easy thought process that we all fall into and cause us to question the very core of what we believe. We emerge stronger if we are willing to push through the process.
Rollins invites the reader to experience what it truly looks like to die to self. What it looks like to truly experience crucifixion with Christ. It means that we leave the comforts of certainty, and safety, and go to face despair and suffering directly in the face.
To be sure, not everyone has the spiritual “stomach” for such a process. That is why it is easy to label Rollins as a heretic. But behind the contrarian spiritual advice lies a truth that we seem only to be able to embrace in fleeting moments. Yet it shows us the depth of the Gospel.
I would normally share a quote and then comment on each, as I did earlier this week with another book, but the content of this book speaks for itself and almost reads as poetry when the ideas are allowed to soak in. With that in mind, I invite you to ponder a few of the sections that most stood out to me.
The whole religion industry is thus fueled by our desire to escape suffering and avoid the gnawing sense of meaninglessness. The certainty is marketable because it is a response to our unhappy situation, and it keeps selling because it is ultimately ineffective in properly transforming it. In this way, the religious structure operates in a similar way to how movies functioned during the Great Depression.
Just as the resurrected Christ is said to have borne the scars of the Crucifixion, so our Resurrection life will continue to bear the marks of the death we had to undergo. This new mode of living is not one in which the anxiety of death, meaninglessness, and guilt are taken away; it is one in which they are robbed of their weight and sting.
Because destiny is open, freedom and responsibility are thrust upon us. There is no plan B, no army of angels ready to descend into the world if we fail to reach out to our neighbor. In Resurrection life we find the courage to face up to this terrifying freedom, we grow the muscles needed to bear its weight, and we discover the compassion required to act. In this new mode of life, we find the conviction required to fully assume responsibility for our fleeting, fragile existence. We are unchained from the shackles that would bind us to some divine script already written and instead experience destiny as something we participate in through a full and loving embrace of the world.
The difficult political question we must ask is: Do the activities we participate in as a church act as token gestures or perverse protests that end up supporting the system they supposedly oppose? Could our prayer meetings and weekly involvement with social justice programs actually operate as a means of preventing us from changing how we spend our time and energy the rest of the week, enabling us to continue in careers that contribute to the very things that we are praying against and acting in ways that contradict what we express in our Bible studies?
If participation in the Crucifixion involves being overtaken by the darkness, where all guiding flames are extinguished, then participation in the Resurrection is the moment when we find the ability to affirm light and life in the very midst of the darkness and beneath the cold shadow of death.