Do I Deny the Resurrection? Hugh Hollowell

Occasionally I get emails demanding to know my stance on a particular piece of “historic orthodoxy”. People wonder about my view of hell, or who I think Jesus was or if I think there will be a second coming. Since the controversy over Rob Bell’s latest book (which happens to have the same name as our ministry), this has only increased.

To tell you the truth, I think it is a bit funny. After all, I run a ministry for homeless people. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to ask my views on homelessness? But I digress…

So, to answer the title of this entry – do I deny the resurrection of Christ?

I can do no better than to quote Peter Rollins on the subject:

Without equivocation or hesitation I fully and completely admit that I deny the resurrection of Christ. This is something that anyone who knows me could tell you, and I am not afraid to say it publicly, no matter what some people may think…

I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.

However there are moments when I affirm that resurrection, few and far between as they are. I affirm it when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, when I speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed.

As you might expect, this does not calm the questioners down. They accuse me of not understanding the question. I understand the question perfectly well. I think they are the ones who do not know what they are asking.

So let me be even more clear:

The ancient story is that the most powerful government the world had ever known, Rome, had done the worst thing it could imagine to this man Jesus. They beat him and killed him by the most brutal means at their disposal. Yet and still, the last words on his lips are reported to be his asking God to forgive his killers. On that Friday, the powers of the world said “No” to Jesus and the Kingdom of God he was preaching. If the tomb was empty on that Sunday morning long ago, that was God’s “Yes” to Rome’s “No”. If the tomb was empty, then love overcame power and vindicated Jesus. It means that Jesus was right – the Kingdom of God is at hand, and we are invited to live in it.

If I swear allegiance to this Kingdom, where apparently the dream of God is that it be on Earth as it is in Heaven, then that has implications for how I live. If I pledge allegiance to the USA, it means I should not sell secrets to China. If I pledge allegiance to the Kingdom of God, then I cannot see how I can lend aid and support to the powers that oppose it, such as consumerism, militarism, class disparity and xenophobia.

If I act hateful, or in fact, less than loving to my neighbor, I have denied the resurrection just as surely as my selling state secrets to China denies my allegiance to the USA. I can wave a flag all day, but if I am acting against my country, you can hardly call me a patriot. And I can believe whatever you want about what happened that Sunday morning, but if I am not using what power I have to help God bring the Kingdom into fruition, to help make it on Earth as it is in Heaven, I don’t expect you to call me a Christian.

Hugh Hollowell is a speaker, a Mennonite minister, and homelessness advocate. He is the founder and director of Love Wins Ministries. Hugh is part of the local planning team of the Wild Goose Festival (get tickets here). This post originally appeared at Red Letter Christians, and is part of a Holy Week  question-and-response feature “Is the Resurrection for Real?” at Patheos. He blogs at Hugh Hollowell.

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  • dennis hartman

    AMEN to brother Hollowell’s laser-fine interpretation of discipleship. Belief is way over-rated as a vehicle of identification of who follows Jesus’ call to engage the world on his behalf. But ‘take up a cross and follow’ hits the nail on the head, which is what Hollowell points out as the indentifying trait of those who are ‘in Christ.’ As a prison chaplain who serves rapists, murderers, child molesters, con artists, thieves and scammers, I tire of scripture-quoting pew sitters who never risk anything to affect the world around them. They remind me that sad sportscaster Howard Cossell who titled his autobiography “I Never Played The Game.” Jesus comments on those who refuse to suit up by calling them fruitless trees good for ripping out and burning,and whitewashed tombs that are dead inside. In the end, who really cares if you ‘believe in Jesus’ but are not willing to act like Jesus?

  • Hmm

    Wouldn’t a resurrection essentially mean Jesus was a zombie?