The Resurrection of Martin – Parable or Gospel?

The Resurrection of Martin – Parable or Gospel? April 8, 2018

Editor’s Note: Another resurrection story– just in time for Orthodox Easter. This one features a modern-day savior, who was also cut down in his prime. His work wasn’t done, but it lives on after him. But the lesson this time is quite different. Maybe we can learn something from it. / Linda LaScola, Editor


By Chris Highland

Has it been told? Have you not heard? A word is swirling as a whirlwind, a tornado. Something incredible, amazing, wonderful has happened! They are telling a story and I can hardly believe my ears:

Martin is no longer in his tomb!

They say they saw him, those who were close to the preacher. They tell us they saw him, walked with him and even ate with him.

Then, he instructed them not to tell anyone. He vanished. Some say he went up into the clouds; others say he evaporated like the mist in the morning sun.

What are we to do? 
We don’t know. 
We aren’t sure what to feel, to say, to do.

He taught us about justice, about peacemaking, about the strength of love, about giving our lives in service to others. He gave us an example of non-violent resistance to injustice. He embodied the call to human rights for all people, regardless of skin color, background or belief.

What are we to do?

If he showed us how to live.

If he shouted until our ears were ringing:

We Can’t Wait. We can’t wait for someone to give us what we must have—our humanity.

If he was killed standing for those who have to stand for themselves.

Should we just live as he taught us to live? Or should we throw that all aside and tell this incredible story? Should we create a new organization, even a new religion
in his name?

Is this incredible event the heart of our story—the intent of everything Martin did or said?

Martin is no longer in his tomb!

Can that really be? I believe that it could be true? I haven’t seen it for myself, yet, I trust some who are saying these amazing things. They say we should pass the word and gather everyone who accepts the story.

But, what if I choose not to believe? What if I can’t pass it along? Does this disrespect Martin’s message, his whole life, even his death?

Could I just live the life he told us is the best life to live?

I have a hard time saying these words, but I almost hope that the story isn’t true! I’m so sorry, Martin. But I simply can’t understand why you would come back. Did we miss your message? Were we meant to spiritualize your words and your life? Was it really all about the supernatural, about miracles and strange, inexplicable things?

Does believing you are divine matter more than living like you did?

That’s just too hard to believe. I think you preached something better, greater than that. I think you gave lectures and sermons, you wrote and prayed because you were committed to this world, this life, our communities and our human family.

I hope you’re still dead, Martin.

That sounds so awful. I want you to still be alive and with us, to inspire and push us to be better human beings. But you’re not here—you’re dead in your grave and I’m full of joy.

It doesn’t feel right, but it’s the truth.

Does this mean I’m on my own, that I forfeit the coalitions and congregations you fought for? I want to belong. I need to feel the supportive encouragement of colleagues and comrades. I don’t want to be alone in this struggle you led us into.

What am I going to do?

If others create some kind of Martinist faith, I may eventually join and even recite the story, but I hope not. I hope I’m strong enough to look my friends in the eye and say,

“I can’t accept that. I don’t think that’s what he wanted to do and I don’t think he wants us to imagine he was more than the good man that he was. We were supposed to follow his way in the world, not dream of other worlds. We were supposed to Live like him, in service to others, not Die like him as a martyr for a perfect world somewhere. I cannot follow this ghost. I cannot follow this dream. I must find ways to live Martin’s own dream, and my own.”

Martin is no longer in his tomb!

It doesn’t matter. I don’t care one way or the other. Martin is gone; he’s not here. We’ll miss him with a pain too deep for words. Yet, if we’re willing to accept he’s gone, we can also accept that, in some way, we are Martins for our day—but wait! We’re even better than Martin! We live in a time he never knew, facing more challenges than he ever faced. It’s up to us to do what he did, and much more — so much more.

We are the ones to carry his message forward, to add our own message, our own questions, our own solutions and keep adding to that revolutionary, inclusive gospel— if it should be called a gospel.

We are not in our own tombs, yet!

Let’s live, not for Martin, but for each other, for those he cared about the most—poor and vulnerable people, powerless and oppressed, those who are downtrodden and depressed. We honor Martin by walking and working alongside those who need uplifting, and to rise with them, to live and serve beyond the tales of tombs and spirit-world stories, doing our best in the world Martin loved, lived for and died for.


Chris Highland was a Protestant Minister and Interfaith Chaplain for many years. He renounced his ordination in 2001. He is the author of My Address is a River, Nature is Enough and ten other books. Chris is currently a member of The Clergy Project, the American Humanist Association and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, while he blogs at Secular Chaplain. He teaches a class on early American freethinkers at the Reuter Center, UNCA. Chris and his (reverend) wife Carol, live in the mountains of North Carolina. To learn more see

>>>>By Nobel Foundation –, Public Domain, ; Noel-Coypel/The-Resurrection-Of-Christ,-1700.html, Public Domain,

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  • Daniel G. Johnson


    Well. Uh.

    Why don’t you, Linda and Chris, tell us WHAT you are doing to be Martins. I think that makes sense…don’t you?

    And, what does any of this have to do with Orthodox Easter?

    What? Huh?

    • Daniel, I suppose I/we could tell stories about life given in service, but I’m curious to ask:
      You seem upset by the essay and I wonder why?

      • Daniel G. Johnson

        You’re using a common rhetorical device charging a critic with being “upset”…the implication being that your critic has emotional problems. Yawn.

        I could care less about your literary device mixing Martin & Jesus (and I’m still clueless about the Orthodox Easter connection), but if you’re going to write about our being Martins….that should mean something concrete…and you didn’t go there. You should have. And, such should not be about past stories, but rather present analysis of political realities and needed remedial political action.

        • mason

          Irrational Evangelical Christian belief in the fantasy superhero Jesus is a huge problem and political reality in America as Evangelicals continue gaslighting the masses into further anti-science & anti- reality oppression and they wait for their totalitarian King in the sky to come rescue them. As they fall for the myths of the past they will continue to be victimized by the political myths of the present.

          • Daniel G. Johnson


            MLK was about actually getting something done. You can think all your pretty little freedom thoughts until you’ve run out of Ben Franklin memes, BUT. MLK was killed in the middle of a political action on behalf of striking sanitation workers in Memphis.

            So, what now? What you wanna get done? Concerned much about kids and AR-15s/NRA???

          • mason

            Can you possibly stay on the subject which is how over time a seminal person gets morphed into a mythical fantasy superhero, and not keep tossing red herrings all over the space? You apparently started your tissy fit before reading the end of Chris’ article … “Let’s live, not for Martin, but for each other, for those he cared about the most—poor and vulnerable people, powerless and oppressed, those who are downtrodden and depressed.”

            You’ve wasting your time with deflection, distraction, name calling and having a tantrum.

          • Daniel G. Johnson

            Do what for the poor/oppressed?

          • Having directly worked with people in jails, on the streets, directed shelters, counseled and taught for many years. . . Interested in what you are doing for those folks? Not sure your point in asking? Just to argue?

          • Daniel G. Johnson

            I’ve done all that too. The question is not about resumes, but WHAT concrete organized political actions need to be planned, organized, and executed NOW. If you want to do a modern martin, it seems to me that entails specific targeted action. Yeah, argue. Because the Democratic party under Hillary didn’t have its shit together in 16, and proceeded on a model that it could win by forfeiting organization in rural counties. Obama’s organization did not do that.

          • Linda_LaScola

            Daniel — it sounds like you’re upset because Chris did not provide a detailed blueprint for improving the world in ways that Martin intended. My feeling is that Chris did not set out to do that.

            Since you brought it up, however, I’d be interested in what “concrete organized political actions” you think “need to be planned, organized, and executed NOW” to be a modern Martin.

          • Daniel G. Johnson

            Let’s look at the structure of the OP.

            If Chris did not want to address MLK’s work as an organizer, then what is the point of this exercise? MLK was not a personality cult figure. He was the leader of an organization working with other organizations on specific goals. SO, if Chris doesn’t want to provide what the modern versions of the SCLC, NAACP, SNCC etc and their goals might be….why choose MLK as a springboard for a general (impressionistic?) exhortation?

          • Linda_LaScola

            It’s not an exercise. It’s a blog post. If you’d like to respond to it as an exercise, please do so.

          • mason

            We’re living in a Plutocracy that offers no Universal health care, higher education that makes most graduate indentured servants for life, no equal rights for women, has a President who believes neo-Nazi racists are “fine people”, a tax structure that will now even speed up the oppressive distribution of wealth, campaign contributions are no more than legalized bribery … until the Plutocracy is overthrown specific targeted action is a pipe dream and a nightmare that Martin would be overcome with grief if he were alive today.

            As this billionaire writes …”The Pitchforks Are Coming” …

          • Daniel G. Johnson

            I actually agree with some parts of your words and the article you linked. The economic reality is that inequality has gone so far down the road, that all the do-goodisms on an isolated basis that I or others have historically participated in or even authored…while beneficial to some limited degree for some people…are simply outstripped by the sheer scale of plutocracy…so, I agree that policy change of scale is the only thing that can effectively address the present trajectory of plutocracy…in whatever way that policy change gets facilitated (hence the author’s possible pitchforks). So, whether we’re talking FDR programatic change or pitchforks…there’s organizing that undergirds that. Who should do that?

    • Linda_LaScola

      As for the Orthodox Easter connection. Today is the day that the Eastern (e.g., Russian, Greek) Orthodox religions celebrate Easter, i.e., the resurrection of Jesus And Chris is presenting a story about MLK Jr rising from the dead.

      • Daniel G. Johnson

        Yeah…but why the comparison of MLK to Jesus? If the comparison is on the basis of the two being personality cult heroes, then again, it seems that MLK’s political organizer role is being totally discounted. UNLESS…it is being asserted that Jesus was also a political organizer????

        What do you see as the basis for comparing MLK and Jesus?

        • Linda_LaScola

          This is for Chris to answer, but I don’t see that the purpose was a comparison, but rather a consideration of how a different resurrection could be interpreted.

          • Daniel G. Johnson

            He seems to say he doesn’t want MLK resurrected, but we are to be Martins. I don’t understand how we can be Martins today, if we do not also have a modern version of the SCLC with an agenda of the same scale.

          • I am seeing it as: the likelyhood of Martin rising from the dead is as likely as a man named Jesus, way back 2000 years ago, rose from the dead. Would elevating Martin to that same status make followers of Jesus pause and think of the absurdity of it? Yet both men were ‘good’ men with similar messages. Why not ‘Martins’? Because…cameras?!

          • Daniel G. Johnson

            It seems to me that the main point of the post is:

            “Yet, if we’re willing to accept he’s gone, we can also accept that, in some way, we are Martins for our day—but wait! We’re even better than Martin! We live in a time he never knew, facing more challenges than he ever faced. It’s up to us to do what he did, and much more — so much more.”

            My issue is: MLK did what he did in the context of an organized movement which involved a network of organizations…without which the accomplishments of the civil rights movement of that time would not have occurred.

            Currently, we do not have such a movement or such organizations…thus, we currently cannot be martins…and the powers that be are working to keep it that way.

            We do see attempts….the Occupy movement…Black Lives Matter…the Womens March….now, the Parkland group. But, the track record has been that these attempts have not sustained. Perhaps the exception was Obama’s movement, but perhaps it was unrecognized how powerful the push-back capacity was in wait.

            It seems to me that the possibility of a “we” being martins is a political one….not one of simply being martinesque in some general fuzzy, perhaps individual way.

            So, I ask people here: What current leaders and organizations do you see capable of an effective civil rights movement?

          • RJ Twain

            The line you quoted is NOT the point of the post. Based on your other comments on this thread, it’s clear you know this. You just don’t care. (i.e. “I could care less about your literary device of mixing Martin and Jesus.) You want to see some concrete political action in the present. Yay for you. So do lots of people. You want to hear some specifics. To quote the Beatles, “We all want to see the plan.” None of that matters. You’re ignoring the actual work of the author, while at the same time demanding a response from the author. That makes you a tool.

  • Well written! I love it.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    Awesome. So often you here apologists ask things (about the jeez) like ‘why would his followers lie?’ or ‘how could such a story get passed down if people were pretty sure it was false’.

    • Thanks. Yes, I think this helps humanize the event–whatever that was–and makes it be real. It seems common even today that many people choose to see what they want to see. Maybe they’re not exactly “lying” but “under an illusion” (fake news?) for whatever reason.

    • mason

      It certainly wouldn’t require deliberate lying.

      Just passing down the story, over 40-90 years (even a few days or a year) would be more than enough to turn a homely looking Jewish reformer who claimed to be a messiah and got killed when he got over his head in a political mess, into a mythical magical superhero who had a Zeus like father whose kryptonite is an iron chariot.

  • mason

    Chris, you’ve penned and erudite lesson of how the seminal Jesus morphed into the gaslighting industry of Christian theism.

    To friends of reason: this article by Chris is an excellent one to share on Twitter & Facebook.

  • ElizabetB.

    Powerful analogy.

    My favorite: “I don’t think that’s what he wanted to do and I don’t think he wants us to imagine he was more than the good man that he was.”
    Thanks so much, Chris! (Sorry I missed it earlier — life events!)