Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Easter Rising

The 1916 Irish “declaration of independence” that referenced both Irishmen and Irishwomen.

Tomorrow I will fix my traditional St. Patrick’s Day dinner of corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots that will have simmered a good part of the day in our slow cooker. Along with it we’ll have Irish beer and soda bread from a local bakery.  And our friend, Erin, will bring desert. Can’t get more Irish than that!

I’ve always loved the story of Patrick, an English youth enslaved by the Irish, who, after escaping, became a priest and returned to evangelize his former oppressors. And, in How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill asserts Patrick was “the first human being in the history of the world to speak out unequivocally against slavery.”

Yet even more I love the stories of how Christianity blended with the earlier Celtic spirituality of the British isles to offer a spiritual alternative to Rome/Hierarchy/Augustine/Original Sin/Organizational Man/ Peter. 

Celtic Christianity, whose model was the beloved disciple whose head rested on Jesus’ breast during the Last Supper “listening for the heartbeat of God,” offered more equality between male and female leadership and less differentiation between clergy and laity, permitted married and unmarried clergy, innovated the use of soul friends/guides, believed redemption was possible through either sacraments or nature, recognized and valued the theophanies of the natural world, and recognized that everyone was a child of God, created in God’s image.

If only that characterized the global church today!

I fancy that I may be related spiritually and politically to Ireland, not just biologically. My Irish ancestral name is Plunkett. In the 17th century, Archbishop Oliver Plunkett, Primate of All Ireland, became its last Roman Catholic martyr. Canonized in 1975, he is regarded as Ireland’s patron saint for peace and reconciliation.

In the early 20th century, young poet and journalist Joseph Plunkett was one of the instigators (all ultimately executed by firing squad) of the Easter Rising of 1916, whose centennial this year I was reminded of by reading Timothy Egan’s recent column, “Irish Spring.”

Egan reminds readers, not only of the Irish struggle for independence, but of its seven-century history of having its culture disrespected and the resulting poverty, starvation, and injustice it endured. The “troubles” of Northern Ireland, he writes, were finally (mostly) resolved by the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

As a progressive Christian, I appreciate the spiritual and political woven together in me/us like the intertwining strands depicted on Celtic symbols, from the Celtic knot to the Celtic cross. I like to think that Oliver’s spiritual fealty and Joseph’s political passion might be “genetic,” and that I may have inherited my spiritual/political bent.

What strikes me is that the Easter Rising, which occurred during Easter Week (which is not Holy Week but the week following Easter) may have had spiritual inspiration in the story of Resurrection. And that the Good Friday Agreement may have had spiritual impetus in the story of Atonement.

I wrote in my second book that the nexus of politics and faith is the cross. Every time we enter a church and see a cross or crucifix, we are confronted with a political reality, because the cross was a political solution of empire. So the political is at the heart of our spirituality. We cannot ignore it, nor can we segregate these two realms.

Jesus was a political victim, not a theological one. It doesn’t mean his sacrifice is any less noble or godly or transforming.

As I wrote in Coming Out as Sacrament, the crucifixion was our idea, not God’s. God’s will is made known in resurrection—always resurrection, however we understand it.

A reading for this week of Lent:

Readings for Palm Sunday:

A reading for the beginning of Holy Week:

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Copyright © 2016 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.  


  1. I hear you. And i like sharing your words. Many of my FB friends have very negative opinion of "Christianity" and therefore also of most "religion". Your words help.

    1. Thanks,Chuck. This is pleasing to hear, because that's what I try to do, interpret Christianity and religion for those who have either had bad experiences with both or who just haven't heard/read the "good" stuff! Thanks much!