Religious Controversy in the Spring

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Commentator and priest James Martin talks about the seasonal rite of religious controversy.

JAMES MARTIN: The big news in the religious world this year was the supposed discovery of the tomb of Jesus.


Commentator and Roman Catholic priest, James Martin.

F: The news was announced by - among others - James Cameron, the director of "Titanic." Maybe it was logical that the guy who made the film where the lead character shouts "I am the king of the world" had been hunting for the tomb of the guy who really was the king of the world - or at least the king of kings, as the Bible says.

MARTIN: First, a lot of kids get sick from eating too many marshmallow peeps. Second, you're bound to see stories in magazines, newspapers, TV and on the Web aiming for a religious controversy.

MARTIN: explosive new discoveries cast doubt on Christianity.

Inside the magazine, you'll read some new theory about - take your pick - Jesus, Mary, Mary Magdalene, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, heaven, whatever. The problem is that normally, there isn't much that's new. And even if there is some new discovery, it usually doesn't change much. While serious scholarship always adds to our understanding of biblical events, the essentials of belief will remain mysterious.

What did it look like when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead? Hard to know. For that matter, what did Jesus himself look like? Impossible to know. Sometimes, I wonder whether the appeal of these stories is that it's easier to think about controversy than to grapple with basic Christian beliefs. Easter can be a weird holiday.

Unlike Christmas - when almost anybody can appreciate a cute baby born into a little crib, surrounded by an extended petting zoo - Easter is more shocking. Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth was tortured, crucified, killed, buried in a tomb, rose from the dead, and then appeared to his followers. Easter is harder to tame than Christmas.

So will there be any future discoveries that will inform and deepen my faith? I hope so. But any new discoveries that will shake my faith? I doubt it. And did that box contained the bones of Jesus? I doubt that, too.

NORRIS: James Martin is the author of the book, "My Life With the Saints."

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