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    During my morning commute I often listen to Michael Smerconish, an extremely intelligent, reasonably conservative Philadelphia attorney-turned talk-radio host and newspaper columnist.  In January, after a Gallup poll revealed that 17 percent of the American public wouldn’t vote for the Mormon Mitt Romney because of Mormonism’s weird beliefs, Smerconish waxed sarcastic in his Daily News column…  "…We're clearly aided by an ability to spot a whopper when we hear one, a skill obviously lacking in…Mormons. Maybe it's our grounding in the Old and New Testament that enables us to easily size up the preposterous nature of the customs that guys like…Romney follow. …After all, we know that the earth was created in seven days, and that the son of its creator was born to a virgin mother. Indeed, a star over Bethlehem led three wise men to the scene of Jesus' birth, and, 30 years later, he walked on the water of the Sea of Galilee.”

    Presenting these thoughts on his talk show, Smerconish’s tone and phrasing sounded to me like this was a spiritual awakening of sorts for him – an “aha” moment.  He’d always assumed the Christian religion to be reasonable;  he simply accepted the biblical tradition, and had scoffed at the outlandish notions of Mormonism, Islam and the other religions.  Now he was thinking differently.  He wrapped up his article with: “Truly, one man’s faith is another man’s bunkum.”

    I found Smerconish’s “aha” moment refreshing, because I think there are lots of nominally Christian people – including fundamentalists and evangelicals – who are having similar “aha’s” for the first time.  Smerconish is two years younger than I;  the USA of our early 1960’s childhood was still thoroughly baptized;  Christian ideas were accepted and assumed.  The atmosphere has changed radically and our religious beliefs and traditions are being cast in a much more skeptical light.

    C’mon – can a virgin really get pregnant???  Can a man really walk on water???  Can a dead man really come to life without the intervention of advanced medical technology and start walking and talking again???

    These aren’t new questions.  A small number of scholars have raised them since the early days of the Christian faith.  The apostle Paul faced those kinds of doubts on Mars Hill.  The apostle had the scholars’ ears until he mentioned the resurrection of Christ. “…And when they heard the resurrection of the dead, some mocked…” (Acts 17:32).  What is new, however, is the more educated, more scientific, more ‘enlightened’ populace who understand and increasingly embrace the skepticism of scientific professionals.

    In my youth it was honorable and respectable to be a religious Christian, even for educated people.  That notion is changing; your sanity and intellectual integrity are questioned more and more.  It’s an uncomfortable shift, but there is also something refreshing about it.  Suddenly, the command to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” is no longer a simple thing.  It is a confrontation to our hearts, our souls, our minds, our strength.  We must think seriously about what we really believe.  We must choose – and stand.

    Many sermons will be preached this Easter Sunday in “Christian” churches which will attempt to sidestep the importance of believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It’s that unpleasant non-scientific thought that we’re kind of stuck with.  Many people will be told that it doesn’t really matter if Jesus really got up from the grave.  They’ll be told that the resurrection is really only a picture, a parable, an illustration of living life in a new and invigorating way, following the example of Jesus, and that is what’s really important about the story of the resurrection of Jesus.

    Very pretty words, these.  But not Christian words – even if the preacher who speaks them wears a cross around his neck.  The apostle who met the risen Jesus on the Damascus road saw it much differently:  “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.  Yes and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up, if in fact the dead do not rise, for if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen.  And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile – you are still in your sins!...If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”  (1 Corinthians 15:14-17,19)

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