Here’s the thing. Writers should know the stories of whatever religion they grew up with. I happened to grow up with Christianity, and so did Michael. I’m not saying that we need to be those religions, but I am saying that we need to know about them. We aren’t the first and we won’t be the last, but it’s still an important part of our lives that shouldn’t be ignored.
From Tolkein to Lewis, Pullman to Rowling, and a slew of other book authors and other writers (think TV, animation writers) Biblical allusion is everywhere, in blatant ‘Hey look at that alternate spelling of Judas!’ to ‘Hey wait a minute. A crown of nails is like a crown of thorns…why, hello reference.’
Now, let me preface this post by saying that this isn’t about the religion of Christianity. In fact, I’ll be purposefully ignoring the religion here. But the story of Jesus is just… yeah, it’s awesome. It’s amazing. It’s, dare I say, epic. And the reason I’m talking about it here, in a writing blog, is that it’s so popular, so big, and so powerful, that at least half, if not more, of the world’s population knows the whole thing by heart and recounts it every year in the spring time.
If that’s not something for an author to take note of, I don’t know what is. We study other mainstream writers, we should be studying religions while we’re at it. Because they have the stories that people etch on their souls.
There are other stories, yes. There’s Krishna, Buddha, the temple in Jeruselem – but Easter just happens to be my absolute favorite, so we’re going to focus on it.
So what’s so compelling about this story? Well, let’s take a look.
- We’ve got some serious love going on, between a mother and child, between a man and his people, between a man and his followers.
- We’ve got some fear: Jesus was a huge threat to the status quo with his crazy messages of “Hey, let’s love everyone, no matter what”.
- We’ve got temptation, the possibility of turning back in the Garden of Gethsemane.
- We’ve got the angst of betrayal: not only of Judas and Jesus, but of Jesus and the Jews when they are given the chance to free one criminal and don’t choose Jesus – and the knowledge that Jesus knows of the betrayal and yet still breaks bread with Judas at the final supper.
- We have sacrifice: Jesus gives himself up to death without fear and without regret. In complete love, he begs for their forgiveness and their salvation, and not his own, and the bone chilling line “It is finished.” (Every time. Every. Single. Time.)
- We have the shocker: Jesus isn’t in his grave. Where is he then?
- Finally, the joyous ending. Jesus is risen from the dead and into his father’s kingdom. The sins of his people on earth have been erased by his death, and he is at peace.
Love, Fear, Temptation, Betrayal, Sacrifice, Joy. No matter who you are, these are all things that you can relate to or strive to understand. And the thing about these stories from religion is that they all encompass these basic, human ideas, no matter how much other crazieness is going on. Most all religions have a story or thousand which encompass one or more of these exceedingly human ideas.
Look at your favorite stories and boil them down. What are they really about? Chances are one or more of these themes are lurking in there.
The story of Easter is my favorite. It gets under my skin and makes me joyful that people understand passionate and directed sacrifice so well that the story is read, told, and retold all over the world. It’s something we should all take to heart, but for me it isn’t just about the message. It’s about the window to understanding that seeing this story opens for us as authors.
Do I have the level of compassion, the level of understanding of the story of Jesus to tap into it? Likewise, do I have the level of knowledge to tap into all the other stories I observe told and retold, and weave them into a new understanding? I hope so, because that’s exactly what I’m trying to do.
I think that this is part of our duty, as writers. To take these age old and constant themes which so easily fade into “Oh, this story again” antiquity, and breathe new life into them. Because if the simple story of a man who sacrificed himself to save his people can change the world, then we should tell it in as many ways as possible.