Marcus Borg often speaks of the pre-Easter and the post-Easter Jesus. The pre-Easter Jesus was the Jesus who walked on the earth, preached, was crucified. The post-Easter Jesus was the Jesus as experienced by his apostles after his death.
"Experienced" is a broad, all-encompassing term, because it includes both those who believe that Jesus was physically resurrected (and walked among his disciples) after his death, and those who believe that the mythological accounts of his physical resurrection in the Gospels cannot be taken literally. There are many ways that the post-Easter Jesus could have been experienced. It is Marcus Borg's contention that it doesn't matter whether you take those mythological stories literally or not. Either way, you can be a Christian.
In a sense, I agree with Borg--indeed, it isn't necessary to take the Gospel resurrection accounts literally to be a Christian. But for me personally, and my religious life, this question does matter a great deal. Not only do I not take those mythological accounts literally, but the integration of rationality into my faith is too important to say that it doesn't matter to me. I admit that this is a personal reaction to my fundamentalist upbringing; there is little I can do about that. So while I think that Christians can legitimately fall on either side of the divide on that question, I find that my own faith expression needs to leave the literalism behind. And that is one reason why I find myself wishing to avoid church at Easter time. I am not interested in seeing these mythological accounts taken literally as part of my worship experience.
When talking about the resurrection, one can describe its participation by the disciples as the Easter moment--the moment when Jesus was experienced after his death by those who had followed him in life. The nature of this experience isn't clear, but I do believe that Jesus was clearly such a charismatic figure in his lifetime that his followers could not believe that death was the final word as far as Jesus was concerned. Thus they believed that Jesus was taken up in God's presence, and this was the something they felt deeply and personally. It was only much later, a half-century of so, after his death, that stories of a resurrected Jesus walking around on the earth started to crop up in Christian writings.
But the idea that Jesus walked around on the earth after his death, which some Christians claim is an "essential" tenet of the faith, was so unimportant in the earliest Christian writings that no one bothered to mention it. How odd. In fact, what we know from the earliest Christian writer, Paul, who experienced the risen Christ in a mystical or visionary way, is that he didn't think that any of the other apostles experienced Jesus in a way any different from how he did. Consider this quote from 1 Corinthians 15:
he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me.Here we see that, for Paul, the experience of the risen Jesus involved not some mythological tales of Jesus walking around with his pals, but rather it was an experience of a wholly different order, of the risen Jesus who was taken up in God's presence, whom, according to Paul, "was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead. (Romans 1:4)" This resurrection was experienced in this way, starting with Cephas (Peter), and continuing with others, including himself.
Even when the first Gospel, Mark, was written, some forty years after Jesus died, it included no stories of a resurrected Jesus walking around with his disciples. Those myths were yet to be formulated. Instead, the women at the tomb were told to go to Galilee, where they would find the risen Jesus. Peter was specifically mentioned in that passage--interestingly, since it was Peter (Cephas) in the passage by Paul above who was cited as the first to have experienced the risen Christ. Thus, in my mind anyway, it seems likely that it was Peter, in Galilee, who was the one to first experience and proclaim his experience of the risen Christ. This, in other words, was the Easter moment--the understanding, perhaps based on a mystical experience, that Jesus was to be found present with God.
When the later Gospels began to include fanciful stories about Jesus coming back physically on the earth--appearing through walls, showing his crucifixion scars, and, as the icing on the cake, literally "rising" up to heaven, the latter reflecting what seems to us now a rather primitive three-tiered cosmology--the locus of events began to move from Galilee to Jerusalem. Matthew had Jesus appearing on a mountain in Galilee, but Luke changed the story dramatically and instead had Jesus and his disciples hanging around in Jerusalem--in fact, Jesus specifically tells them to stay in Jerusalem, which is, of course, the direct opposite of what was the women in Mark were told.
For some people, it is easily possible to dismiss the contradictions in the mythological resurrection accounts, and instead cling to the belief that they are literally true. But for me, this is simply not possible. I do not believe that religion is about believing the unbelievable, and, more importantly, I do not appreciate it when people insist that adhering to incredible beliefs is a necessary tenet of faith. This is what drives many rational people away from religion.
I think that Marcus Borg's perspective, of tolerance and mutual respect, among those who both take these stories literally and those who do not, is great in theory. In an ideal world, I would gladly partake of such a community of mutual respect. But the problem is that this is not an ideal world, and most religious conservatives are not interested in such mutual respect; they continue to insist that those who do not accept the literal resurrection are not Christians, and that such a belief is an "essential" of the faith. When you are excluded and marginalized, called a heretic, or (in some ways this is the most insulting) proselytized, you get fed up pretty quickly. I think it is great when progressives who have not been wounded by fundamentalism are able to try to carry out Marcus Borg's desire for tolerance and respect; but, in reality, I think that it is mostly a one-way street, since a great number of religious conservatives couldn't care less themselves about this mutual tolerance and respect.
It seems to me that we are a long way from the kind of Christianity that Marcus Borg would like to see. My experience has been that most of the self-described progressive Christian churches still preach about the resurrection as if it the events depicted in Matthew, Luke, and John were literal history. I could probably take that a little better if these stories were presented with at least some sort of asterisk. But that rarely seems to be the case. Even if the pastor privately holds a different set of views, I find little in the liturgy or music of church services that is not a full celebration of these mythological events as literal events, sans asterisk.
So there you have it. The Easter moment was literalized, and I who don't accept that literalization feel instead marginalized.