What’s so bad about being a pending Christian?
by Rev. Mark Stenberg, Ph.D.
Gospel Reading: John 20:19-31
For Sunday, April 15, 2012: Year B—Easter 2
”Doubting Thomas.” His name lives in infamy, the subject of scorn and shame.
We’ve even invited our children to ridicule him for his unbelief in a Bible Song from the mid 20th century boom era of the church, a chorus in which young children delightedly wagged their fingers in shame at that naughty doubter Thomas: Don’t be a doubting Thomas, rest fully on God’s promise, why worry, worry, worry, worry, when you can pray? And all that finger wagging turns into the shame-based reprimand: “Have more faith!”
“Have more faith?” As if having more faith is something we can simply will ourselves into. “Don’t be a doubting Thomas!” “Pray more.” “Worry less.” “Be good.” “Have more faith!”
Why has all this shame been directed at poor Thomas? Who made him the designated doubt-catcher? Maybe that says a lot more about us and our self-defensiveness, our fear that it might not be true.
Honest and Honorable
Look. Thomas just happened to not be in the room when Jesus first shows up. So what if he’s just being honest? He says: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
But if you look more carefully at the gospel of John you have to wonder how he developed such a bad reputation. Because you do not have to read the text in a way that shames our dear skeptic, Thomas. In fact, I will set forth the slightly risky (but way more fun) reading that Thomas is actually given a position of honor in John’s gospel. Here me out.