When I was a kid, for a few years at least, we would watch The Greatest Story Ever Told every Easter. I loved it, though I didn't like Jesus's nose, and I always identified heavily with all three Marys but mostly Lazarus's sister. And I wanted to watch the bit when Lazarus was resurrected and three men ran to the walls of Jerusalem with the news over and over and over because the music was the Hallelujah chorus.
I'd like to watch it again today but I might have trouble thinking all the wrong things about Judas.
Not that I always throught the right things as a kid. I remember thinking all the guys looked sweaty all the time, but their clothes looked comfy. I seem to remember Jesus as having blue eyes, but that the once-blind man's eyes were especially bright. I remember thinking the crippled guy was adorable. And I remember the scene where Mary (Lazarus's sister) was washing Jesus's feet with her hair and Judas complaining about the wasted oil and thinking he might just think it strange and sort of naughty and wrong that she's, you know, wiping her hair all over Jesus's feet. ...I would really have trouble with that scene now that I actually do have long hair, and I wonder how much that scene influenced my childhood obsession with long hair. And I remember turning and hiding my face when Judas betrayed Jesus because I knew he was supposed to kiss him then and kissing is naughty. (I would hide my face when anyone kissed anyone back then. Yeah... And that habit continued into adulthood actually. I still tend to look away if a movie kiss lasts longer than a few seconds. Or I just watch and make snarky comments or comment on technique, for the same basic motive of self-preservation.) I also remember being embarrased at how naked Jesus was in the cross and thinking John Wayne made a terrible centurion (or was he in The Robe?) and wondering what Jesus did once he was alive again but before he left because I knew that he was around for a few weeks before he went to heaven.
In short, when I was a child, the bible was my speculative fiction except people told me it was fact. But even then, I wondered how it could be, because the story seemed too much like a story. I struggled hard to believe, because my dad ...didn't, entirely, and we all knew it.
But now... Well, my father always found it easy to believe in Hell, but never easy to believe in Heaven. But he explained that Easter was the most important Christian holiday, because forgiveness and redemption are what the whole religion is about. And I watched him, and watch him, struggle with that dichotomy, but took the lesson to heart. Because I have never really believed that Hell was perfect or permanent, since I see Papa fighting it all the time in his own misery. And I do believe that Heaven is in reach, when I am willing to forgive and be forgiven, because there is something beautiful in every blasted and broken corner of the universe or of the mind.
I don't need the stories of my childhood to be literally true, indeed I think it would detract from them to be accurate in fine detail without any symbolic meaning. Jesus himself appreciated symbolism, look at the parables! Even today... There are people in this world who die for the salvation of strangers, and I like to think I am able to be one of them. And I like to think that I need never hate those who have been cruel or harsh to me, not even my father, that someday by forgiving I will be completely free of my own righteous anger, and cleaner and more alive for it.