Monday, May 28, 2007
But anyway, we got a lot accomplished this vacation (yes, the flowers are planted, thank you very much) but there were a few last minute things still to be done this afternoon/evening. I promised Keith I would watch one of the four movies he rented on Friday and that I would share a bottle of wine from a nearby central Pennsylvania winery. We watched the movie this afternoon. I am sipping the wine right now.
He rented four movies (ever the movie buff) and I picked the one I wanted to watch with him (I am never the movie buff). It was between The Fountain and Appocolypto. With this preoccupation I’ve had lately with sacrifice, Girardian theory, the scapegoat….I thought it might give me some additional insights…..and it surely did!!!
Actually at times it almost brought me to tears. I’ve heard Keith talk about man’s inhumanity to man. Boy, oh boy….was there inhumanity in this movie. It began with scenes of everyday life in the villi age of the people who were destined to be the scapegoats. They were not violent people at all….and there were scenes of humorous interaction between them, a scene of the whole villi age sitting around the fire listening to one of their old men tell stories, scenes of family life and devotion. By the time the Mayans came to plunder their villi age, I had grown to really like them.
The Mayans were chilling. The leader adorned himself with bones…human bones (a big jaw around his neck….and a row of smaller human jaws up and down his arms) He was big and bad….and mean. They attacked early in the morning, while the villagers slept. They plundered and pillaged and tortured…throats were slit…..people were hogtied, subdued by a collar like noose slipped around their necks. It was truly horrifying. What went through my mind as I watched the scenes of conquest is that scenes similar to that probably took place as the children of Israel were killing off the Amalekites and the Canaanites. Chilling. It gave a face to the faceless atrocities in the OT. Atrocities people attribute to the divine decree of our God…in whom there is NO DARKNESS AT ALL. The journey to the Mayan city was filled with other cruelties…more inhumanity
The scenes in the city were almost overwhelming. They marched them in, collared to a piece of wood….all in a row…..one behind the other…..hands bound. Actually that is the way they made the trip….all bound to the beam. There were graphic scenes of the sacrifices….a top a huge tower like structure with many steps. (Think staircase Rocky bounded up times ten) The royalty sat up there….close up….watching the sacrifices….including a boy of about 7. The looks on their faces were so ho-hum. Almost bored. Same old, same old. There were priests in all kinds of witch doctor like outfits, huge masks and headdresses….and they proceeded to cut the hearts out of the captives one by one, followed by lopping off their heads. Gross. Totally gross. Then they rolled the heads down the stairs…..for the crowd to catch. There were baskets of heads sitting here and there. Shorty after they rolled the headless corpse down the stairs….and their body was stacked atop a big pile of bodies. The crowd was in a frenzy. Dancing and chanting….and the “priest” whipped them into a greater frenzy. Some Girardian theory was there. The high priest talked about the issues that plagued them….the failure of their crops, the disfiguring skin disease (not sure what it was) that plagued them. The crisis part of Girard’s theory was there….”people say we are weak,” he shouted. “People say we are rotting”
You know, they say timing is everything, and how true in the story line of this movie. There was a total eclipse right when the hero was about to be sacrificed. The conclusion of the priest was that the god they were placating had (his name escapes me) had his fill of blood that day. The rest of the movie was about the hero trying to get back to his very pregnant wife and young son (who he had lowered into a deep, deep rocky hole in the ground to protect them from capture by the Mayans) while being pursued by 8 or 10 Mayan men.
As I said earlier, it provided a graphic picture of sacrifice….one we might not envision without Gibson’s imagination and cinematography. So many things went through my head as I watched the movie. The sacrifices to Baal….when the Israelites sacrificed their own children…..and countless generations of the nameless, faceless scapegoats. Man’s inhumanity to man, indeed.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Up and down the aisles we went, looking for the tall green spikey things. None to be found. Darn. We found two flats of something similar….only it was brown. Tall brown grasslike spikey things. A dark rust colored brown. I wasn’t sure I liked them. They were BROWN. We looked around some more….and ended up back in front of the two flats of brown spikey plants. We were picking through them….still not sure we wanted them. Keith had two in his hands. A lady came over to where we were……”oh…….I like these” she said. “They are so unusual” Hmmmmmmmm…….suddenly, I liked them a whole lot better. It was as if they were magically more appealing….brown or not. Then….as she was looking through them…and there must have been 25 of them there, she looked up at Keith and said, “Can I have that one in your hand?” Even though she said it in jest, I was struck by the example of Girard’s theory. All 25 of the plants were very similar in size and all were equally healthy looking, yet, she focused on the one in Keith’s hand. And he was not about to give it up :) A striking example of mimesis…….right there in the aisle of the “always low prices” retail giant, yellow smiley faces looking on.
I read the following snippet in an article on Wikipedia discussing Girard’s mimetic theory and whether the unveiling of the scapegoat mechanism in scripture is working:
Has it put an end to the sacrificial order based on violence in the society that has claimed the gospel text as its own religious text? No, he replies, since in order for a truth to have an impact it must find a receptive listener, and men do not change that quickly. The gospel text has instead acted as a ferment that brings about the decomposition of the sacrificial order.
Girard’s reference to “ferment” caught my eye and made me think of several verses in the Gospels that deal with something similar to fermentation:
Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” Matthew 13:33
He does not offer much in the way of explanation. Could he have meant that the kingdom of heaven (mercy) is like leaven….like ferment…. that is slowly but surely changing the sacrificial mindset as more and more people are made aware of the voice of the scapegoat through scripture?
Jesus went on to say more about leaven in the following warnings…..
Matthew 16:6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
Mark 8:15" Beware the leaven of Herod"
Friday, May 25, 2007
I am not sure what exactly to call it...since any term would have to be a very loose descriptive title which encompasses a wide range of beliefs. One of the main identifying beliefs of the teachers I was exposed to in this new theology is that God will reconcile all his creation....eventually. No one will be lost....and hell, if it exists, is not an eternal place of residence. Nobody goes to hell for eternity. Universalists, I suppose...and many flavors of them. There are those who think it is all finished now and that all it will require to manifest the sons of God (and thus set creation free) is the realization that it is finished. There are others who believe the journey to manifestation is a long, ardorous trip with the flesh (carnal man/adam) being destroyed/disposed of bit by bit. There are the concordant guys who are very literal in their interpretation of scripture. There are the total determinism guys who think every single breath and blink has been predetermined by God to achieve his purpose....and there are the more free will types like Tom Talbott who think that God uses our free choices to teach us and refine us. I have been torn between the last two (realizing from early on that scripture is more allegorical than literal for the most part) and whether we have free will (and to what degree) or whether every single action has been predetermined since before the foundation of the world.
All this Girardian stuff has given me pause to think some more and integrate a few more thoughts into an already confused thought process. The fact that my husband sees things very differently than I do does not help in clarifying my beliefs. He was my mentor in the beginning of this UR journey....but then the "mentored" began to see things differently than the "mentor" and I find now that we are the liberal and the conservative living under the same roof. It has made for some very, very lively conversations.
But anyway...I digress from the original intent of this post. Matthew 9:13 in two of the more modern translations:
Holy Bible, The New Living Translation Then he added, "Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: 'I want you to be merciful; I don't want your sacrifices.' For I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough."
THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language Go figure out what this Scripture means: "I'm after mercy, not religion.' I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders."
In some of the varied theology I mentioned above, one of the theories about Adam and Eve and the Fall is that God purposed the whole thing. It was a done deal before he ever plopped them in the Garden, pointed out the two trees and told them which one not to eat from. (this idea works whereever one might believe the Garden is....a literal place...the patch of "space" between the ears....a spiritual allegory) When they ate from the tree of the knowlege of good and evil it only began the process of "making man in our image and likeness". When they ate of the tree of knowlege, was it the first step in what Jesus is refering to in Matthew 9:13? Go and learn what this means? I desire mercy (the fruit of the tree of life) not sacrifice (the fruit of the tree of the knowlege of good and evil).
I don't know....just musing here this morning. It occurs to me that I just may be obeying Jesus' command,"Go and learn what this means. I desire mercy and not sacrifice" since that has been the focus of my Christian walk for a long time now. Sometimes it is a lonely walk. So few have even heard this slant on things. Many of those who have dismiss it outright since it goes against the standard Christian party line. I am so grateful for the other kindred souls I fellowship with on Emerging Universalist who are on this journey with me....learning what it means....mercy and not sacrifice.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
The thing that I think is lacking in Girard's theory is that it seems cut and dried, matter of fact....and it seems to gloss over the very basis for the reason that we fall into a wrong kind of desire (rivalry with our fellow man) and that is our very selfish nature when we are "in adam" as opposed to God's extravagantly loving, forgiving nature when we are "in christ". (We sang that song the last time I was at church....'Your Love is Extravagant") Girard's theory holds the mirror up to our "dirty faces" and says....LOOK!!! I always felt that it was us who desired/required sacrifice but I never understood why. I do think there is more to it than what Girard points out (from the Girard I have read anyway) and that sacrifice is not just this safety valve to prevent society from self destructing, but it also because of our guilt (for what we have done....our sins....which we recognize as sinful because we do bear the divine stamp of our father....a godseed within us) and our fear. Our fear of the angry divinity (who is actually a god of our own making when we transfer our shortcomings to God) Job made sacrifice after sacrifice for his children in case they had somehow done something that angered God. Again both of these are motivated by our all consuming interest in ourselves. So I agree with you that Girard's theory is a bit too neat and tidy....but it does provide a huge chunk of the puzzle (for me anyway) but it is not the WHOLE puzzle. Also....I wonder what Job meant when he said " 5"I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. 6Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes."
Understanding human desire as mimetic leads to a deeper understanding of human conflict, suffering, and violence. Since we catch our desires from each other, we are bound to desire the same objects, bringing us into conflict over those objects unless there is a process of deferral in place, i.e., that one of the two people in the situation of contagious desire lets the other have it. Perceived equality among the contenders for the objects of desire actually tends to have a negative effect on this process since we are less inclined to defer to someone we see as our equal. It is the situation of "sibling rivalry," the realm of envy and soap opera intrigue. But if we perceive someone as being of higher station, or as outside our more immediate sphere of relations, we are more inclined to defer, to let that person acquire the object. Perceived inequality helps to keep the peace -- though it may well be at the cost of unjustly perceiving inequality among those who should actually be equals.So the triangular structure of desire leads to human suffering in this way: when we perceive ourselves as equals -- which, as children of God, we generally should -- we also fall into envy and conflict over our mutually desired objects. When we perceive inequality among ourselves, most often unjustly, we gain order and a relative amount of peace at the expense of the oppression of one group over another that has described our human history.
Duh....so that is part of the reason for our social system of classes.....upper class, middle class, upper and lower middle class, the filthy rich, the poor. (and systems which are even more profound and restrictive like the caste system of India who have the castes and then the untouchables....in some stricter communities the shadow of an untouchable is not allowed to touch one in an upper caste) And in Bible times, the gentiles, the samaritans etc. And in more modern times, blacks, women, American and Canadian Indians. "Perceived inequality helps to keep the peace." Perhaps in some kind of intuitive way, much like African cultures that kill twins (who would be the ultimate equals) this social pecking order came into being as a makeshift way to keep the peace. Duh....
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
The article presents the view (with scriptural and historical support) that the “fat” that was offered was actually milk/cream/cheese. There is no mention that the sacrifice is meant as an atonement for sin. And even if it was, if God requires blood for forgiveness of sins, why is there no mention of blood? No mention that Abel had been obedient to anything God had directly told him to do.
A group that is considered heretical called the "Artotyrites" also known as the African Montanists apparently thought Abel offered the dairy products of his flock:
In the second century the African Montanists were sometimes called the "Artotyrites" because they added cheese, instead of wine, to the bread in the Eucharist on the ground that the Aquarii, and first men offered the fruits both of the earth and of their flocks (Gen. iv. 3, 4).
Josephus said in his writings that Abel offered milk “They had resolved to sacrifice to God. Now Cain brought the fruits of the earth, and of his husbandry; but Abel brought milk, and the first-fruits of his flocks: but God was more delighted with the latter oblation, “
More food for thought is the pondering about the actual Hebrew word translated fat:
The Hebrew of the Old Testament was originally without vowels. The vowel marks were added at a later time. The particular word render "fat" in the account of Cain and Abel (there are a number of different Hebrew words that mean "fat") is spelled the same as the word for milk and curds. Only the vowels are different. The present Hebrew vowel system didn't come into use until about the ninth or tenth century AD. In fact, it seems likely that when Genesis was written that there was no difference between khay'-leb and kheh'-leb (both of which are spelled cheth - lamed - beth). Both clearly evolved from the same word, and Genesis being one of the oldest Hebrew works, it may be that there was no difference in pronunciation at that time.
Perhaps at the heart of God’s displeasure was the heart of Cain.
Genesis Chapter 4:2-7 could be said to even allude to that. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. 4Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, 5but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. 6So the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it." NKJV
Perhaps Cain was simply more selfish than Abel…..perhaps he did not bring the best of his crop….or the first fruit. Is that what the verse above mean when it says, “in the process of time it came to pass.” Young’s Literal Version says: “And it cometh to pass at the end of days” which does not sound very first fruit like now does it?
The article goes on to say that The Septuagint, in the form that it's come down to us, has it that Abel offered from his "fat ones". The point being that Abel offered from his best, while Cain from the worst part of his crop. The mimetic theory of Girard explains a lot but I think that it is only a factor in the problem with man when he is “in Adam.” He is a selfish “me, me, its all about me” type of creature which leads to the coveting which leads to rivalry…..which in turn leads to violence. Cain’s reaction to God’s preference for Abel’s offering certainly seems to support the fact that he was caught up in rivalry with his brother.
A side note that this article brings out was God’s response to the murder of Abel. It is not a verse that could be used to support capital punishment because God chose mercy instead: "Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance." Gen 4:15 NRSV. And he “marked” him.
Later, to Noah, was given the law of capital punishment along with the concession to eat flesh. But the death penalty was not the law from the beginning. So assuming that neither of these instances is really about animal sacrifice, Noah’s offering was the first animal sacrifice in the scriptures….and this series of articles has a nifty little answer for that as well.
This just struck me as one more precept to put on the top of the stack of precepts that leads me to believe more and more that even though God allowed it, perhaps even purposed it, sacrifice was not for HIM but for US.
In the old covenant, we begin to see the meaning of the blood when Jehovah says to the Israelites, "I have given you the blood upon the altar" (Lev. 17:11). We need the blood, not God! The Lord spoke these words to me as He unfolded the meaning of reconciliation. he said, "I am not the god who demands blood. I am the God who gives blood" Oh, precious words!
Since then, I have come upon many things that have explained this further....sometimes veering off on a rabbit trail, but sometimes when we ponder things for a while, the realization of what we do not believe, solidifies what we do believe. Thus far, it has been a fairly straight course....precept upon precept. Now one might argue that if the original precept is wrong, we can go really far off course as we journey. I can only go with what annie calls the "gut check"....although I might be more inclined to call it the "heart check" and each time I find something that establishes what I know in my heart...another precept to add to the stack, I am thrilled. I cannot believe that God wants/needs bloody sacrifice...but rather that he desires mercy. The directives he lays down in the OT for animal blood sacrifice are a concession to the hardness of man....his violent, selfish, coveting ways which so often lead to violence and bloodletting and his need for a way to appease the angry deity he worships. A sacrifice of another (be it an animal sacrifice, a human sacrifice....anyone or thing but a self sacrifice) But there have been things I had no answer to. Today I stumbled upon what I think are perfectly legitimate "scriptural" ways to explain two situations in the OT that dealt with sacrifice. One is the clothing of Adam and Eve in the Garden with "skin". The other is God's displeasure with Cain's sacrifice and his acceptance of the sacrifice of Abel......which on the surface appears to be a blood offering of the firstlings of Abel's flock.
I came upon a vegetarian site with a series on sacrifice and its origins.....quite a bit to check out. The one that provided these answers for me was called "When Did Animal Sacrifices Begin?" by AJ Fecko. It presents several possibilities for the skin God provided for Adam and Eve and insights into the offering Abel presented to God. Nowhere in the text (in either of these examples) does it say an animal was killed. It does not say it was not....but neither does it clearly say that an animal was sacrificed. We read it with the assumptions that we already have because of the traditions we have been taught. Some of the possibilities?
The skin was created from the ground or the bark of a tree (would that have been harder for the Lord to do than to slaughter an animal? Adam is from the dust, the clay man. Is this really that much of a stretch?)
Their flesh changed from mortal to immortal which is suggested by the verse in Job ("Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, And knit me together with bones and sinews." Job 10:11
It was the skin of the serpent.
They expand on that line of thinking with the following snippets
Snakes shed their skin repeatedly through life, and the serpent is the only species named in the account of Adam's fall. Also they would in essence be wearing their guilt. Since they obeyed the serpent, they were given his skin to wear.
There are also the renderings of the Targums. The Targums are Aramaic interpretive renderings of the Hebrew Scriptures. Such versions were needed when Hebrew ceased to be the daily language of the Jewish people. In Synagogue services the reading of the Scriptures was followed by a translation into the Aramaic vernacular of the populace. Targums on this are:
PS. Jonathan: And the Lord God made garments of glory for Adam and for his wife from the skin which the serpent had cast off (to be worn) on the skin of their flesh, instead of their (garments of) fig leaves of which they had been stripped, and he clothed them.
There are a couple other views expressed in this short article including that it was from natural causes that the animal died (since death was the result of the fall) or that it was merely clothing God made to cover their already existing skin when they realized they were naked. Of course the Genesis story is all allegory and full of symbolism unless you take a literal interpretation of it...which nobody here does I don't think. So there are other possibilities presented that have nothing to do with the sacrifice of an animal to cover them. Link to the article follows
Some versions are a little more wishy washy in the translation of this verse rendering it “I DESIRE mercy and not sacrifice” yet the word that is translated as desire in some versions is the Greek word “Theol”. Although it can mean to “desire, to wish” the definition listed first is much more forceful:
1) to will, have in mind, intend
a) to be resolved or determined, to purpose
And so this verse can be taken as a promise and not merely a suggestion or something on God’s wish list. The process started long, long ago when he set apart a people from the heathen cultures that surrounded them and slowly began to bring his children out from the sacrificial system which was never in his heart to begin with. So he WILL have mercy and not sacrifice. Someday all the swords will be plowshares and mercy will abound for all.
To me, to understand the Old Testament picture of God is that He played numerous roles and dealt mostly with the carnal, fallen man though there were always those that were of that group that he spoke of that He reserved that had never bowed the knee to Baal. He has always had this wonderful remnant, I think, even before the actual advent of Christ two thousand years ago. What He allowed those predecessors to see and walk in I am unclear on. It would take me some time to write out what I feel was accomplished by all the Father did through the Old Testament times but a picture went through my heart recently as I read in some portion of Old Testament scripture of Israel's series of slaughters concerning their enemies around them as they marched through the land. I got a picture in my mind's eye of Israel gathered around campfires following a long day's triumphant battle. Small groups and families playing the tumbrel and harp, rejoicing in there might and victory as given by the Lord. Behind the dancing, celebrating folks in the shadows were piles of bodies not yet burned and buried. Piles of old people, children, women, along with the fighting men they had defeated. As most of Israel was oblivious to the truth and danced on a few of Israel walked through the piles of wasted lives, beat their chests and wept crying out to God, "Is this all we are? Is this true relationship with You?" The Father had planted in their hearts a greater vision and understanding of man's fallen state and their need to rise again.
In the Old Testament the Father had designed to drop man to a very lowly state of being. Look at the first ones birthed from Adam and Eve to see what was in them. They birthed a murderer (Cain) and one that's blood cried from the ground for vengeance (Abel). This is what was in them. In the fall they gained an insatiable need for blood. And, the Father had dropped them into that realm and then met them there. It was a lowly covenant which is why it states in Deuteronomy 30, " 11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? 14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it."
This commandment the Lord gave wasn't far from this carnal, fallen people. It was very near them and it was "not in heaven." This was a covenant that was dropped so low and to such a debased state that we haven't begun to imagine. It is like were the Jews questioned Jesus about issuing a paper of divorce and Jesus told them that "It wasn't so from the beginning." The Father had abridged the marriage relationship so that these cruel hearted Jewish men wouldn't continuously marry young virgins, have their fun with them then throw them out on the streets forcing them into prostitution and whatever else just to survive. By issuing a paper of divorce these women could receive alimony and some benefits that would help them continue to live a descent life.
But, like the change in the marriage arrangement by the paper of divorce and so many other things that became abridged along the way it fit the Father's plan to reach down to the depths He had placed man in and continue to have relationship with him.
So, as you know, we look at so many of these things lived out by them on this lowly level and we see spiritual truths, by His grace, which we internalize and He in us lifts up to a higher level. So, it was necessary for reasons I don't fully understand for all these base things to precede us.
1 Corinthians 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for examples and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
I think where this scripture says "ends of the world are come" it might be better interpreted "results of the ages are come" as I think the Lord has a plan and all previous ages and times have an eventual culmination in some wonderful thing that only He knows completely and we approach that end even if that means it is another thousand years away!
I've read an excerpt from one of Girard's books that is available online; "Are the Gospels Mythical". In it he says:
As soon as we become reconciled to the similarities between violence in the Bible and myths, we can understand how the Bible is not mythical—how the reaction to violence recorded in the Bible radically differs from the reaction recorded in myth.
As Deb pointed out in her summary, the Bible always tells the story from the perspective of the victim. Even though the similarities to creation myths in different cultures has caused many, even Christians, to question the validity and authority of the Bible, Girard thinks the similarities strongly emphasize the differences. The Bible takes the side of the oppressed, the falsely accused, the innocent (or not nearly as guilty as thought) victim. Or as Girard puts it,
In the Bible, the false or insignificant causes of mythical violence are effectively dismissed in the simple and sweeping statement, They hated me without a cause (John 15:25), in which Jesus quotes and virtually summarizes Psalm 35—one of the "scapegoat psalms" that literally turns the mob’s mythical justifications inside out. Instead of the mob speaking to justify violence with causes that it perceives as legitimate, the victim speaks to denounce the causes as nonexistent.
The power of myth is the way it glosses over the guilt of the crowd. It has to gloss over it because otherwise, as Girard states, if we see the truth....that the victim, the sacrifice, the scapegoat is really a target for displaced anger gone amuck....the all against all he talks about, it simply doesn't work and does not provide the cathartic release when the all against all becomes all against one, and the cumulative rage is vented on the victim. Girard puts it this way
myths are the voice of communities that unanimously surrender to the mimetic contagion of victimization.
This interpretation is reinforced by the optimistic endings of myths. The conjunction of the guilty victim and the reconciled community is too frequent to be fortuitous. The only possible explanation is the distorted representation of unanimous victimization. The violent process is not effective unless it fools all witnesses, and the proof that it does, in the case of myths, is the harmonious and cathartic conclusion, rooted in a perfectly unanimous murder.
How subtle, yet blatant, the Bible is in revealing this and how it works. Especially in the Gospels. Just the fact that there are four of them. Four times, four chances for us to pick up on this....to emphasize the point and then reemphasize it....and again....and yet again. It is there in how Peter succumbs to the pressure of the crowd out of fear....he goes along because to do otherwise jeopardizes his own safety.
It points it out in the prophetic words of Ciaophas:
then one of them, named caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “you know nothing at all! you do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” he did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. so from that day on they plotted to take his life.john 11:49-53
And in a verse that is often passed over by many Christians it shows how the scapegoating thing works to bring former enemies together. When I mentioned it to Keith, he said, "I don't think that verse is in the Bible". But alas....as I left for work I pulled it up on studylight for him to read. Later that night, he mentioned that it was such an odd verse, seemed almost out of place in the chapter
Luke 23:12 And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.
It is all there....so unavoidable to see once one knows the theory....the thoughts of Girard and his anthropology of the cross. I do think, as Deb pointed out in another of her posts, that Girard does not have the whole truth....to me in the fact that he does not emphasize the supernatural empowerment of the holy spirit in helping us to overcome the "bad mimesis" and following in the ways of "good mimesis" (Jesus, who is the expressed image of the invisible God) and he does not emphasize another aspect of our tendency to long for the belongings of our neighbor....and that is this selfish, me, me, me, it's all about me core of the carnal man. That is why Jesus stresses so strongly to love our neighbor as ourselves. Girard provides a mirror in which to see ourselves. Not a great image when we see the truth....sort of like the time when I was trying on clothes at K-mart and I looked up and wondered who in the heck is that fat, old woman in my dressing room!!! It is stark, and it is not pretty, but once the Bible reveals this to us, there is help readily available if we turn to God for empowerment to overcome our selfishness....and with the example of Jesus to follow. It is the ultimate WWJD.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
He said that the scene of Jesus clearing the temple of the money changers is often used as justification for violence. People have a "hollywood image" of what took place there and do not base their views solely on the text in scripture. In only one of the gospels (John) does Jesus have a whip - although it can also be translated a cord. (He also brought out the difficulties and opportunities for error when translating from one language to another) Nowhere in the text does it say Jesus hit anyone. He used the cord (whip) to clear out the animals, which is often how you get an animal like a sheep or goat to move. Nowhere in scripture does it say that Jesus hit anyone, ever....period!!
He used a modern day version of what went on in the Temple. He talked a bit about bingo and how it is making big bucks for many churches (not just Catholic churches) and that the irony is that the general principle of bingo goes against scripture (gambling, it feeds on greed etc) So...a pastor...he used the example of a Catholic priest since he is a Catholic priest....starts a bingo night at his church. Money starts to roll in and he uses it to help finance and support the church and further the kingdom of God. It occurs to him that if he could exploit greed in people for the ultimate glory of God, why not use another of the seven deadly sins for the good cause and to make a bunch of money for the church. Greed is no worse than lust....and lust is no worse than greed. And it's for a good cause. Like bingo. So he sets up a booth in the back of the church filled with pornography. The church flourishes and grows. Money rolls in via the porn shop in the back of the church. One day, Mother Theresa visits the church. As she is leaving she notices the booth at the back of the church. She checks it out, takes a few books off the shelf and is aghast at what she finds there. In display of righteous indignation, and to send a distinct message and symbol , she throws the books on the floor, throws some more books on the floor....turns the table over. Same principle when Jesus cleared the Temple. It was not violence for the sake of violence but a statement.....to send a message. He is, of course, much clearer than I am in this retelling, but I am getting the gist of it down, I think.
Interesting site. In July they are starting a forty day fast for peace. Wow..radical....and forty days. That is a long fast!! Check out the site if you are interested in learning more about nonviolent Christianity.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Emmanuel Charles McCarthy is a priest of the Eastern Rite (Byzantine) of the Catholic Church. He was formerly a lawyer, university educator and founder and original director of The Program for the Study and Practice of Nonviolent Conflict Resolution at the University of Notre Dame. He is also a co-founder of Pax Christi-USA. For over forty years he has directed educational programs and conducted spiritual retreats throughout the world on the issue of the relationship of faith and violence. He was the keynote speaker for the 25th anniversary memorial of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
He is author of three books: All Things Flee Thee for Thou Fleest Me!: A Cry to the Churches and Their Leaders to Stop Running from the Nonviolent Jesus and His Nonviolent Way, August 9, and Christian Just War Theory: The Logic of Deceit. He has also authored numerous essays and articles on the subject of violence and religion. His audio/video series on Gospel Nonviolence, Behold the Lamb, is internationally recognized as the most spiritually penetrating and logically ordered presentation on this dimension of the person and teaching of Jesus available in this format. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his life's work on behalf of peace within people and among people.
Behold the Lamb
(Rev.) Emmanuel Charles McCarthy
This professionally recorded retreat on the Nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels and His Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies was given by Emmanuel Charles McCarthy at the Shrine of the Lamb in Knock, Ireland. It consists of sixteen presentations, which collectively contain what is considered to be the most comprehensive and spiritually profound proclamation of Jesus' vital Gospel message of Nonviolent Love.
He takes as his central theme the Nonviolent Lamb of God and focuses on this biblical symbol and reality as the true icon and transcendental model for encountering God as revealed by Jesus, and for understanding and following the Way of God as taught by Jesus. Every Christian, every Christian Church, indeed all humanity, should ponder if what is said here about God and God's Way as made visible by Jesus, the Lamb of God, is THE GOOD NEWS for which each human being, consciously or subconsciously, ceaselessly yearns-if what is said here genuinely fulfills the hopes and quenches the fears, that universally reside at the deepest recesses of each human soul.
The title of the talks are:
1. The Lamb: To Be Adored and Imitated
2. The Lamb: The Mystery of God's Suffering Servant
3. The Mind of the Lamb
4. The Lamb Who Glorifies God
5. The Church: A Fold of Lambs
6. The Love That Is Lamb-Like
7. The Lamb in a Jungle
8. The Means of the Lamb
9. The Lamb Who Is Rich in Mercy
10. The Security of the Lamb
11. The Trustworthy Lamb
12. The Mystery of the Oneness in the Lamb: Baptism
13. The Lamb's Lamb: Mary
14. The Lamb of Forgiving Love
15. The Lamb of Serving Love
16. The Resurrected Lamb
Questions & Answers on Gospel Nonviolence
(Rev.) Emmanuel Charles McCarthy
This series provides detailed and thoughtful answers to eight (8) of the most common and sometimes troubling questions raised with respect to the validity and practicality of Gospel nonviolence as a means of confronting the harsh and cruel reality of justified and/or chaotic (purposeless) violence.
The titles are:
1. Cleansing of The Temple
2. What if Someone Is Going to Kill your Wife or Children?
3. Just War/Just Revolution Theory
4. Violence in the Old Testament
5. Christians in the Military/Police
6. Surely this Is a Purist Gospel?
7. What about Hitler?
8. Buy a Sword? Luke 22:35-38
Sunday, May 13, 2007
I see you have been pondering. Thank you for your long, heartfelt post....and there are aspects of what you say that I agree with. I've taken some snippets from here and there in your post...sort of out of context....hope you don't mind.
Quote from other poster:
Christ being the perfect sacrifice would ring true to the heart of Israel.
It issued in the beginning of the new covenant for Israel, in which their sins and iniquities would be remembered no more.
One might argue that this is the same line of thinking that would lead most of Christianity to being OK with God tormenting people in hell for eternity, however the difference is eternal torment is not in scripture anywhere, we all accept this , but Christ's life being viewed and taught as a sacrifice, our sins being laid on him, Our being healed by his strips is biblical and is taught in the holy book of our Faith both by the disciples and in part by Paul who's Gospel was for the Gentiles.
In no way am I discrediting or trying to debunk all of the different views of the atonement, but I think to dismiss the paradigm that God did not have his son crushed for our iniquities, is to dismiss certain scriptures completely, no matter how you explain them away.
Okay....I can see this since Israel was so immersed in their sacrificial systems there was no way God could lead them out of it without convincing them that it was indeed finished and the final perfect sacrifice had been made. But I believe that God, in Christ did this FOR Israel so that they could move on and enter into the new covenant. The "old man" had to die for the "new man" to come to life. I cannot see it as a requirement that had to be fulfilled before God could have a relationship with them/us. I say this because I do not see that Jesus made any stipulations about any kind of payment being made, requirement being fulfilled before he tells us to forgive 70 x 7. So would God require more forgiveness from us than he requires of himself. I also think that God was always conciliatory toward man. It was man's hard heart...filled with guilt and the need for justice that needed to be softened in order for man to be conciliated to God ....which equals reconciliation. It makes a great deal of sense to me that the mandates laid out for sacrifices in the OT were to LIMIT rather than initiate. God knew the lengths man would go to in his efforts to appease his guilt. If clear boundaries were not laid down then the lengths to which humanity will go is deplorable.
I do know the scriptures you are talking about...and some of the explanations do seem a bit....well just not thorough enough....so I will have to put that on the shelf for a while (although I know that AP Adams deals with a lot of that in his writings....including the terminology of the atonement. I have not read them in depth, though and have mostly just skimmed over them) There are other scriptures, though, that are more in line with the character and nature of God as I see it. I am talking about the scriptures that declare he does not want sacrifice. I hope you don't mind if I do a bit of "proof texting" and copy and paste the scriptures below....
Mercy not Sacrifice
What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation-- I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. -- Isaiah 1:11-17
For in the day that I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to them or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them, "Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you." -- Jer. 7:22-23
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. -- Hosea 6:6
I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. -- Amos 5:21-24
Hear what the LORD says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the LORD has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel. "O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. "With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? -- Micah 6:1-4, 6-8
[Jesus said,] "Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners." -- Matthew 9:13
[Jesus said,] "But if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless." -- Matthew 12:7
Somehow any theories that God required sacrifice....be it the blood of rams and goats or the blood of a spotless lamb (Jesus) have got to take these verses into account as well. And since I am on a proof texting frenzy here....what about the verses that condemn the children of Israel for sacrificing their children to Molech? Granted, they sacrificed them to another god.....but I have got to believe that it was the sacrifice of the child and not the mistaken loyalty to a false god that the real God detested. I just cannot make sense of the thought that in order to fulfill the Law that God would do to his son what he forbade the Israelites to do.....sacrifice their children. I know it gets mixed up with the God was in Christ line of thinking. I am not smart enough to figure it out and as you mentioned in your post, it is doubtful we will ever figure it out while looking through hazy glass. I am not discounting your view or your revelation....and I know many, many universalists see it the way you are leaning toward. To borrow a phrase from annie, though, it just does not pass the "gut check". for me personally. So I am including the verses about child sacrifice below.....there are more but these seem to be the most to the point. Truthfully, I find some truth in all the versions of the atonement that I have read....more in some than in others.....
Although I do not agree with all the points you made, I do agree with much of what you said....and willingly acknowledge that I may be dead wrong. I'm glad you are back. I have been waiting for all of you guys to come back. My Christmas was quiet and spent mostly at home.....just Keith and I.
Jer 32.35: They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech, though I never commanded, nor did it enter my mind, that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin.
· Jer 7.31: They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire -- something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind.
Deut 12.31: You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshipping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.
Deut 18.10: "`Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.
Ezek 23.37: for they have committed adultery and blood is on their hands. They committed adultery with their idols; they even sacrificed their children, whom they bore to me, as food for them.
Jer 19.4: For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods; they have burned sacrifices in it to gods that neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah ever knew, and they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. 5 They have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as offerings to Baal -- something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind. .
Ummmmmmmmm.....could you repeat the question? Truthfully, I am not sure what the question is and since some of the words are combined in such a way that I am not quite sure what you are saying I am just going to ramble here a bit. Like annie says, I am a simple girl. She is from the Ozarks....I am from a steel mill town in western Pennsylvania. I have not studied world religions or philosophy or in depth theology.....or holy books from different faiths.....heck, I have barely scratched the surface on the holy book from my own faith. I am very out of place in deeper theological discussions that involve lofty spiritual principles....which truthfully are way above my head. What allegoric value do I find in the christ-mythos that affects my own life? Ah......I don't know. I know the answers are there....although I'm not sure I see it exactly in the terms you use....the mythos part, but I could easily be misunderstanding the meaning. I know I was taking a walk at lunchtime yesterday and I felt a strong desire, resolve actually.... for those I come in contact with at work to "see my Father in me". I remember reading Gary Sigler say in one of his writings that Christ is walking the earth today.....ministering to those in need, those hurting, those hungry.....and he is ministering through us..... in our flesh. I guess what fascinates me about Christ is that he is the exact representation of the invisible God. The "if you've seen me, you've seen the Father" line of thought. I guess more than anything right now, I am trying to know my Father. There are so many lies, and half truths and misunderstandings about him....and many of those questions are answered by simply looking at Jesus...his life, his death and his resurrection. The standard theory of the crucifixion is sorely lacking in truth about the father. Since I am only beginning to know what others have theorized about the cross, I find revelations in all of their observations. Some revelations come when I read something that instantly brings to mind thoughts similar to "well, isn't that a bunch of crap". Others comes when I read something and my heart starts to beat a little faster and I realize with awe that the truth I have read is within me...that inner knowing that has led me along. Gary Sigler calls it the anointing....the promise that we will be led into all truth.
Let me use a word picture by a kingdom minister my husband and I know. I have used it on lists before so you may have heard me say it. When the Children of Israel were crossing over into the Promised Land.....those at the front of the line were seeing something entirely different from those at the back of the line. Meaning....well.....I am glad that there are those clearing the path for me.....since I am no where near the front of the line....but I am walking in the light I've been given.....not considering those ahead of me as heretics......nor those behind me as spiritual midgets. Thanks for blazing the path ahead of me :)
If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. (Matt. 12:7 NIV)
10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Matthew 9:10-13 (New International Version)
6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6
This "theory" explains so much for me...Why Jesus said if you have hated your brother you are as guilty as if you committed murder....and if you lust after a woman you are guilty of adultery. He knew it was all birthed in a heart of envy and covetousness. So many thoughts and questions were flying though my mind today. Like....what about Paul, where he talks about the Law...and coveting....
What, then, shall we say? Is the law sin? Far be it! On the contrary, I had not discovered, sin, save through law, for even, of coveting, I had not been aware if, the law, had not kept on saying - Thou shall not covet Emphasized Bible
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." NRSV
Which fits well with Girard's belief that the scriptures are a progressive revelation of mimesis and it's resulting rivalry and discord and eventual scapegoating and sacrifice. In this article he mentions how some cultures intuitively make laws/taboos etc to limit mimetic violence. They do not necessarily do this knowingly....just as the scapegoat thing is not a conscious thing. Once it becomes a conscious thing, then it no longer works to siphon off some of the misplaced, repressed anger brought on by all the discord which seems to begin with the desire to possess what our neighbor has (be it his oxen or his wife or his big new surround sound home theater). He mentions how in some cultures they have killed off twins...or one twin (which might have its origins in the fact that the closer we are in status and similarity to another, the greater chance of violent mimesis. How much closer can you get than a twin?
I ran across the Seven Deadly Sins today. Perhaps almost an intuitive attempt by some early church fathers to limit the effects of violence. They all have their basis in envy, desiring what our neighbor has and coveting. Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth (which can encompass not just laziness but also apathy....which could be the defeated response of someone who realized they will never possess what they are coveting), Wrath, Envy and Pride. I see ALL of these in the mimetic cycle that Girard is known for "discovering". There was commentary in this article about the seven sins and a few quotes from Dante (I know what a source....but I thought they hit the nail on the head)
About envy he said it was "love of one's own good perverted to a desire to deprive other men of theirs"
And about Pride: Dante's definition was "love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one's neighbor.
As a side note his comments about wrath which I thought were kind of interesting because it is Dante that is the source for many people's opinions about hell and what it is like....isn't he?? His comment concerning wrath "love of justice perverted to revenge and spite".
December 26, 2006
I have spent a lot of time in the livingroom...on the couch...on the computer reading. It was a quiet Christmas (if you don't count the trip to the mall on the 23'rd....omg.....baking cookies on Christmas Eve morning.....and a midnight church service on Christmas Eve....and a rather loud, mean spirited "discussion" with Keith about the atonement) I have found a couple really cool blogs....and read a lot about the atonement....which has left me with answers....but as often happens, more questions than when I started. It is my New Year's resolution....to search this out and read about it and pray about it and understand as much as God is willing to reveal to me....and as much as I am able to understand. Some of the theories use awfully big words and concepts!!! I do not find any shred of truth in the substitutionary atonement theory of Anselm and Aquinas. I find truth in the words of J Denny Weaver called the Non Violent Atonement. For Weaver, the efforts of Anselm's defenders amount to little more than theological gymnastics which cannot erase the model of violent punishment at the root of his atonement motif. He bluntly asserts: "Make no mistake about it. Satisfaction atonement in any form depends on divinely sanctioned violence that follows from the assumption that doing justice means to punish"
and the logic of another quote I copied and pasted but forgot to include the source
The logic of punishment was a logic of equivalence (the wages of sin is death); the logic of grace is a logic of surplus and excess.
There are a lot of theories....some I have never heard of by lesser known theologians. The main three that I have been looking at are:
Moral Influence associated with Abelard and Finney
Christus Victor - associated with Aulen, Origen (and sharktaco at the Rebel God site...one many of us are familiar with)
And the Mimemic theory of Renee Girard which was recently, briefly discussed on this list and which others have taken up....
I think the atonement is not one view...but multidimensional....and includes aspects of most of the theories....except for the penal substitution model....which I find repugnant. Anyway....here are a couple of the blogs I came across as I was searching....that came up in google with articles/writings on atonement. They looked interesting and thought you might want to check them out. These are the home pages for the blogs. Some of the atonement writings are in the archives. I am going to copy and paste the series of 4 entries from the experimental theology blog on Girard's theory (in the form of a critique of a book called Saved From Sacrifice by S Mark Helm)
We are the angry divinity. We are the ones inclined to dwell in wrath and think we need vengeance in order to survive ... it turns on its head what has passed as our penal substitutionary theory of atonement, which always presupposes that it is us satisfying God, that God needs satisfying, that there is vengeance in God. Whereas it is quite clear from the New Testament that what was really exciting to Paul was that it was quite clear from Jesus self-giving, and the out-pouring of Jesus blood, that this was the revelation of who God was: God was entirely without vengeance, entirely without substitutionary tricks; and that he was giving himself entirely without ambivalence and ambiguity for us, towards us, in order to set us free from our sins, our sins being our way of being bound up with each other in death, vengeance, violence and what is commonly called wrath."
Quote by Fr. James Alison
The link at the bottom of the article that leads to his blog comes up as a "cannot be found" IE page.
Disclaimer: I am very in touch with the fact that as a limited human I have a limited perspective. So as you read my take on the work of Christ on the cross, keep in mind that I offer this as an imperfect argument. But along with all the rest of the imperfect arguments regarding the atonement - check your theology book, there are many (ransom, substitution, etc) - I hope that you can find for yourself the true parts, and let them change and improve your experience of what it means to follow Jesus. In as much as theology sends us down rabbit trails that keep us from figuring out what Love is and doing it, I think it is not of God. So I hope what you glean from this is an encouragement rather than a hindrance.
The confusion I have over the evangelical theology surrounding the atonement was birthed by a skeptic I met in university. His point was simple but difficult. "Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?" was his question. I parroted the standard answer I had grown up with, something along the lines of: 1. God is perfect, 2. people sinned, so 3. there had to be a blood sacrifice to atone for the sin and make us right with God. He was fine with the first two, but he was pretty adamant that the leap to the third one was broken logic. Why the sacrifice? Why blood? Is this God not above all things? God is the author of everything; no concept can exist outside of him that he is bound to. So why would he set up this elaborate and seemingly arbitrary scheme in order to make people right with him? Why couldn't God, being the-almighty-being-who-makes-the-rules-and-is-bound-by-nothing just speak into history that we are all forgiven and it be done?
This guy's questions left me with the realization that I was simply toeing the party line with no honest understanding of what the work of Jesus was all about. So I told God that I can’t speak passionately about something I don’t understand or even really believe and that he should enlighten me. I have prayed for a long time now asking God to make the atonement really make sense for me.
And here’s what I’m thinking so far:What if the demand for a sacrifice, the capital “J” demand for justice that was satisfied at the cross came not from God but from humankind? What if the cross was God submitting himself to humankind’s selfish demands, smashing into history with a transcendent act of Grace, thereby revealing once and for all God’s own personality, that of undeserving and perfect Love?
I consider my years of teaching history. I am fascinated by the way the law pervades every early civilization. Anywhere people settle down and try to live together, eventually some sort of law code breaks out. And invariably, the law code is revenge based. If you poke out my eye, I poke out yours; kill my dog, I’ll kill yours, etc. And the logical end of revenge would be a life for a life. If you shed my blood, I’ll shed yours. What I saw in the early civilizations I studied totally verified this. Many of them took it to the point of human sacrifice to their god, assuming, I suppose, that since we demand sacrifices of each other, surely god must demand them as well to atone for all the wrong we have done.
Why, since our earliest days as humans, did we consider this necessary? It is ironic to me that revenge isn’t really that logical; as we know it perpetuates problems that grace would end. Yet, it is so deep in all of us. It is almost an assumption, a presupposition. If someone came and cracked me in the jaw most people would feel I have the right to crack him back. Again, why? Because it is the best way to a solution? No. For the most part, the answer is “just because”. It is an innate response. I can see that one answer to this “why?” would be “to create fear in the guy who punched me so he won’t do it again”. Weak answer, of course, because odds are he is going to feel a need to create some of that fear in you too once you punch him back. It points to how the whole thing is based on fear, along with satisfaction of a very natural (apparently natural isn’t always good!) desire to avenge ourselves. Revenge provides us with that quick satisfaction, and is rooted in our own pride/selfishness.
What is so clear about the new way that Christ trumpets in the kingdom of God is that it is the very opposite of revenge/law. As far as I can see, all the stories and teachings of Christ point to grace. Revenge and the law have their foundation in self-ishness, an orientation to satisfying your own needs/desires. The foundation of grace, as modeled by Christ, is perfectly contrary in its self-lessness. Jesus stands apart from revenge and the law, instead pointing us toward forgiveness and even the extreme of hospitality (as defined by Miroslav Voth’s – a proactive doing of what there is no onus on you to do in the first place).
To me, this seems to be the entire theme of God’s interaction with his creation throughout history. It is us following our nature and wreaking terrible revenge and law on one another. God’s plan is to teach us the divine way, the divine nature, the way of true Love as expressed in grace. Someone might protest, “but the law came from God and so is obviously his way”. I would respond, as I think the epistles do, that God gave the law as a concession to our hard hearts. The law was given, maybe more like allowed, for a certain time in order to reveal how badly it worked, to show how hopeless it was for bridging the distance between us and God (because it is so unlike God’s way).
So then in Jesus and his death on the cross we find the most shocking and extreme walking out of grace in all history; an act of grace so mighty that all the powers of darkness are sent reeling. Throughout history, humankind demands a sacrifice. At the cross, God says, “I will give you a sacrifice. I will give a sacrifice so far and above the pathetic cheapness of your sacrifices.” But his sacrifice is radically different from ours in one way: it is unwarranted. There is absolutely no reason why the God who is over everything should submit himself to the demands of his creation. But in this act of humility and submission, this is exactly what he does, and in doing so, smashes the spirit of the law that is the driving force of human society.
I see hints of this in the Old Testament like when the Israelites ask for a king. The dialogue went something like this:
“No, it’s best if I am your king.”
“But everyone else has a king!!”
“A king will enslave you, can’t you be satisfied with me?”
“No, we want a human king.”
“Ok then, it is not the best thing for you, it is not my way, but I will do it your way”
And God submits to the wrong desires of his creation. Again and again, God sets us totally free to make our own decisions, even to the point of letting us do things that hurt us, and we end up finding out the hard way. I “kinda” think that is what the law was all about as well. The law cooperates with the evil tendency in human nature, and even awakens it. Paul says it like this, “But sin took advantage of the law and aroused all kinds of forbidden desires within me!” (Rom. 8:8).
In my experience of evangelical theology, there is often an awkwardness between what Jesus said and did during his ministry on earth and what happened with his death on the cross. Much of his teaching doesn’t meld that clearly with notions of substitutionary atonement. The result has been that much of the actual teachings of Christ are ignored or discarded, and the traditional evangelical understanding of what happened at the cross is stressed. I am thinking especially of dispensational theologies I remember hearing in my youth, that had such problems with the sermon on the mount that they relegated it to an endtimes millennial time period. But it is the same thing when, because his ideas are so contrary to the culture we are in, we ignore Jesus’ directives regarding peace, money, etc (radical self-sacrifice in general).
But if Christ on the cross was a monumental, history changing act of grace, then his teaching and action in the rest of his ministry make perfect sense as well. Everything he did and said pointed us to grace; he began teaching us how to turn from the darkness of our own selfishness, toward his light of selflessness. This was the “new way” proclamation of his ministry, and it found its climax in his ultimate act of grace on the cross.
The atonement never made a lick of sense to me until one day, by happenstance, I came upon an article by John Gavazonni called the Great Misrepresentation. That was the first glimmer of light when I read the following words
In the old covenant, we begin to see the meaning of the blood when Jehovah says to the Israelites, "I have given you the blood upon the altar" (Lev. 17:11). We need the blood, not God! The Lord spoke these words to me as He unfolded the meaning of reconciliation. he said, "I am not the god who demands blood. I am the God who gives blood" Oh, precious words!
Since then it has been a long journey, of precept upon precept, but as I journey I am coming to a clearer understanding of the atonement and its purpose. I have gotten a glimpse into the heart of a God who did not demand a bloody sacrifice in our stead in order to reestablish a relationship with us. It has only been lately, with an understanding of Rene Girard and his mimetic theory....an anthropology of the cross that I have more fully realized just what it was that Jesus saved us from. He saved us from ourselves. From our blood lust. From our sacrificial frenzy. He saved us from the principalities and powers that keep us in bondage and ignorance.
Why did Jesus die?
To uncover the scapegoat mechanism within human nature and disclose to us our mimetic natures which ultimately lead to violence and chaos.
To defeat the principalities and powers that hold us hostage
To alleviate our fear of death
To provide an example for us to follow/imitate and empower us to do so with the Holy Spirit
To give us a clear picture of God, the Father
I start with some random thoughts about the atonement simply because that is where my journey started. As a new Christian I just could not reconcile the party line about the atonement with the God who had revealed himself to me. As an answer to prayer, he has allowed me to view the atonement from a different angle. He has led me to many, many resources that have built upon this understanding. Snippet upon snippet, precept upon precept. Some found in the most unlikely places....many times via google. The journey has been long...and sometimes lonely. It is hard to find fellowship when one believes the "heresies" I have come to believe (reconciliation of all, non violent atonement) I have banded together with a small group of seekers like myself on a yahoo group called Emerging Universalist. We are all universalists...mainly Christian universalists. Most have been Christians for a long, long time. Some their whole life. And we are exploring many of the tried and true beliefs that even Christian universalists take at face value. We have been discussing Rene Girard and his mimetic theory a lot over the past few months. Right now we are doing a book study on his latest book "I See Satan Fall Like Lightening" It is our first "formal" book study but Girard and the atonement have been discussed quite a bit over the past months. I have been greatly blessed by the band of emergents I fellowship with. The Lord has opened my eyes to wonderful new insights of his grace and mercy and plan to reconcile all to himself. None will be lost, every knee will bow to the glory of God the father. Amen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!