Since I began to embrace a more progressive view of Christianity, there are times when I wish I was a devoutly conservative evangelical; a fundamentalist, even. The more I read and learn about the faith and the man I’ve chosen to follow, the more questions I have. Some of those questions can be…, uncomfortable. And, it doesn’t get much more uncomfortable for me than Easter. If I were a fundamentalist. I could see what happened on this day 2000 years ago as something which satisfied God’s need for justice and allows me, a vile, disgusting sinner, to enter heaven when I die. But, I can’t. For several reasons.
First, because I gave up the idea of an afterlife several years ago, going to heaven when I die isn’t a thing for me anymore. I suppose there might be something more after we die, but I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it. To be honest, I believe that if your sole reason for being a Christian is to go to heaven after you die, you cheapen the whole thing and turn it into a quid pro quo arrangement. That seems an odd way to honor (much less follow) a man who whose message was all about unconditional love.
Second, I reject the idea that people are “vile, disgusting sinners” incapable of doing good on their own. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still think people are miserable bastards the vast majority of the time. But, it’s the end of that sentence that’s key, because it says we aren’t miserable bastards all the time. In a recent post on the subject, I said that I believed that, while people generally suck, they also have the capacity for immense good; that there is a little piece of the divine floating around in each of us which occasionally makes it way to the surface, showing us just how good we can truly be. I described it as a cross between the Quaker’s inner light and the concept of prevenient grace.
Third, I also reject the concept that God needed blood to forgive our sins. In my eyes, this belief is limits God to an incredible degree. Think about it: on one hand,God is said to be omniscient; on the other, God is supposedly bound by human ideas of justice. That doesn’t make sense: wouldn’t a truly omniscient God be able forgive humanity’s sins with a wave of the hand? Besides, saying that God required Jesus, God’s own son, to die such a horrible, humiliating death to appease God’s sense of justice paints God as sadistic monster who rules through fear. Any such God would be completely unworthy of praise or obedience.
By now, I think you can see my dilemma. By letting go of what has become orthodox belief about the Cross, I’m left adrift and looking for a new lens through which to view things. What I’ve come up with is that the Cross isn’t about blood atonement or satisfying God’s warped sense of justice, it’s about the triumph of love over hate, fear and the powers and principalities of this world. Jesus was rejected by his friends, his neighbors, his countrymen, turned over to the powers that be and executed by a method reserved for enemies of the state. It was painful and publicly humiliating, an object lesson from Rome to people who would buck the system. As he hung on the cross, Jesus’ words about those who subjected him to this ultimate indignity weren’t based on hate or thoughts of revenge, they came from a place of love: He asked God to forgive his tormentors. I think the fact that Jesus loved his enemies even as they murdered him is much more important than any perverted ideas about blood or justice.
I know some people are going to read this and say I’ve left the fold, that I’m no longer a Christian. To those people, I say that if rejecting fear and brutality and embracing love means I’m not a Christian anymore, so be it. I never cared for their shitty version anyway.