I ended yesterday's post on a controversial note. I compared the Christian doctrine of the atonement of Jesus (and there are several theories about this) to human sacrifice. Perhaps the most widely known Bible verse is John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth should not perish, but have everlasting life."
I doubt most Christians would find the comparison I made valid. Repeatedly it is suggested that dying on the cross, laying down his life, was something Jesus willingly did - even though the gospels record that he asked if his Father might let that "cup" pass from him (Matt. 26:39). Nevertheless, he submitted to God's will for him. The same gospel of John I quoted above records that Jesus said there was no greater love than a man laying down his life for his friends (John 15:13).
My mom has a plaque that depicts the crucifixion of Jesus with the words:
I asked Jesus how much he loved me, and he stretched out his hand and answered: "This much."
For orthodox Christians this isn't so much a human sacrifice as it is an example of supreme divine love.
I never thought much about until I got old enough to look outside the narrow confines of my religious faith. The liberal theologians who wanted to distance themselves from the orthodox view of a "slaughterhouse religion" began to make great sense to me then.
It doesn't make sense that God could not forgive sins simply on the basis of choosing to do so, with no debt to be paid. Had there been no long tradition of appeasement of deities with the blood of humans and animals, the shocking doctrine of Jesus being sacrificed as a payment for our sin debt would never have been put forth.
Centuries of tradition evidently can make even the absurd seem reasonable. Or so it seems.
I look back now on my childhood and recall how fixated I was on Jesus' crucifixion, on the holographic picture that hung in our home that when gazed at straight ahead depicted the crucifixion but by changing the angle of your attention depicted the resurrection, on the painting of the crucifixion in my little Gideon's New Testament. And always it was the blood that caught my attention. Jesus' bloody forehead from the crown of thorns. His bleeding palms and feet from the nails which held him to the cross. The spear wound on his side. The blood, the blood, the blood! We sang hymn after hymn that celebrated the bloodshed of Jesus.
Exactly how this affected my psyche, my subconscious mind, I'm not sure I can answer. That it was less than a positive force, I'm certain. How this idea of God might have impact the millions of others who are so indoctrinated is something only God can know.
And as concept of love, I find the orthodox doctrine of atonement nothing short of abhorrent.