Theology Thought of the Day

The horror of the cross

Exposing the scandal of sacrificial Violence

This photo and video that goes with it are the response by the governor of California to the violence recently seen in his country. He is speaking to his public and party, rather than composing a sermon. However, he does refer to his Christian education, possibly because are still people outside the White House (and on worldwide news channels) praying for the election results to be overturned and presenting their right wing nationalism through a veneer of Christianity.

Praying for those in Authority is a well established Christian practice. We are also called to pray for those who persecute us, as Jesus did on the cross. So, are Trump supporters acting in imitation of Christ? They are willing to suffer, some are willing to kill, for the greater good they believe in. They believe that their president is the victim of an injustice, and that their actions are to preserve the constitution of their nation. High political ideals, but how do their actions compare with the Way of Christ.

Jesus dying on the cross for our sins is core to Christianity. But do you think that God wants sacrifices? Such a God is at worst a sadist, and at best a masochist. I suggest that a deity constructed in such a way is an idol of authoritarianism bound up in a cycle of violence. There is no room for forgiveness in a mind enslaved by this sort of thinking. With no forgiveness, there can be no healing or satisfaction. Even if everyone is left with their eyes poked out and hands cut off in sacrifice for justice. This is not the way of Christ, and if you value Scripture there are some reference to verses at the end to support this claim, starting with Micah 6:6-8

Having a servant’s heart is not about sacrifice. To be a martyr is to be a witness to another way of being. The Truth of Jesus did not demand sacrifice, but those enslaved by lies bound themselves into a chain of events that escalated to the extreme of death, and the killing of God incarnate. Rather than imitating them, by practicing the presence of God we can develop an attitude which looks out for those we are estranged from and welcomes them into community.

 No promises that this will be easy however! Films often show a shocking lack of understanding about to work steel. The genius of steel is that unlike iron or bronze it is possible to produce a blade which is both hardened (the quench) and softened so it can bend and won’t shatter (the tempering). In the film “Conan the Barbarian, 1982” the riddle of steel is left, for the audience to work out. The less mystical saying of “even gold which can be destroyed by fire, is purified by fire” is perhaps a more immediately accessible gateway to understanding. Refining doesn’t sacrifice gold to the fire, evil is not necessary, you pass through it and come out truer to the best self you can be. That which is incumbent within you, ready to be released.

There are many, some of whom are US citizens, for whom the USA does not represent a beacon of hope, or even a struggle for justice. Hope and Justice are built into human being though and learning to live in society can be the fire we pass through to reveal it. As Christians we can imitate Christ. Not by sacrificing ourselves or others for a greater good, but by cultivating a servant’s heart and giving from an abundant timeless grace. Tough enough not to yield under oppression, sharp enough to cut free from social media bubbles of falsehood, tempered to recognise the common good, and bend from self-interest to serve without shattering.

To study the themes in this post further here is an introduction to “Mimetic Theory”

The following article is not the easiest read in the world, but it expands more on this theme.

A selection of verses on the theme of “why sacrifices are horrific, rather than a necessary evil” starts with the story of Cain and Able, but here are some more verses for further reflection and study.

Micah 6:6-8

Psalm 51:16-17, Proverbs 21:3, Mark 12:33, Matthew 9:13

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