I grew up with images of Christ on the cross and hymns entitled: Nothing But the Blood of Jesus
Here's a stanza:
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
When I write about a fundamentalist topic, I tend to go off on the deep end because I am in still in process of healing myself. So I'm reining myself in.
Well, I try.
This is the crux for me, what I heard growing up is that on one hand, Jesus died for my sins, because I am a SINNER and NEED to be forgiven but on the other hand, God really loves me, very deeply. So follow this: what I need is someone to bear a punishment that I deserve for just being born. Can I say that this mixed bag of messaging did nothing for me and most importantly didn't draw me nearer to God.
I am simplifying this because I want to keep it as short as I can. After many years of trying to come to grips with funky theology, I had to question everything I knew.
Literal bible translation...gone.
Is God in Control of everything: No, shit happens.
Looking at all religions to see what is similar..yes.
Core message of all major religions: LOVE...check.
Embracing people different than myself which was uncomfortable but necessary... yes.
Reducing fear and embracing love...uh huh.
That last one is the answer to what Jesus was all about.
He answered, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
This Easter, I feel comfortable enough with a loving higher power to dig deeper. The penal or substitutionary atonement theologies very basically mean Jesus died for us, to fulfill the old covenant sacrificial system, reconcile us to God, and change our lives forever.
But what if , what if Jesus was teaching us a new way to be. Be still and know that I am. Jesus could have stopped his own death, right? He didn't have to die. What if he was teaching us "the dark night of the soul?" What if this was really about a mystical union with God and not a penal system. What if God was teaching us that with darkness there is always light, and how to be with our suffering.
There are two ways in which humans connect to the divine: through awe or through suffering.
I can hear in my mind, people saying, but Jesus died for our sins - that is awe inspiring, right? But what I'm questioning, well not really questioning anymore, I know what I believe in my heart, it's just my mind catching up from so many years of washing things white as snow, do humans get that? Is that really what was going on.
Father Richard Rohr sums it up so very nicely in his latest book, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (with Mike Morrell) Please read the photo.
That pretty much sums it all up.
We get stuck in right and wrong, black and white. It's not about retribution but about restoration. God is with us in our suffering. I think the story got hijacked. It's easier to keep people in the pews by making them fear, instead of teaching them practices that bring them closer to God.
I stepped away from the Bible years ago to heal. I use to recoil when I heard Jesus' name. It wasn't awe inspiring. But now after much introspective work, I feel a divine flow of love when I am awake and in the present moment. And that was a lot of behavioral work, not blood, not retribution. Learning about unconditional love and it's source. Learning about the dark and the light. It must reside together.