Saturday, December 22, 2007

What Do You Do With Jesus Death for Our Sins?

Christian: So is there no place in your story for the death of Jesus on the cross? Why do so many people respond to that message?

Michael's Response:


The story of the crucified God was useful and necessary for me as a troubled teenager, and for other self loathing people who require a divine parent that slaughter's his son for their wickedness. This message often brings some people to a place where they can lay down their self loathing and anger toward others by placing these overwhelming emotions and their deep psychic pain on the crucified Jesus. The universal appeal and success of this gospel of crucifixion reveals that many humans need this story to introduce them to a personal spiritual awakening. Through this murderous image they can unburden themselves by letting their parent punish and kill the bad child. In Christ, they see an angry Father (parent) punishing them for being such a bad little boy or girl. These people really see themselves as bad before daddy or mommy, deserving a whipping, humiliation and extermination.


At this point, the gospel story is neither fact nor fiction, but a necessary psycho-spiritual drama for a very real affect in the psyche. Many alienated and distraught people are often moved to deep feelings of remorse and hope as they identify with the crucified Christ who embodies all of their failure, self loathing and in-rage. By putting their face and sins on Christ, they experience a removal of guilt, a release from failure and sense of satisfaction by being vicariously punished for their sins. There is often a 'born again' experience. Something shifts in them, resulting in a change of heart that can last an hour or a lifetime.


But there comes a day, hopefully, when the gracious Father-God of Jesus dawns on them, and they can move beyond the God-Image of the punitive cross, developed by the Jewish legal theologian of temple sacrifice, Saint Paul, to the gracious God-Image of Jesus. Jesus presented a radical new God-Image that loved people simply because they existed as humans, with their failures and successes, warts and blemishes. But until that awakening to grace, these retributive, self loathing legalists must continue to vent their hatred via a God-Image that includes wrath, justice, slaughter and divine retribution.


Speaking as one who has been through this process and is still recovering, let me warn you, keep your eye on these folks, for they are often filled with manipulation and deceit, hidden agendas and secret addictions which not even their spouses or Christian friends know about. These hidden demons will one day pop out like a jack-in-the-box. You can bank on the fact that a person who worships a God who must slaughter His son in cold blood, is often a person harboring some dark secrets, a person who contains a psychological vault packed with self contempt and unconfessed troubles. A human being cannot believe in such a vindictive God and not be growing a festering tumor of anger, resentment and hatred. But they will tell you, and often actually believe, that they love everyone.

These people ingeniously project their self centered attitudes, bigotries and resentments through a lens they call God and the Bible. Just before I was forced out of the movement, I remember feeling like the Great and Terrible Oz thundering from behind his gigantic screen with flashing lights. I recall justifying my condemnation of humanity by wrapping my judgments in Bible verses which I arrogantly called "God's Word."

These people either begin by despising the human race, or end up that way. When they look in the mirror, they hate what they see; so they re-crucify that hideous image each day with Jesus, and make it their mission to crucify anyone who might question their system of self annihilation and going unconscious.

It is their belief in a justly offended God which allows them to non-chalantly consign the majority of the human race to eternal, conscious punishment. It is their belief in a narrow, doctrinaire God which causes them to condemn those 'heretics' and 'cultists' who might do good works, yet believe the 'wrong' things. It is a belief in their minority-superiority status that causes murderous hatred for people like Jesus, Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. who would teach human equality before God and man.


So yes, I do see a place for the bloody cross as a starting point for those of us who must begin the spiritual path with a God who hates us for our myriad sins and catastrophic failures. The cross gives us a place to lay our sins and self loathing, a place to delete our failures, and an entry point where we could never imagine ourselves good enough to to be embraced by a God of universal love and unconditional acceptance. But the cross ought to move us to a resurrection and ascension. Sadly, many such people hang a cross over their church altars, around their necks and then live in the shadow of their narcissistic self-introspection and chronic resentments. They wonder why they are so depressed, bored and irritable. They wonder why their bodies are often sick and lacking energy. It is because they have not moved from the Mosaic God of wrath, to the gracious God of Jesus the Christ.

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