the idea of sacrificial killing to assuage an angry god or gods seems to be implanted deep in our psyche. we look at the vagaries of life, and we seek a reason for the good and bad things that happen to us. the unexplained causes of drought, of catastrophic weather, of debilitating or terminal illnesses beg for underlying reasons. we can see that our ancient ancestors who had no scientific understanding of natural phenomena that seemed senseless and threatening turned to supernatural explanations: the flood which drowned our kinsmen or the strong wind that destroyed our homes and crops must have come because the gods are angry with us, so we must make sacrifices to make amends. the spilling of blood as a mark of repentance and reverence for the gods is common to many cultures, a way of pushing back the darkness of inexplicable mysteries. the impulse to do something to ward off misfortune is natural to our species.
we persist in confirming the ancient myth when we affirm the necessity of an atoning death to "wash away our sins." many of us who call ourselves christians perpetuate the belief that an angry god required the sacrifice of jesus to allow our sins to be forgiven. during this season of lent we are constantly reminded of the intense suffering of jesus during his crucifixion. we hear the scriptures which speak of an innocent lamb being sacrificed on our behalf, of the suffering servant, of one who was despised and rejected, and hear the beautiful choruses from messiah which tell us that "surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows! he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him," and "with his stripes we are healed," quoting the words of isaiah 53:4-5.
we are reminded that jesus and that angry god that required the death of jesus to atone for all of humanity are one, so that it was god who died on the cross in roman palestine. we are told that this horrible death was necessary so that we could see how much God loves us. yet, isn't this a continuation of the age-old story of unfathomable deities who afflict us with random acts of violence and destruction in order to explain away that which seems impossible to understand, gods who require blood to be spilled to quell their anger, when we have to invent reasons for that anger and methods to alleviate it?
wouldn't it be simpler to believe that bad things often happen randomly or because we have interfered with the natural order of things, that floods come because we have destroyed the vegetation that slowed the flow of the waters over the land or because we have built dams in the wrong places, that our abuse of the environment has created storms of increasing frequency and intensity? we repent of the wrongs we have done by taking steps to undo the harm we have done. we accept that sometimes bad, or good, things happen for no reason, and we seek the tools to deal with them. if we believe in a loving God, that God doesn't require the spilling of blood by way of atonement, rather God requires us to share the love that is poured out on us.
may we cease participating in a myth rooted in our ancestors' inability to explain that which happened to them. may we embrace a God of love, if we embrace any God. may we accept that bad things happen for no reason. may we support one another when those bad things come. shalom.