By R. L. Ryan, DA., Ph.D., Rev. (Unitarian).
I have lost count of the web pages that are proclaiming that Jesus died for our sins and that we did not deserve it. This is the dogma that, for 2000 years, the church, of all shades and persuasions – Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant – has foisted on people in order to elicit guilt and conformity, all the while ignoring and refusing to acknowledge the implicit illogic and, in fact, the implicit declaration that their god is stupid.
If God – a rational deity, so we claim to believe – made a decision to do whatever God decided to do, even if the reasoning is not quite clear to us, supposedly because we do not know all of the relevant factors, then we must assume that that rational God made a rational decision. If God decided to do something, some behaviour, some event, some happening, for the good of humankind, individually or collectively, then it must be because not only that we needed it but, moreover, that we deserve it. To believe anything else is to declare that God is – potentially or actively – irrational, impetuous, unpredictable, uncertain, fickle, unreliable, uncertain, capricious, inconstant, unstable. That is to say that God cannot be trusted.
I believe that God is a rational, loving God, a God that wants us to believe that God can be trusted. Therefore, the only logical, reasonable, rational, explanation for any behaviour of God is that it is for our benefit because we need – and deserve – it.
Any rational, loving, parent who has ever had the privilege of trying to raise children will acknowledge that every good thing that a parent does for a child is because the child deserves that good thing, that loving behaviour, that gentle, sometimes firm, decision of care. When my sixteen-year-old graduated from high school, I refused to give him permission to attend an all-night party (shall I say, “beer party”?) at the local park. At that time, my behaviour was interpreted by him, by his classmates, even by some parents of his classmates, that my behaviour was “undeserving.” The argument was that he was a good boy. He was. That he was a good student. He was. That I should trust him. I did – ordinarily. What I did not trust was the ability of a 16-year old to make rational decisions when the pressure of his age-mates, and class-mates, and even other parents to engage in behaviours that he was not permitted to engage in at home, and in which I did not engage. It appeared to him, at the time, that my behaviour was undeserved. That it made him unhappy.
He is now of an age that his daughter is now graduating from high school, and that the all-nighter is already planned for about a month from now, on the evening after their planned “safe-grad”, by the way, and his daughter is battling the parents for the right to attend the all-nighter at the estate of the parents of one of her classmates, the parents in question apparently being conveniently away for that weekend. His, and their, love and concern for their daughter now brings back memories of his own battle with his own father over the same issue, and he is now going through the agony and pain that only a recalcitrant and determined 16-year old is able to inflict. The battle is being fought. The battle has not been yet won.
Is the parent being irrational, unreasonable. Would a loving, caring, mature parent EVER give his or her child permission to engage in behaviours that are beyond the ability of an immature young person to make rational decisions in the context of peer-pressure of the type that young people face today?
Even if a child is wrong, hard-headed, defiant, does not this child “deserve” only those parental decisions that are in the best interests of the child, however difficult it is for the parent to make these decisions? If mere human parents recognizing the deserving nature of our decisions, how much more so would a supposedly heavenly parent, a loving father-mother-God make only rational decisions for any and all deserving children!
Personally, I, long ago, rejected any notion of Jesus dying for my sins, in the manner exerted on people by the Christian church, any such human sacrifice being undeserving of people and inconsistent with a rational, loving God. Not only did I, long ago, reject it on every possible rational ground that I could imagine, I have since come to understand the Pagan origins of such practices, that Christianity, as typically practiced by “the church” is simply, and no more than, Pagan.
There is no possible argument, except the pagan human sacrifice one, that can be held up as a defence of God sacrificing a son, any son, any child, in such a manner, the childish myth of Abraham sacrificing Jacob as its supposed conceptual preparation. To argue that Abraham “didn’t go through with it” is specious. His hand was stayed! Abraham made the sacrifice. God rejected it!
I recall, some years ago, that a fisherman in a Newfoundland oceanside village had his 12-year old son accompany him out on the ocean and, there, on the heaving swell, cut his son’s throat because God told him to. God told him to make the sacrifice. He had been convinced by his pastor – in his own thinking, at least – that such sacrifices were expected by God. Maybe that poor benighted fisherman expected God to likewise stay his own hand, to magically provide an alternative sacrifice. Apparently, depending on one’s analysis of this sad story, God accepted the sacrifice, or that the man made a tragic mistake.
We come to the conclusion that neither a rational human, not a rational god, would ever willingly take a child’s life unless the circumstances were exceptional. The situation described in the Bible was not, and is not, exceptional. A crucifixion for political expediency should not be turned to hegemony.
Do I honour the crucifixion of Jesus? I most certainly do. Do I believe the story? I do not, certainly not with the colourizing as given it by the Christian church, historically or today.
When we become mature, we must put aside immature ideas and concepts. Certainly, it is time to put away the savage notion of blood sacrifice for our sins.
Does that make me less than Christian? It does not, in my opinion. To reject irrationality is the obligation of any true Christian!