I have truly held belief in a non-violent atonement for years but have had difficulty finding peers that could grasp this. After all, Jesus died violently on a cross! But today Richard Rohr reminded me of why I believe this.
The God that loves me, the God that I know and serve cannot be a God that needs to be satisfied by spilled blood. It just goes contrary to everything I know about God. Richard said, “Jesus did not come to change the mind of humanity about humanity, but to change the mind of humanity about God!” Again, we have to “get it” that all of this really isn’t about us as much as it is about God.
Calvary revealed to us all that had always been true – we kill what we should love. Richard reminded us of Leviticus 16 where on the Day of Atonement, the priest would put all the sins of the people onto a goat, and then the goat would be beaten into the desert (thus the term scapegoat). Christians still continue this practice today by putting our sins onto other people as we hate or oppress them. A sociologist once said that there is no other culture that hates another group and then kills them with impunity. It starts by hating ourselves and trying to hold onto that. But it has to go somewhere so we put this hate of ourselves onto others. People who don’t live like we do, or look like we do, or work like we do, etc. This scapegoat mechanism is THE building block of culture and it holds groups together with the enemy as the common thread. The Tea Party is good at this for example. Richard reminded us that true worship is gathering around what we love, not what we hate. However this type of worship won’t build mega churches or fill stadiums. For that to happen, people have to be against something!
Jesus became the problem to reveal the problem. You kill what you should love. Jesus, the most perfect man who ever lived, was judged by not only the church, but by power. Was judged wrong to show how wrong power could be. The crucified Jesus is the great clarifier of the issue where culture wants to exclude or expel people. He critiques those who expel or exclude. He includes all! When Jesus met people, he never asked if they were a member in good standing in their religion; he never asked if you had been married before; he never asked if you were gay; he never asked – he just touched and healed and loved. The centrality of the cross revealed the scapegoat mechanism so we wouldn’t scapegoat anymore!
Jesus could do this because he was more than just Jesus of Nazareth. He was the Cosmic Christ, the blueprint that revealed the cosmic eternity. God would have revealed God’s self whether or not we had done right or wrong. Jesus came to point out that “religion” was flawed! That instead of being in the sin management business, we should be in the LOVE ALL/FORGIVE ALL business.
After all these years, you would think that we would have gotten it by now! But we still build temples and churches that separate the sacred from the profane or secular. All that God created is sacred! The Christ mystery overcame that separation. Jesus is the blueprint of LOVE!
Humanity started worshiping Jesus rather than following him. Jesus invites us to follow him into the sacred creation of God’s love. Can we do that without projecting our sin onto others? Can we honestly and completely love others? With God’s love we can.