Sunday, February 8, 2009
Jesus without Atonement Theology
I can remember the day I emotionally left the Church. It was in Leeds, North Dakota listening to my brother (a Lutheran Pastor) give a sermon on Good Friday. It wasn't because of my brother's preaching (although he has gotten much better through the years); it was because it was during that service that I could no longer stomach Atonement Theology.
This idea that a jealous God would require his "only Son" to be put to death to save my soul seemed to cheapen what was really going on in Jerusalem that day. I saw Jesus's death as a political death. Yes, a sacrifice. But not a Salvific One that makes up for Eve's betrayal in the garden.
I drifted away from the Church. All plans to become a Lutheran Pastor put aside.
Doesn't mean my interests in spirituality or Jesus waned. I continue to read many inspirational books from a variety of Faiths and Teachers. Some Christian; but many from other Faiths (and New Agers). And my interest in Jesus hasn't subsided. I continue to read all sorts of folks who write about Jesus: J.D.Crossan, Marcus Borg, Bishop Spong, Bart Ehrmann, Elaine Pagels and others (mostly from the "Jesus Seminar").
Within the past few years I have drifted back to the Church. Episcopal. I missed the beauty of the liturgy. And Episcopalians are tolerant. In fact, there seems to be a new Christianity emerging..and the Episcopal Church is in the lead.
In fact, at Church last week I picked up a great book in the Church library. "The Last Week" by J.D. Crossan and Marcus Borg. The Jesus Seminar has matured and now is reaching out to those of us who would like to incorporate the "historical Jesus" into our lives. Scholarship married to Faith.
They approach the Gospel of Mark with a damning critique of Atonement Theology. This book made me feel as if I could be a Christian again. I don't have to leave the Church just because a rather bizarre theological dogma gets in the way.
Suddenly the Jesus Project comes alive. It is "the way" he lived. The way He remains present with us. The mystery!--without some St. Anselmian syllogism of blood sacrifice. We can let Jesus off the Mel Gibsonian meat hook. And let Him lead.
The Church is recreating itself. Finally.