Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

Jesus died for our sins today. I feel bad about that. If anyone should suffer for what I did it should be me. Not that I’m volunteering, mind you. But I still feel bad. I guess I shouldn’t though. Since I’m not a Christian I don’t think his death helps me out at all. I will have to pay for my own sins.

I wonder if my sins will keep me out of heaven. I hope so. Heaven sounds so very boring. If you are a Christian you get to sing the same hymn to God for all eternity. If you are a Jew Heaven is studying Torah with God for all eternity. If you are a Muslim Heaven is sex for all eternity. Honestly, none of these sounds like much fun after the first day or two. Hell might be more interesting. Fire one day; pitchfork in the butt the next day; at least there’s a little variety.

Sixty-five percent of all Americans think they are going to Heaven. Only half a percent think they are going to Hell. This was based on a telephone survey so I imagine the 35% not included in these numbers were too busy sinning to answer the phone.

And what is a sin anyway? In must religions murder is a sin. In some, so is dancing. Murdering someone while dancing might be doubly sinful; and murdering someone while dancing and then lying about it is even worse. Some pastors say sin is egoism, so Ayn Rand is really suffering. Others say sin is going against God’s will. The problem here is knowing what God’s will is. It often includes not dancing.

Honestly, I can’t believe that Jesus died for dancing. But then I don’t think Jesus died for your sins, at all. He died because of the sins of Rome and those Jews who collaborated with Rome. Jesus died because he spoke truth to power. But the only person who will die for your sins is you.

I find the idea that someone has to die for my sins repugnant. I don’t want a cow to die for my sins either, so I am not into the whole Temple thing. I don’t eat cows (I’m not a carnavore), and I don’t eat Jesus (I’m not a Catholic); and no one should suffer because of me (though I know many who do). And I can’t believe in a god who needs sacrifice.

The sacrificial underpinning of Judaism and Christianity reflects an ancient mindset that I hope I have long since abandoned. The only way God can control His anger is to have us kill His Son? Does that make sense to anyone? Of course it makes sense to millions of people, but not to me. If this is what God is about, I’ll take atheism anytime.

Today is the day one of the greatest Jews, one of the greatest humans, of all time was murdered for preaching love, justice, and freedom, and for breaking down the walls we use to create and separate “us” and “them.” We should all mourn his death, and honor his life and teaching. Today is a good day to read the Gospel of Thomas. Find out what this man died for, and then ask yourself, “If I were alive then, whose side would I be on?”


Scott D said...

There's another way to view the necessity of sacrifice. Rather then seeing it as something ancient which we moderns have progressed beyond, perhaps it can be something painfully universal (in time and space).

In Rene Girard's challenging analysis, society is formed through the "sacred" sacrifice of a scapegoat. "Social peace is unanimity minus one." The logic of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, accordingly, is the uncovering of the scapegoat mechanisms, of this perverse yet pervasive sacred violence. This is achieved by seemingly odd, detailed descriptions of social violence that accompany the breakdown of ritual's power. (Korach, Pinchas, Jesus)

There's been some work by "Girardians" to explore Eastern religious thought and practice for signs of sacred violence and elements that also uncover the dynamic. I can forward something of interest if you'd like.

Kind and irreverent regards,

Rabbi Rami said...

I have read Rene Girard on sacred violence, and I am intrigued by his ideas. I would be only too interested in reading what you forward. Thanks, Scott