Friday, April 22, 2011

A New View of Good Friday

Today is Good Friday, the anniversary of the crucifixion of Jesus. For Jews this was a time fraught with danger. As Christians poured into their churches to hear how the Jews murdered their God, they often poured out of their churches to murder Jews. This is less likely to happen today, though I had a fascinating conversation with a Catholic priest the other day who suggested the times they are a changin’.

It seems the Church is changing the phrase “Christ died for all” to “Christ died for many.” In other words He died only for those who believe in Him, everyone else is damned. The Jews being the consummate outsiders are not included in Christ’s salvific act of sacrifice, and this may, my friend said, lead to renewed anti-Semitism.

While I don’t expect my Catholic neighbors to engage in pogroms anytime soon, he does raise an interesting point: for whom did Christ die?

I don’t believe in substitutionary atonement: no one can pay for another’s sin. I believe in the Gospel According to Pottery Barn: you break it; you buy it. So let me suggest a radically new understanding of Good Friday: God didn’t die for our sins, God died for God’s sins.

God finally realized that He was responsible for the sins of the world. It was His rejection of Cain that led to the killing of Abel. It was He who murdered almost all life in the Flood. It was He who sanctioned genocide after genocide, and called for the slaughter of hundreds of millions of animals. After centuries of this madness, He was, as the Hebrew prophets revealed, sick of it. He just wanted people to be good to one another. But what could He do to make amends and get this message across?

God chose to become one of us to teach us the new Way: the way of love. No temples, no priests, no rabbis, just people loving one another. And then, to make amends for all the killing He had caused, He allowed Himself to be killed as well.

God died for His sins, not ours. And having died for His sins, God can no longer be used as an excuse for our sins. God changed when He died at the Cross. Unfortunately we did not. We kept to the old ways, the ways of worshipping gods who commend and command what would otherwise be thought of as evil. We made of God’s atoning cross a sword with which to continue the bloodstained madness of the now dead god.

So Good Friday must be reinterpreted. Good Friday is the day that God died for His sins that you and I might stop killing in His Name. Good Friday should be the day we stop fostering hate and hurt and murderous acts in His Name. It should be, but I doubt it will be.


Steve Frazee said...

Great post Rami!

Unknown said...

If Jesus ever came back I'd feel sorry for him because he has a lot of people that think he is going to do everything for them, that's for sure. I like your interpretation. Perhaps Jesus just died for wearing his heart on his sleeve and saying what he believed.

Peter Schogol said...


Bill Scott said...

St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans 5:8 says, " But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

It doesn't say "some" or "many," but rather, "Christ died for us."

The problem of "many" stems from the Latin version of the Roman Missal, the prayer book used in Catholic churches.

The prayer of consecration says in Latin " multis..." but was translated "for all" in English:

"Take this, all of you, and eat it:
this is my body which will be given up for you.
Take this, all of you, and drink from it:
this is the cup of my blood,
the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.
It will be shed for you and for all
so that sins may be forgiven.
Do this in memory of me."

The Catholic Church isn't changing its attitudes towards Jews, or anyone else, just trying to translate the Latin into English, which we all know shouldn't be done WORD FOR WORD. We'll see what happens when this new translation starts to be used in November.