On gods we can't get jiggy with.
Occasionally I think that a Christianity of the mind is no Christianity at all. Who cares what someone thinks? I can't see thinking; I can see only action.
And yet sometimes what we think can change almost all our understanding of life and the concomitant actions that follow. A cruel God inflicts a cruel salvation, and the people under that cruel salvation then use cruelty as a means of achieving righteousness.
We have a system in our land where cruelty is the meaning behind our criminal justice system, our systems of supporting people, our systems of providing benefits, our systems of forming tax policies, our systems of education, of politics, of business, of entertainment. And of religion.
Because I grew up in America where I was treated as a member of the class who should by divine right and the Constitution be given full rights at the expense of all those who were created and designated as people with conditional rights, it was formed in me—and when I became aware I chose that formation—that cruelty is justice, dominance is truth, and privilege & power are duty for people like me to hold and wield against all others.
We can talk about that kind of social epistemology some day and somewhere else, but my point is that having cruelty as the basis of a religion inevitably sets the ground rules for everything that follows. We serve a God of cruelty who is only reluctantly kept from smashing us to the ground as worms because the Beloved Son (!) was there to stand in place much as a battered wife protects her children from an abusive husband who is just *waiting* for another chance at a smackdown. That kind of God is waiting for us to step out of line by a millimeter so that God's wrath can "finally" be set free to destroy us as unwanted and unloved. Salvation is entirely conditional upon our good behavior, and even the fact of Jesus' death is only barely enough to deflect God's wrath but we can step out line and see a taste of what Jesus faces from this God of wrath.
Who we are then told "loves" us.
Not going to say that every family on earth would not have abuse if they didn't believe in such a God, but it sure seems like having such a religious belief would tend to give abusers an incentive to act like God in righteous fury. And those of us who grew up in such a family can understand a God like that, a parent like that, one who is just waiting for the right moment to let fly the fists when the protector isn't around to serve as a shield with their body against the physical, emotional, and mental abuse.
So yeah, it does matter what we think about ourselves and our God, and what we think about how God loves us and what that love means.
It's hard for me to understand a God who says I am fully loved while simultaneously keeping in the back of my head "but given a chance, God would go right back to abuse, and only the Beloved Son (!), eternally watching out for a recurrence of that abuse, will save us from that abuse—as long as we stay on point.
I have a hard time with the idea that the ideal parent is one who is consumed with wrath and fury *and* who also wants to embrace me with those same arms that would be loosened against me if I were not protected by another.
Such a belief, such a religion would make me feel disconnected, unsure, unwanted, unloved, no matter the words and even no matter the actions.
A belief in a God who originates from love and love only is a far different God than the one under which I was taught to obey "in fear and trembling." Such a God who delights in love and who abandons wrath is a God *worth* knowing, loving, and serving *with a whole heart liberated by love*.
It's a turning point, to know such a God.
I'm grateful to the people who have been saying this for years even while I wasn't listening. At some point in time, God is good and will break through to free us from those false beliefs that twist our minds and push our behaviors.
I'm grateful to you for the reminder, and for the realization again that God is good, all the time. To know that is to know peace in times of trouble.
You are a gift, Trey, and your heart and transparency and trust are a gift. I appreciate that you are here to be speaking and thinking and acting in ways to show what happens when we let go of the God of abuse and turn to the God of eternal, undying (!), consistent, faithful love to those of us who stray and seek to come home.
Until recently I didn't even know that I was raised to believe in "penal substitutionary atonement" (learned that from Kyle Howard) but MAN is it a deep root to dig out! Everything down to God's character and my identity got tied to it. I'm grateful for your preaching in protest; it is very much needed!
Oof, I've never thought of it as starkly as this, as believing I should be flayed publically because I'm a human with some inherent sin nature. But yeah, I guess I used to really see it this way. One time I asked a Bible prof at my college if it was normal to want to be martyred, and he gently articulated something more academic but equivalent to, "um no?!"
Such a belief to hold, so obsessed with death and not knowing how to value flourishing here and now.
Such powerful and liberating words here but I was especially struck by this part: "Jesus doesn’t tell us to pick up our cross because crosses are good. Jesus tells us to pick up our cross because he knows that The Way will upset those with the power to wield death as a weapon.." Thanks so much for this.
"When Jesus 'took our sins on that cross,' he confronts us with the reality of how depraved our world has become. That even the innocent could be subjected to such a course of action reveals that we have no concept of righteousness." Yes!
When you read a poem in my next book about how much I hate the phrase “Christ and Him crucified,” it’s not about you. 😎 It’s written to someone who was obsessed with saying/writing it to me and disowned me in large part because I insisted on talking about oppression and liberation (and the life and words of Jesus, not just his brutal death, which is the only thing she cared about).
"The resurrection is the condemnation of the cross" !👏
“...can kick rocks.” I howled with delight at this last line, reflecting the love and joy I experienced reading the rest of the article.
Thank you for this. You articulated something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on—the argument that Jesus took on the just punishment for our sins presupposes that the punishment is just, and it self-evidently is not. I’m still unlearning the PSA theology I grew up with, and this helps untangle some things
Side note: Always appreciate your perspective on the Bible. It challenges me to think differently and question a lot of the harmful teachings instilled in my life. (Waiting on a release date, bro!)
I love your enlightening of the crucifixion. The fundamentalists are simply either your in or your out. I prefer inclusion, Christ means the annointed one for ALL! Thank you for expanding our thinking!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the churches took down their crosses and replaced them with ... fish? Loaves and fish? The Holy Spirit divebombing dove? Flames (too hellish?)? Individual symbols?
What do you think of the method of evangelizing that says we need to make sure people know that they are sinners deserving of death so that they can realize they need a Savior? pretty much every western evangelical was taught this way so I don't think it's really about pin pointing one teacher but the idea as a whole. Do we need to activate people's conscience to sin with Hell and death in order to show their need for a Savior? Assuming the person is otherwise quite happy. Obviously you don't have to reply, I know you're busy. It's up to you!
Normally I agree with you and honestly, I WANT to agree with you, but that post doesn't make sense in my head. This conversation would probably be better off as an email or DM, but I truly don't understand this post. I've always been taught (and that's the problem) that Jesus is the substitution for our sins. That because we sin, WE deserve that kind of death and torture because that's how Jesus resolved the situation. Jesus "took our place on the cross and died for us" so that we (those who believe in him) didn't have to. But I also think assuming any of us could've taken his place on the cross also assumes that any of us could have atoned for the world's sins and that's not right either.
I agree (and others I've talked to have pointed this out) that if God takes pleasure in his son being tortured and crucified to pacify his wrath, then is that a god we really want to serve?
I'm not arguing your opinion. I think it's a good one. But I legit don't understand it probably because I've been taught for 20+ years to think otherwise. "Worm theology."
Definitely some good food for thought, brother.
I wish there was a double-like button.
I am so thankful for this on-line community.