Good Friday thoughts:
I don’t believe in substitutionary atonement. As I’ve commented in the past, I don’t believe God set up all of creation, called it good, then turned around and ‘tested’ the first two people, who – of course – failed the perfection test, whereupon God HAD to declare ALL of humanity fallen forevermore, destined for hell, until God finally sent Jesus, God’s own son, who God had murdered so God could call it even-steven-all’s-forgiven.
Another reason I don’t believe the substitutionary atonement story is because the focus then becomes ME. I am such a worm. I have sinned. I have fallen short. I am the reason for every lash, every thorn prick, every pound of the hammer. Me, me, ME. It’s all about ME. I spend my finite emotional energy feeling ‘bad’. And doesn’t that feel good? Look at how contrite I am. Look at how Christian I am.
Except that’s not what Jesus asked me to do. He was pretty darn clear about where he wanted his followers to spend their time and energy. And that was in feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the under-clothed, caring for the sick, visiting the imprisoned.
Jesus’ statements were truly visionary in light of today’s world, where companies like Nestle are buying up water rights (including the right to rain water), which means that poor people in many parts of the world have NO ACCESS to water at all.
His statements were truly visionary as we look at America, which refuses to provide all of its citizens medical care, instead doling it out to those who can pay, and turning a blind eye when the financially insecure are ruined, or when the poor die.
And when he commanded his followers to do these things, he did NOT add the caveat, “If they’re deserving.” He didn’t ask us to set up a complicated system to be sure only the ‘truly’ needy received help. He didn’t ask us to judge everyone to be sure ‘cheaters’ weren’t included. He didn’t ask his followers to be watchdogs for ‘laziness’. (In fact, he had a pretty pointed parable that advocated for equal pay regardless of hours worked.)
No, what he said was: FEED. GIVE WATER. CLOTHE. PROVIDE MEDICAL CARE. VISIT.
And he also said DON’T JUDGE. He said this a LOT.
When I play the ‘who is deserving‘ game, I become the judging crowd who shouts, “Crucify him!”
“Why don’t they just get a job?” Crucify!
“Why don’t they get a BETTER job?” Crucify!
“Why don’t they move? (But not here)” Crucify!
“They must be lazy.” CRUCIFY!
These statements are the nails. If I say them, if I believe them, I am the hammer. I am the rough, unfeeling, unyielding cross upon which Jesus bleeds.
For me, the meaning of the crucifixion is clear. Stand up for justice, not ‘legality’. Stand up for food for all, water for all, clothing for all, health care for all, compassion for all. Then, and ONLY then, may I kneel at the cross and say, My God and My Savior. Anything else is wallowing self-service.