Forgiveness Without Blood

As I walked by the Episcopal Church I noticed the blood red door.

The Red Church Door represents the Blood of Jesus. Those who enter the church enter through the Blood of Jesus. Forgiveness and Redemption are made available to sinners through the Blood of Jesus.

One thing Christianity gets right is that humans desperately need forgiveness.

It only takes a flicker of consciousness to become aware of our weakness and failure. The good left undone and the destructive and self-destructive done. The indulgence, the lies, and the squandered. The weakness. The inability. The maddening cycles.

And possibly in an attempt to prevent their recurrence, our brain frequently replays this “cringe-worthy” blooper reel keeping them fresh in our psyche. Many of us can identify with the Apostle Paul:

“For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?”  Romans 7: 22-24

Unfortunately, Paul and Pauline Christianity embrace a binary, false dichotomy. We are trapped in a body of sin and the only solution is the violent, bloody death of Jesus on our behalf.

Two terrible beliefs emerge from this: The first terrible belief is that our sin (weakness, addiction, whatever word you want to use….) is foreign to us like a cancer and must be excised and cut out. In reality we all have a shadow side and it must be accepted and listened to and understood in order to reorder our souls and put things in their proper place. We are not possessed by demons or the devil, we are possessed by our pain and fear. It is only by facing our feelings and our interior landscape that we find our true selves and a better way to live. The second terrible belief is that forgiveness comes through death. Blood must be shed. In the Chronicles of Narnia it was the Deep Magic that required that Aslan be murdered for the treachery of Edmund. Who is this God that requires shredded, bloody flesh to satisfy His Wrath before there is forgiveness? Is that even forgiveness? It sounds like a bloody, pagan transaction, not forgiveness. Would I require that my 2 year old daughter somehow balance the moral scales before forgiving her for drawing on her clothes with markers even though we had warned her many times not to do this? Can forgiveness be founded in violence, blood, and murder? Should we sing songs thanking God for torturing and murdering Jesus and Jesus bleeding profusely?


Humans seem to carry a residual pagan belief that God must be appeased through killing to protect ourselves from God’s anger, whims, and indifference. This week CNN reported:

“Archaeologists in Peru have uncovered the remains of around 250 children sacrificed by the pre-Columbian Chimú civilization. The remains are of children aged 4-12 years old…Archeologists say the children were sacrificed to the Chimú gods in an attempt to end natural disasters linked with the El Niño phenomenon.”

I need forgiveness. But not the kind of transactional forgiveness offered by the Chimu gods or the violent, vengeful, full of wrath God the Apostle Paul and much of the Bible describes.

If there is a God who offers forgiveness I do not believe this God requires that you walk through a Blood Red Door to find God’s forgiveness, love, and presence. I actually do not believe there is a door. We simply need to wake up.


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