The longer I am out of Christianity the more upsetting I find the violent depictions and convoluted justifications of God’s execution of Jesus. Evangelicals hold up the cross as the ultimate expression of God’s love and grace. From my perspective it looks like the appeasement of an angry God who demands a human sacrifice. The only way the cross looks like love is if you have been convinced that you are wretched, depraved, wicked, and unworthy of God’s love and that the only remedy is a human sacrifice.
The Foundation of the Evangelical Christian Identity is that You are a Hopelessly Depraved Sinner
In order for the gospel to be “Good News” a person must first be drowned in despair, self-hatred, and hopelessness. A person must be traumatized and terrified by the Wrath of God that is directed at them personally. A person must first embrace their primary identity as a wretched sinner, as an object of God’s wrath, and as a certain eternal prisoner of Hell.
David Platt wrote the New York Times best seller Radical: Taking Your Faith Back From The American Dream, was President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, and is the pastor of Washington D.C. mega-church McLean Bible Church. David Platt articulates the Evangelical Christian’s primary identity before God as a hopeless sinner and object of God’s wrath in his article, “Does God Hate Sin But Love the Sinner?”.
“When we see God’s holy hatred of sin and holy judgment of sin, we must be careful not to think that this is something outside of us. Sin is a part of who we are. It is who we are. We are sinful, rebellious men and women against a holy God. Sin is ingrained into who we are. When we see God’s holy hatred due sin and His holy judgment due sin, yes that rests upon sin, but not as if it were outside of us. It is not as though His wrath and judgment are simply against what we do, whether it be lust, lying, or cheating. We are sinners at the core of our being and God’s holy hatred of sin therefore rests on the sinner.“
Pimps have long practiced a perverse combination of love and abuse to break down a vulnerable young woman’s self esteem and foster dependence upon the abusive pimp. It reaches a point where the young women sells her body and then hands over the money to a man who physically abuses. The pimp may provide a syringe full of the heroin that the broken woman craves to quiet the physical craving and provide a few moments of emotional escape.
The relationship of the pimp to a prostitute only makes sense when you understand how the pimp has broken and twisted the young woman’s identity. From the woman’s perspective the pimp seems like the best option. And when through fear and self-hatred you are convinced that you deserve God’s wrath and you deserve Hell the idea of a human sacrifice on your behalf starts to sound like a good idea. Better Jesus than me. God needing to kill Jesus actually starts to make sense. And the bible makes it clear that God is really angry with you. Wrath is the word of choice. So it makes sense that Jesus didn’t just need to die in his sleep. Jesus needed to be killed in a brutal and inhumane way. Maximum pain and terror and…of course… blood. A lot of blood. Christians love to sing songs about Jesus’ blood. Christians love to say they have been washed in Jesus’ blood. Christians love to wear an electric chair as an accessory.
Jesus Bloody Execution is an Expression of Love
Romans 5:8-9 says:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!”
Mel Gibson famously depicted the sadistic violence of Jesus’ torture and crucifixion. The brutal flogging that ripped Jesus’ flesh. The beating. The crown of thorns pressed into his skull. Nails pounded through Jesus hands and feet into a wooden cross. Jesus stumbling under the weight of his cross to Golgotha. Jesus exposed to the elements and public humiliation as he hung on the cross. Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God abandons Jesus. And Jesus takes his last breath hanging on a cross.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us….”
If this is a demonstration of God’s own love I don’t want it.
This isn’t love.
Does love require sadist torture and brutal, bloody murder?
No. That is not love.
Does love require measures of flesh to compensate for offenses?
No. That is not love.
Is the foundation of a loving relationship a murderous transaction?
No. That is not love.
Is human sacrifice required to appease the Wrath of God?
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
It should be obvious to you but I know it isn’t for many of you. I know that because I didn’t realize it for decades:
This Is Not Love!
These are the actions of a sadistic psychopath.
The ends do not justify the means.
These are the pagan understandings of God from the Ancient Near East, thousands of years old, that we have now outgrown.
I Know You Have Experienced God’s Love
I know you have experienced God’s presence. You have experienced God’s love in a transforming way. God’s love has touched you and transformed you. You have had these experiences in Christian churches. In Christian Bible studies. In Easter services. These experiences are true. God is true. But you beliefs are not. There is One Ancient Light that has been shining truth through the cracks of your largely false, organized religion. Let go of your pagan beliefs and follow that light that has reached out to you through the cracks.
(see my article True Experiences, False Beliefs).