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Jesus Dies on the Cross

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we, being dead to sin, might live to righteousness. By his wounds, you are healed.” – 1 Peter 2:24

 

It’s Good Friday and I’m standing barefoot in my driveway with a sledge hammer and a fistful of nails. Scattered around me on the ground are broken pieces of an old church pew, a shattered portrait of Jesus, the small leather Bible I read every single day many lifetimes ago (when I was a good Christian).

It’s been more than a year since I said goodbye to Jesus. Very nearly a full year since Easter came and went with no tidy resurrection narrative for me. It’s Good Friday again and I still have no fucking idea what to do with all the broken pieces of my religion scattered on the ground around me.

I’m in seminary now and I don’t know if I believe enough in God right now to say that God called me here, but I feel like I am exactly where I belong. If there is a God, I hope that they would be pleased with my refusal to settle for the bullshit substitutes for divinity offered to me by my religion.

I do believe that there is faithfulness in my questioning.

///

I am conflicted about Good Friday, because I am conflicted about God and Jesus.

As I attempt to understand these words I have known all my life, I become increasingly aware of how flimsy these constructs really are. They can mean anything to anyone, and any attempt to root them in an external authority is itself an act of belief, and of projection on the part of the believer.

Jesus can be a kind and gentle healer teaching sacrificial love, or Jesus can be a murderous warlord on a bloody horse. God can be suffering on the cross alongside victims of oppression, or God can be pouring out his bloodthirsty wrath on his own son.

The cross, the symbol at the center of this entire day, has entirely different meanings depending on which Jesus we see there. Because these words can mean almost anything, meaning gets lost in the cracks when we talk about Good Friday.

///

I cannot forgive God for His sins.

If the Spirit has anointed me to speak good news for oppressed, I cannot stand silently by when I see the bullshit God does. I cannot read the stories of violence, genocide, and petty egoism willed for His glory and believe the lie that He is Love. Mostly, I cannot forgive him for killing the son of the slave girl in Pharoah’s house.

And as much as it hurts me to say this, Jesus is not innocent of these iniquities. If I believe the Trinity idea (which most Christians say I have to do in order to be a Christian), Jesus is just God on his good behavior. If God was with Jesus when he said “Let the little children come to me,” Jesus was also there the night God murdered the children of Egypt.

I know we’re supposed to believe that Jesus is what God is like, but intellectual honesty forces me look at what God did and ask if this is not what Jesus is like too?

Trust me, I know the progressive theological paths to get around these questions. Read with a Christ-centered Hermeneutic. The Bible doesn’t say what God is like, it just says what people thought God was like. Let Love be final word.

As much as I try to replace the violent God I read about in the inerrant Scriptures with a Christ-like God who is love, the old God is still there. (Where can I go from your presence? Where can I flee from your Spirit?) The God-shaped hole is still so full of bullshit that there’s no room for Love.

I wish I could believe all the beautiful words I have written before, that God is like Jesus, that Jesus is love, that love wins.

But the blood of the son of the slave girl in Pharoah’s house calls out to me from the ground.

I cannot forgive God for His sins.

///

So when they asked me if I was going to contribute anything to the “Stations of the Cross” art exhibit at seminary this year, I didn’t think I had anything to add. Me and Jesus and God are not on speaking terms, for the the reasons I just told you.

What does Easter have to do with me?

I ignored the email for a while. Then one day I passed the art professor in the hall and inquired if there were any stations yet unclaimed for the art project. She told me there was just one left: Jesus Dies on the Cross.

“Can I use scissors and nails?” I asked.

“Yes.

“Ok, I’m in.”

///

One of the things I’ve been grappling with in my theology classes this year is what the fuck I’m supposed to do with the God I believed in.

To just unbelieve seems, at times, too good for Him.

His hands are full of blood.

The blood of the Egyptian children. The blood of the Canaanite children who were slaughtered at God’s command. The blood of Lot’s children.  The blood of every person who was a victim of genocide, sexism, and every other form of oppression enabled by the stuff God wrote in Bible. The blood of every person labeled an abomination by God and driven to suicide. The blood of the unpredestined. The blood of every person God killed to make His plans work, for His own glory, for His ways that are higher than our ways.

I know, we don’t really think God really did all that stuff anymore. We don’t think the God who did all that is the real God. We don’t think all the words attributed to Him in the Bible really reflect Him.

But I believed in Him. That made Him real to me. My mind can unlearn him, my theology can reimagine Him, but He still haunts me. (If I ascend into heaven, you are there. If I descend into hell, you are there.)

I need to be rid of God.

I am ever going to be able to believe in Love, God needs to die.

///

Being found with blood on His hands, God is sentenced to death by Love so that I may finally be free of his wrath forever. And of course, the Son is chosen by the Father to bear the weight of the crimes committed by God Himself.

A long time ago, I memorized a verse that said, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we, being dead to sin, might live to righteousness.” 

Back then, I believed that it was my sins that murdered Jesus. Because I was not perfect, I was deserving of torture. The only way the God who loved me could allow me in His presence was to kill Jesus and then always look at him instead of me.

But as I ponder the sins of God (and they are many), I wonder if Jesus could perhaps bear those sins in his body on the cross. If Jesus was God, perhaps the cross could be the place where God dies and I am set free of Him.

This is why I said yes to Jesus Dies On the Cross.

By his wounds, I am healed.

///

So I took a sledge hammer and destroyed an old church pew.

With each blow, I thought of the countless hours I spent as a child, sitting on a pew just like that one listening to men with beards scream about God. It was in a pew just like that that I learned to be afraid. Afraid of dying. Afraid of hell. Afraid of not being good enough. Afraid of not being loved.

Standing barefoot in my driveway, I built a cross on which to execute the God who has kept me so long from Love.

On the cross, I nailed the small leather Bible I read year after year after year when I was nineteen, twenty, twenty-one. Sitting on the floor of the cult center at six a.m. reading atrocities committed at the hands of God, memorizing entire chapters, trying to feel close to the divine, feeling guilty that I wasn’t feeling loved, feeling guilty that I was falling asleep. This is the book that taught me to hate my desires, to hate my humanity, to hate myself.

As I nailed it to the cross, I felt a stab of sadness. For all the years I spent with that book. For all that was lost in its pages.

Over and around the cross I smashed and nailed and tangled more elements of the religion I followed, symbols of the God I believed. Cassette tapes with songs that I sang though I never believed. Cassette tapes that reminded me of the countless hours I spent listening to Bible teachers on tape tell me lies, lies that became the God I believed in. A portrait of white Jesus, praying in the garden, framed in gold and (now) broken glass. The Jesus I was supposed to follow though he was complicit in the sins of the Father. The Jesus who was supposed to be my best friend, though He was trapped in a book.

At the foot of the cross I piled books full of words about God, reference texts open to “Canon of the Old Testament” and “Biblical Theology” and “Salvation”. So many words that hung like chains around my shoulders, a burden too heavy to bear.

All of these broken images that were God to me are dying, and I am glad. God’s sins (O the Bliss of this glorious thought!) are nailed to the cross and I bear them no more.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord Oh my soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Dies on the Cross

April 11, 2020 | 7 minute read

hand

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we, being dead to sin, might live to righteousness. By his wounds, you are healed.” – 1 Peter 2:24

 

It’s Good Friday and I’m standing barefoot in my driveway with a sledge hammer and a fistful of nails. Scattered around me on the ground are broken pieces of an old church pew, a shattered portrait of Jesus, the small leather Bible I read every single day many lifetimes ago (when I was a good Christian).

It’s been more than a year since I said goodbye to Jesus. Very nearly a full year since Easter came and went with no tidy resurrection narrative for me. It’s Good Friday again and I still have no fucking idea what to do with all the broken pieces of my religion scattered on the ground around me.

I’m in seminary now and I don’t know if I believe enough in God right now to say that God called me here, but I feel like I am exactly where I belong. If there is a God, I hope that they would be pleased with my refusal to settle for the bullshit substitutes for divinity offered to me by my religion.

I do believe that there is faithfulness in my questioning.

///

I am conflicted about Good Friday, because I am conflicted about God and Jesus.

As I attempt to understand these words I have known all my life, I become increasingly aware of how flimsy these constructs really are. They can mean anything to anyone, and any attempt to root them in an external authority is itself an act of belief, and of projection on the part of the believer.

Jesus can be a kind and gentle healer teaching sacrificial love, or Jesus can be a murderous warlord on a bloody horse. God can be suffering on the cross alongside victims of oppression, or God can be pouring out his bloodthirsty wrath on his own son.

The cross, the symbol at the center of this entire day, has entirely different meanings depending on which Jesus we see there. Because these words can mean almost anything, meaning gets lost in the cracks when we talk about Good Friday.

///

I cannot forgive God for His sins.

If the Spirit has anointed me to speak good news for oppressed, I cannot stand silently by when I see the bullshit God does. I cannot read the stories of violence, genocide, and petty egoism willed for His glory and believe the lie that He is Love. Mostly, I cannot forgive him for killing the son of the slave girl in Pharoah’s house.

And as much as it hurts me to say this, Jesus is not innocent of these iniquities. If I believe the Trinity idea (which most Christians say I have to do in order to be a Christian), Jesus is just God on his good behavior. If God was with Jesus when he said “Let the little children come to me,” Jesus was also there the night God murdered the children of Egypt.

I know we’re supposed to believe that Jesus is what God is like, but intellectual honesty forces me look at what God did and ask if this is not what Jesus is like too?

Trust me, I know the progressive theological paths to get around these questions. Read with a Christ-centered Hermeneutic. The Bible doesn’t say what God is like, it just says what people thought God was like. Let Love be final word.

As much as I try to replace the violent God I read about in the inerrant Scriptures with a Christ-like God who is love, the old God is still there. (Where can I go from your presence? Where can I flee from your Spirit?) The God-shaped hole is still so full of bullshit that there’s no room for Love.

I wish I could believe all the beautiful words I have written before, that God is like Jesus, that Jesus is love, that love wins.

But the blood of the son of the slave girl in Pharoah’s house calls out to me from the ground.

I cannot forgive God for His sins.

///

So when they asked me if I was going to contribute anything to the “Stations of the Cross” art exhibit at seminary this year, I didn’t think I had anything to add. Me and Jesus and God are not on speaking terms, for the the reasons I just told you.

What does Easter have to do with me?

I ignored the email for a while. Then one day I passed the art professor in the hall and inquired if there were any stations yet unclaimed for the art project. She told me there was just one left: Jesus Dies on the Cross.

“Can I use scissors and nails?” I asked.

“Yes.

“Ok, I’m in.”

///

One of the things I’ve been grappling with in my theology classes this year is what the fuck I’m supposed to do with the God I believed in.

To just unbelieve seems, at times, too good for Him.

His hands are full of blood.

The blood of the Egyptian children. The blood of the Canaanite children who were slaughtered at God’s command. The blood of Lot’s children.  The blood of every person who was a victim of genocide, sexism, and every other form of oppression enabled by the stuff God wrote in Bible. The blood of every person labeled an abomination by God and driven to suicide. The blood of the unpredestined. The blood of every person God killed to make His plans work, for His own glory, for His ways that are higher than our ways.

I know, we don’t really think God really did all that stuff anymore. We don’t think the God who did all that is the real God. We don’t think all the words attributed to Him in the Bible really reflect Him.

But I believed in Him. That made Him real to me. My mind can unlearn him, my theology can reimagine Him, but He still haunts me. (If I ascend into heaven, you are there. If I descend into hell, you are there.)

I need to be rid of God.

I am ever going to be able to believe in Love, God needs to die.

///

Being found with blood on His hands, God is sentenced to death by Love so that I may finally be free of his wrath forever. And of course, the Son is chosen by the Father to bear the weight of the crimes committed by God Himself.

A long time ago, I memorized a verse that said, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we, being dead to sin, might live to righteousness.” 

Back then, I believed that it was my sins that murdered Jesus. Because I was not perfect, I was deserving of torture. The only way the God who loved me could allow me in His presence was to kill Jesus and then always look at him instead of me.

But as I ponder the sins of God (and they are many), I wonder if Jesus could perhaps bear those sins in his body on the cross. If Jesus was God, perhaps the cross could be the place where God dies and I am set free of Him.

This is why I said yes to Jesus Dies On the Cross.

By his wounds, I am healed.

///

So I took a sledge hammer and destroyed an old church pew.

With each blow, I thought of the countless hours I spent as a child, sitting on a pew just like that one listening to men with beards scream about God. It was in a pew just like that that I learned to be afraid. Afraid of dying. Afraid of hell. Afraid of not being good enough. Afraid of not being loved.

Standing barefoot in my driveway, I built a cross on which to execute the God who has kept me so long from Love.

On the cross, I nailed the small leather Bible I read year after year after year when I was nineteen, twenty, twenty-one. Sitting on the floor of the cult center at six a.m. reading atrocities committed at the hands of God, memorizing entire chapters, trying to feel close to the divine, feeling guilty that I wasn’t feeling loved, feeling guilty that I was falling asleep. This is the book that taught me to hate my desires, to hate my humanity, to hate myself.

As I nailed it to the cross, I felt a stab of sadness. For all the years I spent with that book. For all that was lost in its pages.

Over and around the cross I smashed and nailed and tangled more elements of the religion I followed, symbols of the God I believed. Cassette tapes with songs that I sang though I never believed. Cassette tapes that reminded me of the countless hours I spent listening to Bible teachers on tape tell me lies, lies that became the God I believed in. A portrait of white Jesus, praying in the garden, framed in gold and (now) broken glass. The Jesus I was supposed to follow though he was complicit in the sins of the Father. The Jesus who was supposed to be my best friend, though He was trapped in a book.

At the foot of the cross I piled books full of words about God, reference texts open to “Canon of the Old Testament” and “Biblical Theology” and “Salvation”. So many words that hung like chains around my shoulders, a burden too heavy to bear.

All of these broken images that were God to me are dying, and I am glad. God’s sins (O the Bliss of this glorious thought!) are nailed to the cross and I bear them no more.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord Oh my soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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