As I mentioned last Monday, the Spirituality Committee at my school has commissioned me to create a short video meditation for each Monday of Advent. It’s my pleasure to share this video for you to personally use or to share with others:
OK, so the title of this post doesn’t roll off of the tongue very well. And you may be asking: Why should I read about atonement? How does it relate to scapegoating? Or even “What is atonement?
From a Christian theological perspective, atonement refers to how Jesus’ life, death and resurrection reconciled our sins. The “bumper sticker” version of this is “Jesus saves.” Many, if not nearly all, Christians, when thinking about how Jesus saves, adopt a transactional or legalistic view of this process.
Substitutionary Atonement is a general term for this view. The logic supporting it can be summarized:
+ Human sin, both Original Sin and the myriad individual sin flowing from it, offends God’s sense of justice.
+ This justice demands payment or punishment commensurate with the offense committed against God.
+ Since human sin is so massive, there is no amount punishment or ransom humans can endure or offer which can appease God’s justice.
+ Only God’s son – both human and divine – can take upon himself human sin. When he endures the violence of brutal punishment and sacrificially sheds his blood as a stand-in for humans (a substitute) God’s justice is served. And through this sacrifice, God and humanity are reconciled.
A very popular narrative representation of this view of atonement is in C.S. Lewis’ beloved and allegorical “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” Edmond betrays his siblings to the evil character. Even though he is forgiven for this by the Christ-like Aslan, the satanic witch cites the foundational justice of the land which requires traitors to become subject to destruction at her hands.Instead, Aslan takes the witch’s violence himself, thus saving Edmond. And in doing so, an even “deeper magic” come into effect to restore him to life and energize all to defeat evil.
Another bumper sticker sized statement flows from this view of the mechanics of atonement – “Jesus Died For Your Sins.” Adherents of this perspective often emphasize how much Jesus suffered before and on the cross. A correlation is drawn between the magnitude of sin committed by humanity and the amount of pain Jesus endured as a direct consequence. The not infrequently stated: “Your sins drove a nail in to Jesus” is the harsh conclusion of this belief.
The question at the heart of this view of atonement is: “Did God the Father need (or want) Jesus to die in order to save humanity from sin and death?” Certainly Jesus died a violent death at the hands of the Romans. But, did God want/need this? If the answer is “yes,” then violence and the resulting salvation proclaimed by Christianity is sanctified and glorified. The implications cut right to the heart of Christian ethics. Although Jesus lived a life proclaiming peace, if God the Father needs/wants the blood of his son for appeasement, then violence trumps peace as the core characteristic of God’s nature. And consequently, Christians may be justified in similarly using “righteous” violence.
A growing number of theologians are showing how the exact opposite is true – Jesus died as a result of sin, specifically the foundational human sin of scapegoating. God didn’t need/desire this violence, but allowed it, in order to turn it inside out through the resurrection of the innocent, scapegoated victim.
Perhaps the most prominent American Catholic theologian, Bishop Robert Barron, has been speaking more and more about the theology of non-violent atonement. Read or watch below Bishop Barron’s high praise for recently deceased sociologist and theologian Rene Girard who wrote extensively about mimetic theory and scapegoating.
Bishop Barron concludes about Girard:
There are some thinkers that offer intriguing ideas and proposals, and there is a tiny handful of thinkers that manage to shake your world. Girard was in this second camp. In a series of books and articles, written across several decades, he proposed a social theory of extraordinary explanatory power.
Girard also informs the excellent work of The Raven Foundation who offer this video mission statement:
I appreciate the dedicated work of the Raven team who frequently post commentary pointing out the many ways scapegoating happens all around us. Two thought-provoking, recent posts to check out are:
A bonus third post, my favorite one, also referencing a movie:
So, why did I spend time with this long post today? First of all, a week from now, on Good Friday, I hope this post and Girard’s powerful way of re-understanding how atonement happens allow you to experience the cross in a deeper, more profound way. Next, as the violence, especially religiously justified acts, increases in the world, Christians must look at the root of our theology to critique how it may support God-ordained violence. Finally, a deeper understanding of mimetic dynamics, the subsequent scapegoating and its ancient social power should lead all people of faith to prophetically expose this mechanism in order to defuse its seductive power.
It’s another Sunday night and if you’re like me – YOU DON’T HAVE SCHOOL TOMORROW! Sorry to “shout” there, but it’s always nice to enjoy a Sunday night without the preoccupation of having to prepare to teach on Monday morning.
Enjoy these links and take a look into the crystal ball to see the future of technology:
On this first day of the second month of 2016 I offer you a chance to celebrate: National Girls and Women in Sports Day; Change Your Password Day; Car Insurance Day; G.I. Joe Day; and Decorating with Candy Day by enjoying this list of “Best of 2015 Lists”
Why, you may ask, am I sharing these a month and a day after the start of 2016? A simple answer: these links were in my queue for posting by year’s end – and it never happened. Rather than just delete them and move on, I thought there is still value in looking back to find quality books, music, apps, etc from last year. Hence, this “web link clearance” today.
Besides: Do you write 2016 every time you put down the date or do you still sometimes write 2015 by mistake?
Overdrive’s Best Books of 2015 [This is the excellent online portal for ebooks and audiobooks that both of our local library systems use)
I’d planned to make this post before 2015 ended, but it obviously didn’t happen. These links, especially to the calendar pictured above are too good to miss. So, let’s pretend it’s a few days ago and we’re looking back at 2015 before (and not after) 2016 has begun.
This calendar from Slate is pretty amazing. Certainly horrible things happened in 2015 – some (the Paris and San Bernadino terrorist attacks) in the final few weeks. Yet, there were far more good things – in fact at least one per day in 2015.
Do check out the calendar. Click on a day and you’ll get more info on what happened that is deemed “good” (at least by the creators at Slate). What if you don’t think something is good on a certain date? Well, you can rate the event on a scale from “Great!” to “meh.”
Here’s, for your perusal, some other “best of lists” and “looks back” from 2015:
These 14 Characters Stole the Show in 2015 Movies (from the Washington Post)
I have some more lists from 2015 to share, but I’ll do so in another post…
Although it’s not actually Sunday early morning yet, I have a few interesting items I hope to post on this pre-Post-Holiday Return Day. I figure we all need a bit of extra levity as we complete everything we planned to do over the long weekend.
How did you do with your Thanksgiving Reading? I resumed reading a novel (which I started a while ago) – The Bone Clocks – which was one of the top fiction picks of 2014. We’ll see how I do staying with it over the packed next three weeks before mid-terms and then Christmas Break.
I also started reading a short story collection by one of my favorite fantasy authors – Jeff Vandermeer – who wrote the mind-bogglingly singular and creepy Southern Reach trilogy. For obvious reasons, I find that reading a 15 to 20 minute short story is more manageable during my busy days and evenings.
What about reading a one, three, or five minute short story? And how about one that I could quickly print out as I prepared for a daily commute? What if it came out of a vending style machine?
Hand it to the French for creating an actual device to do all of this. Open Culture brought this to my attention and you can learn more about it via this short clip:
Interested in some of the details about how they pull this off? Open Culture tells us:
The Short Édition vending machines, currently only available in eight locations in Grenoble, France, draw from a database of 600 stories chosen by the community atShort Édition’s website, which counts 1,100 authors as members. Presumably, all these stories are in French.
While new, the machines have gathered enough media attention to attract inquiries from Italy and the United States. So look out, you might find one in your area soon.
As the title of the Open Culture post observes – it’s far better to feed your mind with short fiction than your body with empty junk food.
Back in the day when the best way to watch movies at home was to schlep to the video store, I worked in one of those now nearly extinct stores. The busiest days of the year for rentals were the day before Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Apparently, turkey and a movie (as you fall asleep on the couch) was a special, annual treat.
Now, with so many ways to stream movies, TV and more entertainment whenever and wherever you want, I wonder if turkey then a watching a movie from your love seat is still part of many people’s plans. Might the ubiquitous RedBox machines see lines and shortages today?
While my family and I are planning on the special treat of going out to a movie tomorrow after dinner, I’m not looking forward to watching anything over the long weekend. Rather, I have some books ready to be read during these holidays I’m not grading or preparing for class.
If you’re like me, here’s some lists which may help guide your selections:
(Here’s the Top Ten from this list)
1 Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell (free eBook, Audiobook & study resources)
2 To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (free eBook)
3 Animal Farm, by George Orwell (free eBook)
4 Lord Of The Flies, by William Golding (Amazon)
5 Of Mice And Men, by John Steinbeck (Amazon)
6 The Harry Potter series, by J K Rowling (Amazon)
7 A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens (free eBook)
8 The Catcher In The Rye, by J D Salinger (Amazon)
9 Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens (free eBook)
10 Pride And Prejudice, by Jane Austen (free eBook)
Here are the Best Books from 2015 So Far (in August)
And if you read any of these books, will you be able to talk about it with colleagues via an on-line book club?
Regardless of what you read, will you choose it by its cover? If so, here’s some fascinating research on that very topic.
Or maybe you’d like to read this short story composed entirely of 5,000 “tag lines” from movies.
Would this be fiction or non? If the former, reading it can actually transform the functioning of your brain.
Maybe you’d like to read not an ebook on your tablet, but an interactive, digital book. Here’s 10 of the best of this emerging genre.
Or perhaps you’ll tell stories at the dinner table. Research shows that it makes kids voracious readers!
And after dinner, maybe watch a TED Talk or two: