At the close of Easter 2011...

At the end of a very full and rewarding Lent, I bring my reflections on a theology of atonement to a close.  These words by Fr. Richard Rohr grow from the wisdom and insights for Rene Girard.  In a word, this understanding of Christ's atoning work on the Cross is radically different from other theologies - and resonates most closely with my own conclusions. And while I know atonement is always more a mystery than a clear conclusion - and while I still connect with parts of the other theologies - Girard's work speaks most profoundly to me in the 21st century.  Not only have I experienced it in the aftermath of September 11th, I have come to see how the addiction for "scape goats" and "blood lust" helps organize societies and focus religions - not in a godly way - but still very powerfully. 

Today the primary human problem, the core issue that defeats human history, is both revealed and resolved. It is indeed a “good” Friday. The central issue at work is the human inclination to kill others, in any multitude of ways, instead of dying ourselves—to our own illusions, pretenses, narcissism, and self-defeating behaviors. Jesus dies “for” us not in the sense of “in place of” but “in solidarity with.” The first is merely a heavenly transaction of sorts; the second is a transformation of our very soul and the trajectory of history.

The soul needed one it could “gaze upon” long enough to know that it was we who were doing the “piercing” (John 19:37) and we who were being pierced in doing it. Jesus’ body is a standing icon of what humanity is doing and what God suffers “with,” “in,” and “through” us. It is an icon of utter divine solidarity with our pain and our problems. . . .It is our central transformative image for the soul. . . .Don’t lessen its meaning by making it into a mechanical transaction whereby Jesus pays some “price” to God or the devil. The only price paid is to the intransigent human soul—so it can see!

On the cross, the veil between the Holy and the unholy is “torn from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51), the “curtain of his body” becomes a “living opening” (Hebrews 10:20) through which we all can now walk into the Holy of Holies, which on different levels is both our own soul and the very heart of God. Nothing changed in heaven on Good Friday, but everything potentially changed on Earth. Some learned how to see and to trust the contract between God and humanity. God has always and forever loved what God created, “it was always good, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). It was we who could not love and see the omnipresent goodness.

This old song by the grandfather of Christian rock, Larry Norman, still grabs me - I love the salty outlaw feel for it - even though I now reject the theology.  As my boys in the Dead say: "What a long strange trip its been..."  Happy Easter, my friends:  Alleluia, he is risen!


Black Pete said…
I "hear" this and feel you're onto something here, James. But I reminded of a quote attributed to Camus, which goes to the effect that in youth, we know what to die for, but in maturity, we know what to live for.

As someone who finds more to emulate and resonate with in Jesus' life than in his murder, I wonder what he might have shown us had he lived.
Philomena Ewing said…
Happy Easter RJ.
I too am drawn to Richard Rohr these days. I am getting to grips with Girard but I don't find his writing that easy to follow unless it has been simplified.
I posted this from Richard Rohr in the last day or so -
"Jesus is the blueprint, the plan, the pattern revealed in one body and moment of history to reveal the meaning of all of history and each of our lives.

The cross is the banner of what we do to one another and to God.

The resurrection is the banner of what God does to us in return.

Easter is the announcement of God’s perfect and final victory......."

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