Saturday, December 27, 2008
Morning meditation - Dysfunctional theology creates a hell on earth
"The doctrine of atonement valorizes violence as life-giving and redemptive. The interpretations of Jesus' death on the cross as a saving event speak of the violation that happened to Jesus as the will of God and the source of salvation. When this theological perspective prevails, either explicitly or buried within cultural patterns, the violence and abuse that human beings experience or perpetrate become valorized as necessary and good for the salvation of the world."
Rebecca Ann Parker, Blessing the World, p. 32
Rebecca Ann Parker describes in the quote above what Walter Wink calls "the myth of redemptive violence." If God can torture his own Son to save the world, then surely human beings who copy this mythic God are justified in torturing and killing for what they consider to be redemptive reasons.
And so the death penaly, militarism, domestic violence, child abuse, vengeance, retribution, attacks and punishment, are seen as holy work, as doing the will of a mythic God which humans have created in their own minds and culture.
Spare the rod and spoil the child. This hurts me more than it hurts you. I am punishing you for your own good because you deserve it. We believe that misbehavior deserves punishment because justice demands it - do the crime, do the time.
And so in accordance with a dysfunctional theology, we continue to inflict pain and suffering on each other. This is nothing Jesus taught although vengeance and retribution certainly are depicted in the Old Testament and in myths from all historic cultures.
And what is the Unitarian Universalist response to the myth of redemptive violence? Silence for the most part. We have not preached actively against it. We have not promoted models of managing injustice and suffering which offer other options for dealing with misbehavior, crime, personal affronts, slights, and injury.
In our own families have we taught our children how to rectify injustice and forgive? In our personal relationships have we healed them or are they still in disrepair? Do we have a religion that helps us to repair our alienated relationships and make them right again? What are the stories? What are the models that we present for right relationship especially when harm has been done? Do we have stories of restoration and forgiveness that work, that we can teach to others, that offers a new way of life?
We have learned in the third millenium that the myth of redemptive violence is dysfunctional. Can we envision a better way? Jesus does give us a hint when he says that the way to the kingdom is to "love as I have loved". The Buddha offers an idea of detachment and offering a non anxious presence. Clues, but it is up to us to give them life. What is clear is that a dysfunctional theology has created hell on earth.