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The Hare and The Cross

Recently on FB I saw a depiction of a hare carrying a cross. It appealed to me so much, I regret not downloading the image. Now, as I can't find it, have no idea where I saw it and can't find it on the web, I may as well accept that it's probably gorn, gorn furrever.

My background is partly Catholic; My father was devout, my mother more inclined to believe in UFOs. I would describe myself as an eclectic pagan. Christianity belongs in part to my body of belief, which also included elements of Sufism, animism, Wicca, druidry, etc, etc. When I was initiated into the Fellowship of Isis, Sofia and the Gnostic Spirit of Christ were among my patrons.

I lose things all the time, and constantly invoke St Anthony of Padua for help, which somehow seems to work out. I owe him a pilgrimage, and today will spend some time in prayer and meditation, because he did me a favour and it's something he would like.
Though there are deeper and more mature elements to my spirituality, there remains this folksy childish aspect, which is also quite practical. Talk to Tony, Tony helps, Say Thanks to Tony. Today and yesterday mark a solemn moment in the Christian tradition, the torture and death of Christ. I always felt, I still feel, for the abandoned man who did nothing wrong and suffered so terribly. But in the very depths of my heart, no amount of Christian wrangling could make me accept it as my fault.

'His blood was shed to atone for your sins,' they told me.

'His blood absolved our sins...' But God was omnipotent. Surely all God had to do was say,'FFS, it's an apple. You are forgiven. Go forth and be excellent to each other.'
I was no facetious child looking at the story from the outside and tearing it to pieces in an attempt to be clever. It was a story of torture, and I would never laugh at it. But neither could I accept that somehow this connected to an inherent evil within me. I hadn't taken the apple, didn't see how scrumping could condemn the whole human race, and my sins were little crappy ones. Seriously. I had to make stuff up for the confessional.

I remember exasperated nuns talking to me. 'Look within yourself,' they said, 'And you will see the many ways you have failed Him. Christ died to redeem that nature, blood for your soul, so that you could live forever.'

Well, no jesting at all, I was very grateful for that. But, with no attempt at badmouthing or smarts, I just couldn't get it. What sin had I committed that was so grave someone had to die to put it right?

'God sacrificed his only son...'To whom? To himself? Why was that necessary? Was it a rule? Why was it a rule? Who made it a rule? What would a blood sacrifice achieve anyway? His ball, his game, surely. So we went round and around in circles, the nuns convinced that I was a demonically freckled incarnation of hubris. But while I could be sorry for Christ the person, and I could certainly feel for a heavenly creature suffering the horrors of human cruelty, I couldn't take the blame for it because I hadn't done anything.

'You talk too much and you have a way of speaking that makes you sound as though you know more than your teachers,' They told me. Now this was true, and here was a sin indeed - for one brief moment I wanted to laugh and prove them right by saying 'like the Christchild in the temple?' But this blasphemy would have had me right Back In The Jug Agane.

The proper way for me to show respect was to be silent and sorry, to feel the weight, the debt I could neither repay nor understand. God did not want my understanding. He wanted my emptiness and remorse. I was hopelessly flawed, and my finest destiny would be to become a cup for his shining light, a grail. It was as though God made me a hare and then decided he liked everything about me except my long legs, long ears, googly eyes and buffy tail. Get rid of all those, humble me, silence me, still my mind, cripple my body, and make me an nonhare, having made me a hare in the first place, and I might yet atone for the original sin I was born with because God couldn't or wouldn't just absolve it. He'd rather see his son tortured and killed, and create the ultimate millennia spanning guilt trip. Over 40 years on, with rather more grasp of my own nature, I still don't get it.

There's much to learn, I accept that, and I will attempt to consider more, especially today and tomorrow. But for now, this is what makes me the hare under that cross; I will help if I can, carry as much as I can carry. But no-one will ever convince me I built the damned thing.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
romney
Apr. 19th, 2014 05:08 pm (UTC)
"I was a demonically freckled incarnation of hubris." I do like your way with words!
smokingboot
Apr. 21st, 2014 10:03 am (UTC)
Thank you, kind sir :-) The nuns, on the other hand, viewed my words with deep suspicion!
semyaza
Apr. 19th, 2014 07:20 pm (UTC)
You needn't be trapped by the nuns' view of the atonement. There are better ones.
smokingboot
Apr. 21st, 2014 10:05 am (UTC)
I don't really know where to find those other views, my scholarship's a bit idiosyncratic. If you have any pointers I would be very grateful and interested to check them out.

Edited at 2014-04-21 10:05 am (UTC)
semyaza
Apr. 21st, 2014 09:12 pm (UTC)
I'm interested in Anabaptist theology (not least because the Reformed churches hated the Anabaptists at least as much as they hated Catholics and that amuses me). At the moment, I'm reading J. Denny Weaver's The Nonviolent Atonement which you can read snippets of here and quick reviews of here and here. Hostetler's review is very good (and I assume he's Mennonite so knows the background, as it were). You might not want to spend much time with this but I find it helpful to remind myself - especially in an environment where people tend to march in lockstep - that there are other ways to view a thing and that if something doesn't seem to make sense, it probably doesn't make sense.
smokingboot
Apr. 22nd, 2014 12:14 am (UTC)
Thank you, it is very useful indeed; From a basic skim, I like the sense of the Narrative Christus Victor.
I am so used to working from Catholic scripture, this is very refreshing,

You are right about the things that don't make sense. I still don't know why our acceptance of a violent judge was so important - perhaps the status quo modelled God in its own image, and wanted to believe the opposite.
semyaza
Apr. 22nd, 2014 12:55 am (UTC)
Yes. As one reviewer of The Nonviolent Atonement said: "Anselm's account depends on the logic of the medieval penitential system and the presuppositions of feudalism, where protecting the lord's honor was an all-important consideration. Penal substitution similarly reflects the "law and order" priorities of those thoroughly identified with the prevailing system-ruling-class, white, male clerics."

When Reformed theologians express concern about 'dangerous' views on the atonement, it's hard not to think 'we're not dealing with a 400 year history of the church, we're dealing with a 2000 year history (and onwards)'. Every age creates its own orthodoxy - and often gets stuck there.

Gut instinct's not a bad thing. I've always been disturbed by the passage in the Gospel of John which says:

"As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him."

But now, today, I find that this is (possibly) a mistranslation and should read: "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but the works of God must/should be revealed in him.”

Huh.
smokingboot
Apr. 22nd, 2014 09:12 am (UTC)
I like that very much.
november_girl
Apr. 20th, 2014 12:08 am (UTC)
Very interesting and beautifully put.
smokingboot
Apr. 21st, 2014 10:06 am (UTC)
Thank you November_Girl. I was just a baffled kid...
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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