…concluding yesterday’s thought
The reason Yvonne Johnson was able to "escape her reality" was because of a formulaic and transactional Christianity. As in: Believe that Jesus died, "the Just for the unjust, as a substitutionary sacrifice, and that you are justified on the ground of His shed blood", and you are saved.
Yvonne said she did find moments of consolation in being convinced she was "saved", but it never lasted. Her story shows that it nearly proved fatal, witnessed by her suicide attempts and self-abuse.
Of course this was her experience. But I wonder if a richer understanding of God, an understanding of God’s non-violence and complete gratuitousness, would change everything for people like Yvonne.
Most evangelicals would be sensitive to anyone who endured a life of violence and abuse, as Yvonne did. They would go beyond simply telling her that all she needed was to "accept Christ". And they would certainly be careful in attributing anything redemptive to her suffering. And yet, in their prescribing a personal relationship with Jesus, the spectre of a transaction through sacrifice and violence lies at the bottom of how this relationship is entered into. And so, again using Yvonne as an example, she was "saved" by the transactional formula, the formula being only a larger version of what she had habitually seen and experienced outside of Christianity.
Do you see the consequence? The traditional atonement doctrine allows us to be "saved" without having to work out our deepest hurts and most caustic attitudes. At the same time the transaction between God and his Son, in some sense, lets us off the hook, because we are only peripherally involved. In God’s plan Jesus had to be sacrificed, had to be the payment, we were just God’s instruments.
But what if God is non-sacrificial, non-violent, that is, unlike us? Well, this places the entire weight of the sacrificial scapegoating death of Jesus upon us. We discover that we are the "sacrificers". And this, I submit, is far less "palatable" than dividing the responsibility between God and us. As in: Yes we bear guilt but at the same time we were simply unwitting agents in helping God carry out his immutable plan.
No matter how you slice it, penal substitutionary atonement involves God in a retributive act. And where there is retribution and vengeance there can be no reconciliation.
But, mercifully, there is reconciliation. You will recall, from the lips of Christ, that the proclamation of our forgiveness was before his death, and so, without sacrifice. And the resurrection, which is the ongoing presence of the forgiving victim, is our liberation. Because of this we don’t have to secure ourselves against anything or anyone, anymore. We don’t have to scapegoat. And in fact we can live as though death were not.
Involvement with a God who has no retributive side is a vulnerable affair. We are in a position far more fluid and open. It’s a place that is not static or formulaic. As such, we are intimately involved, and are far more responsible for how this relationship will evolve, and therefore how creation will continue to its completion.