This is my response to a lot of what I read and hear about faith and what happened in Aurora CO, and about gun control in the U.S.
There is a huge tradition about Jesus dying “for us” or “for our sins.” The apostle Paul went further and said that the death of Jesus was the end of death itself. Powerful stuff. These are interpretations of Jesus’ death, not the ultimate meaning of his death.
The suffering and death of Jesus are significant because this was the undeserved and gruesome death of a great teacher of love and peace. His suffering and death for me symbolizes the undeserved and horrible suffering and death that befalls anyone and everyone who is such a victim.
The suffering of Jesus was no greater than the suffering of every victim of every crime and political execution and war. Jesus didn’t have to suffer more than anyone else for his death to have meaning for the rest of us. Neither was the suffering of Jesus less painful than it would be for us, because he was divine. If we think of his death in the context of his teachings, we cannot imagine that Jesus wanted us to focus on his suffering. With all his teaching about the Kingdom (Empire or Rule) of God, we can understand that it was his desire that we should all live as if God rules the world. I need to say here that God’s Rule in the context of Jesus’ teachings is no rule at all, at least as we understand law and power and rule.
The main and perhaps the only point of Jesus’ death is that it was wrong. This is a powerful statement because it means that the suffering of all the millions of others who have been tortured,
raped, and killed to suit someone’s desire for power, control, and revenge that has occurred
in a hundred places and situations that we could name – their deaths were and are wrong, too.
Our traditions teach that Jesus died for our sins. I see no way that his death atones in any way for my sins or yours. His death, his spirituality, his religion, his God were about resistance to the uses of power against people. That resistance was non-violent and active, not passive. Jesus died because of our sins, because we want or consent to violence and killing.
The teaching of Jesus that we would rather he hadn’t taught, is to love our enemies. The power of Jesus was his subversive way of viewing the world, living in it, and dying. The power in Jesus' death was the great integrity by which he died for the values by which he lived. There is atonement only if you and I cease to support a system that does violence to people and kills them.
When I ponder the death of Jesus, I don’t see the end of sin as such but a witness to the need for ending cruelty and torture, the death penalty, war, killing, and the end of violence itself. If Jesus in any way died for my sin or sins, or yours, he died so that no one else would have to die as he did.
If Jesus died for our sins, and we wish to follow him, we must renounce violence.
So are you a Christian? How many Christians do you know? Could you become one? I have never been sure about myself. In my best moments I only witnessed to Jesus on these matters.