The following op-ed was written by Mike Lee and was originally published in the Secular Idaho Newsletter in the Spring of 2011.
With Easter quickly approaching, this is as good of a time as any to revisit the quandaries of the crucifixion story. Why did god send his only son to die in an attempt to compensate for the mistakes that he himself made as the supposed creator? I don’t know an accountant alive (besides maybe an Enron employee) who could make sense of the flawed checks and balances that are being proposed in this reparation scenario; so let’s evaluate.
I get it; in the Old Testament Jewish law commanded an offering to atone for sins – in the New Testament jesus took the place of that offering and died to save mankind. It’s powerful fiction, but it’s really not written much better than Keanu Reeves sacrificing himself in the Matrix trilogy or Bruce Willis saving the Earth in “Armageddon” (except in “Armageddon” it’s the father who gives his life, not the father demanding the death of his only family.) What are the ramifications of celebrating and worshipping the hero of christianity – who has been sent on a suicide mission from his father?
If we are to evaluate the meaning behind jesus’ death as rationally as possible – what would we find? For believers, the “sacrifice of ones life in exchange for the eternal soul of mankind” would be a fairly generic answer. But for the secularist, we find a very different response; the crucifixion story demonstrates a shocking disregard for personal responsibility. According to the christian doctrine, a repeat mass murderer/child molester need only acknowledge jesus’ crucifixion to be absolved of accountability and enjoy heaven for eternity. Whereas the death-bed atheist who has given a lifetime to charity and morality consequently is damned for his lack of faith. Does this sound like the kind of message that a universal hero would be spreading?
Also, does the crucifixion story come off as a bit more romantic than it should? Do the images of a toned and half-naked jesus hanging on the cross, giving his life for humanity just seem to come off as a bit erotic? Of course the death of jesus had to be sensational and over-the-top. Where’s the drama in jesus slowly passing away in his sleep? (The sins of the world hanging silently over jesus’ head as he’s sipping tea and reading his Kindle.)
The power of the passover story lies in the emotion it wields over its audience. The sinless man condemned for OUR sins and flaws….but is it really our limitations that should be blamed? Afterall, weren’t humans created in the image of god? And why should we (or jesus for that matter) be held accountable for the shortcomings of the father/creator of the universe? Let’s be mindful as a society of who our true heroes are – and leave the worship to those that deserve it.