"I'll never know how much it cost too see my sin upon that cross."
As I said in part one, I loved that line. But now? No.
I no longer believe in the fall, in redemption, in any God who can't forgive without bloody sacrifice. I can't believe in that cross-story no matter how clever the theologian is in justifying Jesus' death overcoming the threat of some kind of hell by raising up God as just or holy or by lowering man, even to the extent of Calvinism's "total depravity".
How can it be just to eternally condemn someone born fallen and living a finite, time-bound life?
How can it possibly be holiness to condemn so profoundly?
How can I call a human being, "beautifully and wonderfully made", a being born in sin, born depraved, born broken?
I no longer believe Jesus was crucified to take away our sin. I no longer believe that we're "washed in the blood of the lamb."
Another song last night was about Jesus. It ends with the orthodox claim that Jesus is God. There's nothing unusual about hearing that sung in a church.
I loved that claim too. But now? No.
The creeds call Jesus "fully God, fully man." I had a solid belief in this picture of Jesus. One path of reasoning ran:
Who has the right to pay for our sin? Only one who is fully man. Who has the ability to pay for our sin? Only one who is fully God. Therefore Jesus must be fully God and fully man else redemption - forgiveness - is impossible.
But I no longer believe in this redemption. And an argument that implies that God (who is love and mercy) can only find a way to forgive if God himself dies has more than its share of problems.
I don't seek to condemn those who do believe in that redemption - if that is for them their path to the divine, the path to life in abundance, to being the fullness of what it is to be a human being. If others find fullness in the sacrifice of the cross - and what came after in the story - then that is good. The real is far bigger than my searching or my conclusions and can embrace what sounds like a contradiction. The story of the blind men and an elephant has recently come to my mind frequently. The elephant is the real. Our religious stories are our attempts to vocalise a part of the elephant.
I believe Jesus is fully divine - but only in the sense that we're all fully divine.
And I believe that Jesus is fully man. Fully man. More man than any one of us. He is the Tao. He is the superman. He is the one living the full life we're all called to live and able to live if we believe it and do it and be it. Jesus, possibly, is more fully man than any human who has ever lived. In that way he's a pattern for life. A pattern we can all contemplate, no matter our religious views.
And I believe that one reason he died, one reason why he hung on the cross, was because he was fully man. We are not fully man. And we can't cope well with those who are more fully man than we are ourselves. They don't make for comfortable companions. He was condemned because his light brought the lives of those around him into sharp focus.
He came to bring us life in abundance and we couldn't face it. In the end most of us prefer the safety of half-lives. Indeed we seek safety. But the fullness of life isn't safe. It's risky. It's a raging inferno, not just a warm radiator. Even Christianity has become about seeking safety - an idea carried over from ancient Hebrew thoughts developed in an even more dangerous world. "You are our security" we sing. "You are our rock, our hiding place." But Jesus didn't come to give us safety, he came to show us life and showed us life in himself.
Nietzsche talked of the superman, Übermensch, as the meaning of the world. He believed no superman had walked the world and contrasted Übermensch with Christianity.
I believe that Jesus was an Übermensch, showing in himself the meaning of the world. I believe that Christianity is still the contrast, that Christians raised up Jesus to be "fully God" because they couldn't deal with the "fully man" that Jesus showed himself to be.
How can a man be like this? We're not like this so how can any man be like this? Christians answer that he must be God.
I answer that Jesus can be an example for us, a vision by which we can learn for ourselves to be the over-comers, more human than we are today, more in the Tao, more enlightened, to be Buddha, to be Übermensch, or whatever word suits.
Back to the song. "I'll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon the cross."
I know what it cost me. It cost me twenty years. I embraced Christianity because I didn't like myself - and the Christianity I heard of told me I was right, told me I deserved Hell but this God loved me anyway. A nice story. But I now believe a false story and it reinforced and reinforced what I thought of myself, a sinner in need of mercy. And the Christianity I received reinforced the view that I could not be me - female. Very sad. I know full well that not every Christian has such opinions but I haven't found many that would agree that people aren't utterly without hope and real meaning and purpose outside of receiving Jesus, the saviour who died. Very few that say there would be "salvation" without Jesus dying for us.
Seeing my sin on the cross meant that I carried on seeing myself as a sinner, hopeless without Christ, someone who could do nothing without that personal God stepping in.
It meant I spent twenty years crying out for a mercy I didn't need. Over and over, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."
It meant I spent twenty years rejecting myself and believing I should carry on rejecting myself. I could say "I'm accepted by God" but believed I wasn't really accepted - especially my gender.
It meant I spent twenty years suffering with a recurrent depressive illness that hurt me and hurt everyone around me and nearly led at times to my death. Yes, I suffered with this before embracing Christianity but for me embracing that religion was a confirmation of my depression. My first church told me - especially through its extensive library of taped sermons from different speakers - that gay people should be cured. And I've been told that transgender people are deranged, evil, demon possessed and they too need healing of this abominable wickedness.
Seeing my sin upon the cross, instead of leading to the fullness of life that Jesus came to show us led to a half-life, a life in which I could not be who I am, a life in which I could combine great shame and guilt with a thankfulness that someone agreed to be punished in my place.
That's what it cost to see my sin upon the cross.
I loved to see it there. But, I believe, it was never there in the first place.
Jesus was there showing me that in order to live to the full it is necessary to risk everything, sometimes even unto death. Jesus was there showing me love, life, paradox, meaning, the beauty of a man prepared to give everything. Jesus, fully man, still name above all names, still awesome and magnificent, living in his full divinity and showing us our full divinity, living in his full humanity and showing us our full humanity. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. May we learn to live the truth - that we are fully divine and fully human.
I have lost what I had. Losing it - losing my security - has been a frightening process at times. Giving up your one hope isn't easy.
In the process I've gained a better life, a life I've only just started to explore. The wounds of the old life are still too fresh to be prodded and poked without an agony of inner burning. And that's one reason why a church service can hurt so much.
I am not hurt because others see their sin upon the cross. I am not hurt to see others praising their God. If this is the way people approach the divine and find the sacred in life then I have no problem with that - as long as the approach doesn't become exclusive (as mine once was) and thus condemnatory to everyone with another approach. As long as their story isn't used to nullify my story and the stories of all who seek then their story can lead them to great light.
My pain is not caused by the words themselves but by the relationship I've had with them - the reasons for my belief, my adoration of that belief, and my loss of that belief.