Sacrifice and Atonement Down the Ages
it's not what you think
Today is Good Friday, the day on which God sacrificed his only begotten Son to atone for the sins of the world.
This idea, that sacrifice is necessary to atone for the sins of the world, is as old as mankind itself.
In the good old days, it was perfectly obvious that the only way to atone for your sins was to sacrifice that which was most dear and valuable to you. Obviously, in the good old days of the patriarchy the most valuable and most dear was your son.
And so it was that, one fine day, in accordance with God’s instruction, Abraham was heading up to a mountain to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burned offering. Just as he got Isaac nicely tied down on the sacrificial altar, he had a brainwave. God didn’t want him to sacrifice his son, No! That ram over there, with its horns tangled in a thicket would do just as well.
Presumably this was the origin of scapegoat theory beloved of René Girard.
Now, whatever you might think, I believe this to be one of the great moments in the Story of Mankind. Hey kids! Are you paying attention?
Of course you need to repent of your evil deeds, but come on! Killing your son is a bit over the top old chap! A ram will do just as well; it symbolizes your appeal to God for forgiveness and atonement. And it’s the thought that counts.
What do you think the next step in this narrative might be? Of course, it’s Good Friday, the day on which God sacrificed his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, in an act to atone for all the sins of humankind, for now and forever.
No need to bring all those oxen and whatnot to the Temple in Jerusalem and slaughter them in acts of atonement and sacrifice, and let the blood flow. God has already sacrificed his Son for our sins. The only thing needful is that you really confess your sins — don’t leave anything out! — and pray for forgiveness.
Observe the world-changing nature of this event. Back in the day, a wrong had to be righted by reparations, or revenge, or the German Wergild. No more. What is needed is merely honest and sincere confession of the wrong. No need to sacrifice sons or rams or Wergild. Forgiveness is all. And God has sacrificed his Son so we don’t have to.
What a glorious and incandescent moment! Finally, mankind had emerged from its dark and bloody age of wasteful and primitive slaughter.
But now, I fear, I have a darker tale to tell. It is what I call the Great Reaction. Here is how I summarize it in my maxims.
Great Reaction: Socialism is a return to slavery; the welfare state is a return to feudalism; identity politics is neo-tribalism; reparations is neo-vengeance; activism a return to revolution, rioting for the ruling class, part medieval knight-errantry, and part activisme, or gentry kids putting on a school play for their parents; helpless victims are a return to sacrifice; totalitarianism is a return to the scapegoat; social justice is good old loot and plunder.
I expand a little more on the Great Reaction here.
But the disturbing thing is to understand that in the past two centuries, the Age of the Educated that emerged out of the intellectual ferment of the Enlightenment, we see an Age of World Wars, starting with World War Napoleon.
And what is a World War? It is an orgy in which the rulers sacrifice Other Peoples’ Sons on the bonfire of civilization in a worldwide conflagration.
And what was the first World War? Not World War I, but World War Napoleon where the French, right after their Revolution inspired by the Enlightenment, descended upon the rest of Europe to sacrifice their sons, and went to Egypt, and fought the Brits in India.
For what? It’s obvious. The French intellectual ruling class decided that the world needed to sacrifice its sons in atonement for its sins.
And that was just the beginning. In the US we sacrificed other peoples’ sons in World War Slavery. In Europe they sacrificed other peoples’ sons in World War Kaiser and World War Hitler. And then Mao in his World War Four Olds sacrificed a good 30-50 million Chinese sons and daughters to teach their parents a lesson.
Here in the United States we are busy mobilizing for World War Climate and World War DEI. And you will be glad to sacrifice your son.
I say, enough already of sacrificing sons. Let’s forgive and atone and forget.
But who cares what I think?