A Better Atonement: Nothing Is Solved by Murder

This week, as we prepare for Good Friday and Easter, we’ll have a post every morning about the atonement. Some by guests, and I will round out the week with a couple reflections. And don’t forget to check out the Storify and Tumbler, both tracking atonement this week. You can read all of the posts, and my past posts on this topic, here.

Today, David Lose connects the traditional story explaining Jesus’ death with one of the cultural touchstones of this year.

Recently, two of my favorite subjects seem about to collide in an usual but interesting way: 1) The Hunger Games, the book I felt so lucky to stumble upon when it was first released and now is the mega-mega-blockbuster of print and screen. And 2) the atonement, which I’ve been working on in earnest since I first did a 6-week adult forum on the cross twenty years ago using film clips (Star Wars, Schindler’s List, Gallipoli, etc.).

The collision, in some ways, seems almost destined because of the remarkably similar plot lines. Not sure you’re following, even if you read (or seen) The Hunger Games (or maybe especially if you’ve read The Hunger Games)? Then try telling me which of the two stories this plot line summarizes:

Out of chaos is formed a covenantal society between a greater power and a lesser one. When the lesser one refuses to render due honor and obedience to the greater – in actions labeled rebellion – they bring upon themselves the wrath of the greater power, a wrath that can only be satisfied by bloodshed. The climax of the story comes when one representing those to be punished volunteers to take on the wrath of the greater power.

Okay, so which story is it? Is it the story of the oppressive Capitol’s punishment of the districts for rebelling by creating the Hunger Games – a yearly event combining the worst elements of the Roman arena and Survior – and Katniss Everdeen’s brave and voluntary substitution of herself for her sister? Or is it the story of God’s righteous wrath at human sin, wrath that would result in the damnation of all living humans were it not for the brave and voluntary sacrifice of Jesus as he substitutes himself for humanity and takes the penalty for our sin?

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