“…The voice of honest indignation is the voice of God, I cared not for consequences but wrote.” – William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
The one true God is not a God of blood sacrifice. He never has been and he never will be.
As Christians, we scoff at cultures who offered human sacrifice to the gods. We scoff at pagans and their animal sacrifices. We consider this all primitive barbarism. We consider it uninformed of what a loving God might require.
But the Christian God does not differ in kind. The Christian God is a God of blood sacrifice. The God of the Old Testament, which is the same God we currently worship, required animal sacrifice for the atonement of sin. He even went so far as to require human sacrifice in the form of Jesus on the cross.
You worship a God of blood sacrifice. Let that sink in. Say it out loud: “I worship a God who requires blood sacrifice.” Feels weird, doesn’t it?
The need for blood sacrifice is scriptural. The blood of the sinless must be spilled to atone for sin. God requires you to kill something innocent to forgive you of your sin. Forgive me for feeling some righteous indignation at this notion, but this sounds absurd.
What could an infinite, all-powerful God possibly derive from the shedding of blood? If I cut the head off of a chicken and pour out its blood, what has God gained? By what mechanism has sin been removed from me? How long am I covered by my sacrifice? A week? A month? This sounds like voodoo witchcraft. And yet this is the mechanism by which our modern Christian God allegedly works.
I do not oppose spiritual ceremonies per se, nor do I oppose liturgical symbolism, but when we insist that our Christian God is a god of blood sacrifice, we reveal the extremely crude notions we have about our spiritual reality. We witness the crudity in the cultures that still practice sacrifice today.
So how did we get so caught up in this nonsense?
Blood sacrifice was a religious practice of the Jews. It was part of their primitive cultural religious mythology, as it is with countless others. Many primitive cultures practiced a form of blood sacrifice to appease a god. The Jews were no different.
Jesus lived and taught in the context to the Jewish tradition. He spoke to their religious practices and techniques. Blood sacrifice was never necessary, and Jesus knew this; the Jews practiced it because they did not understand God. Jesus came to help them understand.
Jesus gave them a more informed theology: God is not the God of wrath and vengeance from the Old Testament; God is love and compassion, peace and forgiveness. He does not require blood sacrifice, he offers forgiveness to anyone who would accept it. Jesus died on the cross to render blood sacrifice unnecessary – God’s “blood lust” would be permanently satiated.
This whole rigmarole of death on the cross was meant to free us from our erroneous attachment to blood sacrifice- it was never necessary, and now Jesus’s death rendered it even less necessary. Jesus accomplished this within the Jewish tradition in such a way that the Jews would be willing to relinquish their cherished religious technique. This would have been a big deal to them; until Jesus, blood sacrifice was the only means for appeasing God. To give it up was to potentially incur the wrath of God. They really had to trust in Jesus to make this leap. But many did trust him, and the technique was abandoned.
But rather than free us from the erroneous technique of blood sacrifice, Jesus unknowingly reified it. Rather than celebrate our freedom from the hoax of blood sacrifice, we cemented our reliance on it. Now we fixate on the blood of Jesus washing away the sins of the world. It has become the central tenet of our religion!
We miss the point entirely and perpetuate the misconception. The Jews were misconceived in their practice. Jesus corrected them. Now Christians are misconceived in their practice. We do not need blood sacrifice – we never needed blood sacrifice – because God is within us. We can communicate directly with God.
We’ve been off the technique for so long that we are totally sheltered from the reality of blood sacrifice, except in church words. We instinctively cringe at the thought of real blood sacrifice. Imagine if we all still performed it! Imagine yourself slitting a lamb’s throat and pouring out the blood, simply because you believed God required it. We’ve been off the sacrifice wagon for so long that it’s easy to see this for what it is: primitive barbaric hocus pokus.
Jesus freed us from our bondage to an unnecessary technique and from a God who would require it. And for that we should be truly thankful.