by A. C. LaMonica
I was recently forwarded an email with "Powerful (get the Kleenex ready)" in the subject line. In the email was a link to a short film called "The Bridge." The film is described on the site as "a cinematic story of a father's love...faced with an unfathomable circumstance and choice." I ask that you watch the film (5 min) before proceeding to my *article below.
I must admit that I found "The Bridge" (now called "Most") a moving film despite its obvious metaphoric representation of God sacrificing Jesus for the sins of the world. Religious or not, the film beautifully shows the importance of self-sacrifice, to consider the greater good before oneself. It is a timeless lesson promoting the selfless altruistic qualities that allow us to thrive as a species. In that sense, everyone can benefit from seeing this film. However, when the Christian doctrine is woven into the story, it loses a lot but also brings to light some glaring theological problems.
The phrase, "Jesus died for your sins.” is one that most human beings cannot go a lifetime without hearing at least once. In America, you can hardly get through the week without your friendly Christian neighbor reminding you that your sins killed Jesus. Even the often referenced and memorized Bible verse, John 3:16, has risen to pop culture status.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
This belief is a necessity of the Christian faith and without it the religion itself begins to crumble. It is a tenet of faith known by all Christians and recited daily in their prayers but is it really understood?
Christians presuppose that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and that Jesus is not only the son of God but God himself as part of the triune God (the remaining parts being God the father and the Holy Spirit.) Already this apparently simple belief of God's sacrifice begins to reveal the theological quagmire it is.
The simple explanation frequently given is that God loves you so much that he sacrificed his son, Jesus, so that your sins can be forgiven. When viewed through the scope of the aforementioned Christian doctrines, “Jesus dying for your sins” translates into:
God made it necessary to sacrifice himself, to himself, in order to appease himself.
That brief statement should be enough to demonstrate the intrinsic irrationality of the belief but I will continue with other examples for the steadfast Christian. Let's begin by breaking down my translated statement above.
God, being omnipotent, made it necessary to kill his son/himself because it was the only way for sins to be eternally forgiven. Sounds like an unusual line of reasoning for a being of infinite wisdom. I would even go so far as to say that it would have been better (albeit unnecessary and pointless) if God (Jesus) had given his life only to demonstrate how much he loved us. But that wasn't the only reason. The sins of humanity were so great (according to his celestial barometer) that God insisted the only way he could redeem us was through the torture and murder of his son.
How exactly does God's logic here show that he loves us? Was it impossible for him to simply forgive us BECAUSE he loves us? Shouldn’t God love and forgive us for the people he created us as? Apparently that was too much for God. He instead sacrificed his son to show his "love" for the world and as a result cast a shadow of guilt over every Christian generation to come.
The big question is why did God insist on expressing his love for us through the intentional killing of his son? Anyone with common sense could easily come up with other nicer, more effective ways for an omnipotent deity to express love to its creatures. For starters, why not perform some miracles? Re-grow the limbs of a quadruple amputee, cure a child of Autism, get rid of AIDS, save the US economy, etc. etc.
With all of this in mind, we see less and less parallels between God sacrificing Jesus, and the father character in "The Bridge" sacrificing his son to save the people on the train. Here are some points to consider when comparing the story of "The Bridge" with God's sacrifice using Christian theology to interpret:
- The "bridge" father makes a mistake by not putting the bridge down for the train to cross. Did God have to sacrifice his son because of a mistake he made?
- The "bridge" father is forced into a circumstance that results in him giving up the life of his little boy to save the people on the train. God is in control and has the advantage of foresight. God creates the circumstance of killing his son to show how "good" and "loving" he is. Now what if the "bridge" father set up a situation in which he purposely killed his son to show how he "saved" the people on the train? When applied to an all-powerful God, this quickly turns from an act of love to an act of twisted, murderous self-glorification.
- The "bridge" father loses his young son to a terrible crushing death in order to do the noble good of saving strangers from death. God knowingly sacrifices his adult son/self so that he feels better about forgiving our sins. Mind you, God knows that after his son is sacrificed, he will come back to life in 3 days right as rain. Which is the greater sacrifice here?
A more reasonable person might agree that the man in "The Bridge" is more honorable and worthy of worship than the God of Christianity.
I could go on and on about this faux sacrifice of God's (e.g. Why did God kill everyone, including innocent children of “evil sinners”, with a flood when he knew he would just have to save humankind with Jesus anyways?) but I fear further intellectual entanglement in attempting to follow nonsensical reasoning. At the very least, I hope I have opened the Christian reader up to the obvious faults in this cornerstone of their faith. We ask that Christians, in particular, give us your feedback on this article. Whether you feel that you can explain away the problems brought up here or if you agree with us, we are interested to hear what you have to say.
*Please note that much of my language in this article referencing "God, the Father" "Jesus, the Son of God" and "sin" etc. is used to demonstrate a point. I am not acknowledging personal belief in any of these things but rather see them as tools for deconstructing the dogma itself.