When faced with Christian slogans like “Jesus died to save you from your sins” or liturgical commonplaces like “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” the 21st century twenty-something with virtually no understanding of Christianity might well ask, “What does the execution of a criminal two thousand years ago have to do with me?…Just how, exactly, does the gruesome death of an insurrectionist on a Friday afternoon so long ago and so far away wipe out the naughty things I’ve done?”
I sympathize. Just what does the crucifix mean to modern man with smart phones and jet planes? How does the concept of ritual sacrifice connect? How does one make sense of a Stone Age religion in the space age?
It is this very conundrum that prompted me to write Immortal Combat—Confronting the Heart of Darkness. To attempt an answer to “What does it mean that ‘Jesus died to take away the sin of the world’?” I first asked, “What is ‘the sin of the world’?” To explore that question, I turned to the philosophy of Nietzsche, Max Scheler, and René Girard.
Nietzsche pioneered the idea of the “slave revolt of morality”—that the Hebrews flipped the whole concept of good and evil. Instead of the “good” people being the strong, noble ruling class, they were viewed as oppressors. The truly “good” people were the slaves—the long-suffering victims of oppression. The supreme example of this reversal, Nietzsche thought, was the prophet from Galilee. The first Christians regarded Him as the ultimate victim-victor.
Max Scheler’s book Ressentiment fleshes out the dynamic of victimhood. Rooted in an inner turmoil of resentment, the victim focuses on the oppressor as the enemy—the cause of his problems. In a group or tribal context, if the oppressor is too strong to be confronted openly, the blame will shift toward a troublesome member of the tribe.
Read more at Crisis Magazine