Seeing the Atonement of Jesus through new eyes

For most of my life I felt deeply attached to the Christian teachings regarding sin, and the need for an atonement via Jesus Christ. “I Stand All Amazed” was my favorite hymn as a youth.

In one sense the atonement is an ok teaching – in that it acknowledges that we all make mistakes. For some, this can encourage humility and self-improvement.

But I realize now that the teaching of the Atonement also strikes at the core of much religious-based harm, in that it plants/spreads the idea that we are all inherently flawed/broken/bad/fallen/dirty/sinful, and are thus dependent on a set of beliefs and/or a man-led institution to become whole/fixed/good/saved/worthy/clean again. But always only temporarily…until the next mistake/screw up/sin/transgression (which is always just around the corner, since expectations are set so unreasonably high).

Sometimes goodness can emerge from this model, but often the atonement model can engender guilt/shame/sadness/self-loathing…that can become toxic for many….leading to anxiety, depression, and even suicidality.

For far too many, the atonement doctrine puts us on never-ending hamster wheel of shame and dependency.

What if we were all taught from infancy that we were/are whole, and that every mistake was/is nothing more than an opportunity to learn/improve?

What if we never felt shame for our mistakes? Sadness and guilt…maybe…but shame….never.

And what if we were taught that we can self-heal and grow without the need for church affiliation, intermediaries (divine OR human), confession (to a man), paying money, or ultimately any sort of a shame-based dependency cycle?

I love the teachings of Christ around kindness, charity/service, forgiveness, and love. The stuff around sin, atonement, and repentance, however…I no longer love….not because I don’t care about human goodness and flourishing…but because I DO care about human goodness and flourishing. I now believe that we will get further by teaching people from the outset that they are WHOLE, and that every choice is a wonderful opportunity to learn/grow….vs. telling them that they are broken/fallen, and thus require a lifelong shame-based dependency upon an institution of male leadership to help them feel temporarily better, but only until the next “transgression.”

It’s a shame/control trap.

I’ll take the framings of “wholeness” and “learning” over the framings of “broken,” “fallen,” “sinful,” and “transgression” every day of the week.


Comments 1

  1. What if we never felt shame for our mistakes? Perhaps something of the initial intent of the NT was lost in translation. There is a beautiful word in the Greek language – μετάνοια – that I believe was used by the Savior. Metanoia. I have seen a couple of different translations for the preposition “meta” – you could think of words such as meta-stable, or metabolism – it is a combination of the ideas change – changing from one state to another, as well as “with, after, behind”. The suffix – noia or nous … also found in words such as paranoia – has do with your mind, your conscience, how you perceive reality – a verb, to exercise the mind (observe), to comprehend, heed:—consider, perceive, think, to understand. Metanoia – to change your mind – to arrive at a new condition, to perceive the world differently – this is perhaps the most important message that was taught by the Savior in the New Testament. Unfortunately, metanoia was a concept lost in translation… it was translated as “repent”. It is the opposite of shame – it is an awakening to a new way of being. … Looking forward to meeting you at the Houston retreat next week John 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *