Who Died for What Sin? Theology with Maeve

by Elizabeth Cunningham

It is my turn this week. But before I begin to put my foot in my mouth (at least theologically) Elizabeth asked me to thank everyone who responded to her post last week in comments, emails, on facebook, and twitter. So much loving kindness from so many. As the Dalai Lama says (yes, of course I know him, but don’t expect a novel about it) kindness is what matters. Religion is only useful if it supports you in being kind. Or words to that effect. Elizabeth is very grateful for your kindness.

I looked back through the comments for the topic request I haven’t yet addressed. I thought it was something like how on earth would a devout praticing first century Jew end up with a pagan pig-eating Celt who became an Isis-worshipping whore? That is a good question, and I was working up quite a sermon on the importance of hanging out with people who are NOT like-minded. And perhaps I will deliver it sometime. But here is the question I will tackle today:

“How a beautiful fiery pagan Celt would answer to the subject of Jesus being the ‘chosen one who died for our sins, and that we are all heathens who do not follow.’ “

First, thank you for the adjectives! I appreciate them. I am not a theologian or a historian of religion, so I had better speak only for myself. I wanted to blame the whole concept of Jesus dying for our sins on Paul of Tarsus (with whom I have had my struggles). He surely did go on (and on) about it in some of his epistles, but a quick check on the internet (too much information!) tells me the idea did not originate with him. Here’s an article on the diverse sources for this concept: http://www.biblicaltheology.com/Research/CostaT03.pdf

Sin was not a concept native to me. A Celt (especially a hero) sometimes had to deal with a geis being laid upon him. A geis is something like a taboo imposed on an individual. Cuchulain (whose name means hound) had a geis laid upon him against eating dog meat. If you broke a geis danger and destruction followed. Grainne forced Diarmuid to be her lover by laying a geis on him if he refused. And I am afraid when I was an impressionable, headstrong young girl under the influence of such stories, I laid a similar geis on You Know Who. He turned me down flat, and I have sometimes wondered if I am responsible for all his subsequent troubles, except that, of course, he eventually relented, but only of his own free will, as he insisted. Very murky waters.

Did I sin in attempting to force my will on him through word magic? Perhaps. If you define sin as “missing the mark,” not being in alignment with the will of the whole mystery. If we are all sinners, can someone’s death atone for our sins, take them away? I confess I have never been able to see the connection. And as many a child has asked, if Jesus died for our sins once and for all, how come the world is the way it is? Who and what has been saved from sin?

I don’t know that answer to that one. As for one person being sacrificed for many, the Celts had something called the god-making death. The idea was that a perfect and willing human sacrifice could, through death, go between the worlds and speak on behalf of the people with the gods. It wasn’t that the people were bad; they needed a representative, one made powerful by passing through the mystery of death.

Even if that concept was or is true, I, for one, wasn’t having it. I stole away the human sacrifice from under the druids’ noses. And even though I fretted for years that the subsequent invasion of Britain might have been my fault, I would do it again. And if I could have prevented the crucifixion, I would have. His mother tried, if you read my version of the story. And when MaevenSong is released, you will be able to hear her defiant lament at the foot of the Cross.

As I lived and healed with Jesus, I know he felt the inexorable pull of the god-making death, as we called it when we spoke of it privately, but to the Jesus I knew it was a mystery. And he also felt a pull towards life, the heartbreaking beauty of ordinary life. He healed people by seeing them, in their brokenness and in their wholeness. There was nothing abstract or theological in that moment of healing. He often said, Your sins are forgiven, and he got in trouble for that. Only God could forgive sins, people said. Who did he think he was?

As you know, people subsequently decided he was the Son of God and moreover the Only Begotten Son of God, and only people who accept that doctrine can be saved–and the rest of us, including me, are damned. Because I never became a Christian. I am a lover of Jesus. That is all I can say. I am myself. I am that I am.

If I believe in anything, apart from loving kindness, it is this: that we are all incarnations of the mystery, all called to mediate the divine and human, little self and the expanded one, the in breath and the out. We are here to embody this paradox, not to condemn our humanness or exalt our divinity, to embody both. To love this earth, to love each other while we’re here. Sure sometimes we’ll miss the mark. Forgive yourself, forgive another. Draw back the bow string and take aim again.

For more about my stories: www.passionofmarymagdalen.com

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Anonymous November 11, 2009 - 6:51 am

YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love you Maeve!!!
I love your every word…

You are seriously one badass chic, and I love you truly for it!
Thank you for giving my question your time. After I hit "send" I admit I was fearful that the question was not asked correctly and feared that it came off negatively…which there could never be any amount of in my heart in relation to you. Ever.

Love you, you beautiful life giving mistress. I owe it to you and Elizabeth for helping make "me, me."
Blessed Be…

Anonymous November 14, 2009 - 9:23 pm

Wow, Maeve, I loved this: the last paragraph, especially, took my breath away. How lucky we are to read your word!

~ December 16, 2009 - 1:49 pm

I also was raised without sin. I am grateful for this, but still I miss the mark quite frequently.

The sins I was not raised with were all exterior prohibitions. My own missing of the mark is an internal thing, and comes from not seeing the target at all, or having my hand turned by some inner perception at the moment I let fly.

Then seeing the arrow quivering in the wound, I feel guilt, and want to deny the arrow is mine. Releasing guilt into vision is what forgiveness is for, it seems. Without seeing, how could I learn to aim my words and intentions more truly?


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