Today is Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of Lent. This is a good time to call out the lead article in the February 10 Christian Century entitled "God Does Not Require Blood." The author is Daniel M. Bell Jr., associate professor of theological ethics at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina.
Bell notes that although Christians have never practiced blood sacrifice (and he might have added, often looked down on ancient Judaism for offering animal sacrifices) the logic of of blood sacrifice has often shaped the way Christians think about God and carry that belief into practice. That is, Christians have bought into the concept of redemptive violence, which at its core means violence saves.
He sees this concept playing out in our war on terror and in the message of pop culture. And he sees it in much of our theology. Only blood can make things right with God. Consequently, Jesus had to die on the cross to redeem the world.
Bell, however, opts for a different logic, a logic that is seen in the life and ministry of Jesus. He says: "The logic of our new way of life does not reject justice, accountability or discipline; this way of life is disciplined and accountable and seeks justice."
He closes his article with the words of the prophet Ezekiel, and words that I want to make a part my Lenten reflections this year: For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God, "Turn, then, and live." (Ezek. 18:32)