We had a rabbi teach today at NorthHaven. She explained why rabbis teach rather than preach and it was fascinating. I am grateful for the interfaith work NorthHaven is doing. Interfaith work is essential to our healing, but it is also lifegiving and wonderful. The rabbi thanked NorthHaven for making her life safer and the life of her children safer by doing the work we are doing incorporating non-Christian teaching to our education.
Antisemitism is on the rise and is extremely blatant in our public discourse/theology. It is important that we start recognizing it and doing the work to see how we are contributing to the harm. Listen to the ones who are being harmed to learn and make changes. That is the work of repentance and justice.
What is weird is this morning I woke up and checked Twitter and saw something that made me want to engage a little. It has been a while since I have engaged a theology debate, but something was written that rubbed me the wrong way, and it felt like a time to say something.
It was about Penal Substitutionary Atonement. If you do not know what that is, it is a theology that teaches Jesus’ death as fulfilling a covenant with God to satisfy God’s wrath for fallen humanity. Jesus’ death satisfied the demands of justice by Jesus taking on the sins of humanity.
I just do not believe that anymore. The cross was something I struggled with as a kid, and I struggled with it even more when I had my own kids. Through reflection work with a friend, I realized that was what I needed to write my essay on to enter seminary. As a seven-year-old kid, it did not sit right with me thanking Jesus for dying for me.
A theologian wrote about this theology this morning and got some pushback for how he presented it. Other theologians were saying they were the experts with a different perspective and the OG tweeter was misrepresenting how other minority voices believe it. The thing is, even when they presented an alternative way to view it, it still leaves humanity as something depraved and God needed someone to die to make things right. I know people who have lost all faith in Christianity because we have such a low view of humanity. I was almost one of them until I studied what scripture actually says.
God desires mercy, not sacrifice. Hosea and Matthew both say that.
I also believe this is why Rome and the United States of America call the death penalty good news when they believe they are righting a wrong. Death is not the good news, the resurrection is.
Back to the rabbi this morning at NorthHaven. She talked about the Day of Atonement this morning. The Jews have recently celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and the holiest day of the Jewish new year follows this day called Yom Kippur—the day of atonement. It was wild hearing her address this right after having this twitter engagement before her sermon. She talked about repentance and how differently Jews and Christians view it. She was not elevating one over the other, just revealing a difference. This is important work because difference sharpens us—not destroys us. I think Christians have had such a weak view of repentance because of penal substitutionary atonement and that is why Trump got away with saying he has never asked for forgiveness. This rabbi presented a view of repentance from the Jewish perspective that was so powerful and she highlighted how that work led to David realizing how he had caused harm to Uriah (David’s best friend), Bathsheba (a woman with less power and a woman is never safe—but she was also Uriah’s wife), his country, and to God. God cannot forgive you if you have not done the work to show you have done the work to be forgiven and trusted again. David actually did. Trump did not. There is more to say about David, but this is really important to notice when Trump gets compared to David.
I think about how much the rabbi was talking about the Jewish tradition as a returning. Returning to order and to God’s desire for the world. The work of justice is working on ourselves to see the harm we have done to others and working to make it right. This spoke to me deeply as I feel I am on a journey of returning. Returning to me.
In seminary, I discovered I had a lot of unhealed trauma and did a lot of work to heal it. It was so exhausting and I was trying to do so much work—and be a part of my family (who really got the short end of the stick) all at the same time. It was both beautiful and tragic at the same time. Two things can be true at once. I learned how to face old wounds and comfort the child within me who had been so hurt by them. That part is beautiful.
While I healed in so many ways, I never really grounded in what I want to do now that I am learning to just be me. I have not had time to rest and figure that out. I cannot return to how things were. Plus, I am seeing my family now a lot, and it is the best thing I have done in a long while. We are even back in Norman and seeing family beyond my immediate family. We as a family unit were taking on so much we lost ourselves. And when you lose yourself, a storm is ready for you. And boy did that storm come.
As I am a few months past the worst of the storm, I can say that storm has helped me realize how tired we were. How unsupported we were and in need of help. Help is here now.
I am also learning to break old patterns so I stop living my life in repeat. The cycle has to break. Now my journey back through my past is not revisiting the pain. I am revisiting the joy I have lived. I hear God saying that I am not in timeout because I am in trouble, but because God has heard my cry. I wanted to know if I am loved. God is showing me that I am. Very much so.
That is how we break old habits. We fill up on our belovedness (who we are) and it has to come from the source. For me, that is God.