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A steep price to be paid for watching the World Cup

There is no such thing as Old-Testament Christianity.
There is no such thing as Old-Testament Christianity.

My husband, who is South American by birth, is absorbed in the World Cup these days. While he is watching I am doing other things much of the time, such as writing this column. The result is that I hear, rather than see, much of the coverage. In my opinion the Latino television station Univision, through their Deportes division, is extracting a high price of discomfort from those who are so devoted to soccer that they are willing to play the games with the volume at a normal setting.

I am sure that Univision has an excellent production department; they must have devoted a lot of time to developing the background for the games. But what they ended up with is an awful, monotonous cacophony of repetitive music and sound. There is one commercial (that is mercifully being played less than it was over the weekend) in which a young female announcer was apparently hired to yell at the top of her lungs for as long as her breath would permit. There is also a strange mix of hypnotically-boring music that seems to think they are making a profound philosophical statement: "I was born to be alive." Yes...? It goes on, with repetitive thumpa-thumpa rhythm and singers who apparently have no lyrics that make sense--but this is what you must endure if you want to hear the announcers call the games.

In other news, as they say, I was talking about Christianity to my husband the other night and it kicked off an interesting realization as we exchanged ideas. He tends to be evangelical, and as I was talking about basing Christianity on the New Testament I saw the emergence of theology in a new light. I was relating the Jewish idea of misfortune as God's punishment to the First Epistle of St. John:

"My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world." [1 John 2:2]

The idea of sacrifice--that doesn't work--existed all through the Jewish culture since they walked out of the gates of Egypt into the desert behind Moses. By the time Jesus lived and died, no one with his background could have failed to come up with the construct of him being the last, ultimate sacrifice. To me, this is but another reason why the rules and regulations of the Old Testament do not add up to a system that makes sense. Yet the Apostles were immersed in the idea of the sacrificial lamb without blemish, and they concluded that the Passover sacrifice had (finally) worked when they saw Jesus transcending the boundaries between life and death that we experience. You also see the emerging Christian theology in St. Paul:

"But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." [Galatians 3:23-29]

This builds directly on the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" [Matthew 5:43-48]

What I see here is the lapse of Old-Testament theology into irrelevance in view of the concept of Jesus as the last sacrifice. But many theologians today, like Bishop John Shelby Spong, reject the concept of Jesus as sacrifice altogether. Why, they ask, does the God of love and mercy need blood to be poured on his altar? I confess that I have no good answer to that question. Therefore we must consider that the whole concept of God as a god of the old school has run its course. A new concept of God is called for, as we can see by the ever-growing numbers of former churchgoers who have abandoned the Old-Testament model of a God of vengeance and punishment.

As the concept of the Christian God evolves within the theological community, we can count on the people in the pews to be the last to know. Preachers are slow to give up their fear--after all, what if the Book of Leviticus is actually a requirement? What will become of them if they are not allowed to sacrifice their bulls and stone adulteresses?

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