Everyone has a voice, and a choice to use it well, use it poorly, or not to use it at all.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blood and the Gospel

I just found this draft I began several months ago. Now it is ready to go!

I find myself with less school work than I had thought tonight, so I will write about something that Geography 100 brought to mind today. We watched the documentary "The Devil's Miner", about two young boys working in a Bolivian mine in very dangerous conditions. This film points to the gospel so clearly I could barely believe it as I watched.

Pointer # 1 - The Need to be Close to God
 Two young boys, one 10 and the other 14, go down into the mines daily. It is called "the mine that eats people", because so many have died there. In environments where life is a search for survival, rather than pleasure, human behavior and mental function changes. Maslow's hierarchy of needs will tell you as much, but I prefer the testimony of my friend, who recounted to me the experience of his close friend while on a glacier expedition. This friend, exposed to the elements and in an environment of high perceived risk, stopped thinking of school, and getting a job, and girls. His mind was totally focused on getting to the next place to stop, get warm, eat food, and sleep. He involuntarily focused on his most basic needs.

The situation of the Bolivian child-miners was somewhat different - they had higher actual risk, but less minute-by-minute discomfort. Their environment, however, caused them to focus on basic survival: don't slip down the shaft, don't jar the dynamite. And, interestingly, they were always very careful to pay homage to Tio. Tio was a idol made of clay, with horns and red eyes. When outside the mine, the boys went to church. When inside the mine, they worshiped Tio. An older miner said "Outside we believe in God who is our only savior. Inside things change. Inside we believe in the devil. Inside our God is the devil - Satan. Our belief is split into two worlds." Such a strange dichotomy is difficult to understand - there are very few I think who worship both God and the devil. I think it can be understood better by taking into account that those who are in dangerous situations are most likely to relate to deity as a protector, and come to deity in search of safety.
In this paradigm, it is understandable (though certainly not commendable) that the boys would worship the Christian God while they were in a church and felt close to Him, but not do so in a mine, where they felt far from Him. In that mine, where they were in danger and afraid, they still had an elemental desire for safety, paired with an instinct/urge that safety comes from spiritual power. What prompted them to turn to the devil for this safety, I cannot say; probably the underground blackness had something to do with it. The takeaway, apart from sorrow for their miserable state, is a recognition of the universal human need to be close to a spiritual protector.

Pointer # 2 - The Means to be Close to God
The idol Tio and small offerings to it provided the day to day peacekeeping between the spiritual and the miners. However, their big yearly ceremony gives us even more insight. Keep in mind that this is a human construct to fill a human need: the need to be right with God, to procure his blessing, avoid his wrath, and be close to him. (Isn't it interesting that almost as common as sacrifice to a god, is the perception that god has something against us?) Of course, it is possible that the perception of the divine is itself a human construct. However, given the global similarities between sacrificial rites, I think it is unlikely. Case in point: the Bolivians brought a llama to the mouth of the cave. As children looked on in a mixture of fear and fascination, a knife was sharpened. A bowl was brought to collect the blood. As the llamas throat was cut, its blood was collected in the bowl and thrown on the top of the stone entrance to the mine. A woman put blood on her hands and began smearing it on the faces of the individual miners.

Now compare that to accounts of Old Testament sacrifices in the Bible. A lot of similarities, aren't there? (click: Exodus 12:1-7) It is also very similar to the animal sacrifices I have seen in Hindu and Buddhist Nepal. Apparently, humanity has a basic understanding that blood is required to buy life, that the blood of an innocent living thing can buy safety for another. Where does that understanding come from?

It comes from God, that we might understand the GOSPEL, that the innocent Jesus paid for our sin, died the death we deserved, exposed himself to the just wrath of God so that we can taste the fullness of God's just grace. Wrath means eternal exposure to God's anger, Grace means eternal immersion in God's loving and awesome presence.

This is elemental, instinctual, but not pagan. Blood is not pagan. This following after Christ is not primarily comprised of silk ties in Church, of not cussing and being a good parent. Those things are the superficial (and good) veneer above the bloody, gruesome sacrifice. Physically He was an ugly spectacle, and spiritually He holds a beautiful truth. When you know that Truth, even his physical sacrifice becomes endowed with a majestic beauty amidst the horror. The sacrificial lamb is Jesus the Christ, and He knows perfectly what the Bolivian and Nepali sense dimly, and what most of America has chosen to forget: salvation comes through blood. Life comes only through death.

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