An alignment of three sources of inspiration in my life has got me thinking about the subject of blood sacrifice.
The first source of inspiration is the Bible. I’m studying Leviticus 16–in which the Lord gives His prophet Moses the instructions for the high priest to follow atone for Israel’s sins. The annual holiday (read: holy-day) on which these rituals were carried out was called, and is still called Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. And it involved a lot of blood. Blood of bulls and goats. Blood on the priest. Blood sprinkled and smeared upon the altar. Blood on the tent of meeting. Blood on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant (the box which held the two tablets on which God’s law was written). Blood, everywhere. The blood of animals was shed, and spread, on Yom Kippur to make atonement for–to cover–the sins of the Israelite people.
The second source of inspiration was the latest “Briefing” by Dr. Albert Mohler–a daily podcast of news and events from a Christian worldview. Dr. Mohler this morning discussed an essay on a particular form of evil plaguing our culture today.
And Dr. Mohler’s analysis of that essay brought to my mind a conversation I had the other day, with a Christian missionary. We discussed the prevalence of sacrifices–both animal and human–in Haiti today.
So all three of those sources of inspiration got me thinking about blood sacrifice. A quick definition of blood sacrifice: the killing of a person or animal in order to obtain spiritual power and/or atone for evil.
With our contemporary, Western eyes, we may be tempted to view such blood sacrifices as relics of the ancient past. Surely, we think, blood sacrifice has no place in today’s world. Of course, there is the slight exception of the modern-day Hindu mass-sacrifices in Nepal, but that’s them, over there. Does blood sacrifice have any meaning to the people in our world, today?
In this short series of posts, let us examine at three worldviews that are alive and active today, each of which requires blood sacrifice. And more than that, each of these three actually require human sacrifice. We will see that blood sacrifice is not only alive and well in our modern world, but it is actually unavoidable as part of the human experience. And we will talk about just what that means about (1) the problem with human condition, and (2) how to fix what’s wrong with us.
First, Radical Islam
Technically, Islam does not mandate sacrifice of any kind–animal, human or vegetable. Muslims hope to be saved on the basis of their adherence and obedience to the arkān al-dīn, the Five Pillars of Religion. And yet, in its most radicalized form, the Islamic worldview has manifested itself in the brutal slaughterings of thousands upon thousands of human beings. The victims are as diverse as the Christian Iraqis decapitated for “blasphemy,” the Jordanian pilot burned alive in a cage, or Muslim schoolchildren gunned down during their lessons in Pakistan. And there are countless more we could name, even through our tears and revulsion over the horror of it all.
What the victims all have in common, however, is this: they were sacrificed by Muslims shouting Allahu akbar (“Allah is great”), as a way to further the cause of their religion (read: gain spiritual power) and, perhaps, to grease the skids for the murderers when it comes to admission to Paradise. These Muslims are slaughtering people–especially Christians–in order to go to Paradise when they die. Break that down with me. Let’s trace this process of reasoning, and see why these atrocities may be considered blood sacrifices.
- The killing of Christians, secularists, and religious others is supposed to ensure the Islamic murderer goes to Paradise.
- That means that entrance to Paradise is not otherwise certain.
- Entrance to Paradise is uncertain, because the Muslim is not necessarily in right standing before his god, Allah.
- Therefore the murder of another person to further the cause of radical Islam is a religious effort to get right with Allah. This process of “getting right,” we may call at-one-ment. Atonement.
- We may conclude that these murders are religious sacrifices, carried out by bloodthirsty, radicalized Muslims in order to atone for themselves and secure their right standing with their god.
Beyond this, the people who are being sacrificed are done so because the murderers see them as infidels. By butchering their neighbors, they are purging the world of infidel-ity to their god. It is hoped that this will further the Islamic cause in the world, gaining radical Muslims greater spiritual power.
Killing in order to gain spiritual power and atonement for evil: this, we call blood sacrifice. And this is further driven home by the presence of human slaughterhouses run by Muslims in Syria. There, human beings made in God’s own image are literally ritualistically sacrificed and butchered as offerings to the Muslim god, Allah. [I just googled a few phrases related to that topic, and I regret it. To spare your eyes, I am not able to include any links showing the reality of ritual human sacrifice going on in the Muslim world today. You can find it if you want, but it is graphic and heart-wrenching.]
Although it is not one of the Five Pillars of Religion, blood sacrifice is surely a part of this modern manifestation of Islam. Human lives are seen as appropriate victims to be sacrificed in order to atone for the worshipper and purge the world of evil. This is done in the name, and for the fame, of the Muslim god.
So for the portion of humanity that subscribes to radical Islam, blood sacrifices are alive and well. Looks like that answers our question: blood sacrifice does indeed have meaning in our world, today.
These radical Muslims are filling the world with human blood, out of a deep desire to purge the world of religious infidelity, gain spiritual power and ensure a glorious future for themselves. What is it about the radical Muslim worldview that would it would come up with such wicked concepts? Is the need for blood sacrifice unique to that kind of worldview, or are we seeing in radical Islam the perverse and wicked distortion of some basic, primal truth, which we all recognize on a deeper level?
Well, before we write off radical Islam as a barbarous throwback to Medieval times (which it certainly is), a wicked worldview hopelessly stuck in the past (which it certainly is), with no relevance to “enlightened” moderns and postmoderns like ourselves, let’s be aware of two facts.
- Radical Islam is actually drawing many of its adherents from the modern and postmodern, secular contexts which we see as being so superior.
- We don’t get off so easy. Our “enlightened” society is also guilty of blood sacrifice, in order to gain spiritual power and atone for evil. Western, secular barbarism of is just as wicked and abhorrent as that of radical Islam. And taking a hard look at it is not going to be easy or pleasant.
Atonement by the shedding of blood really is something we humans know, on a primal level, that we need. However when depraved human beings (as we all are) are given license to pursue our craving for atonement without restrictions, we see wickedness begetting even worse wickedness. Enter ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the worst of Western secularism. We humans really are in desperate need of forgiveness and atonement.
But more on that next time.