If you were to look up the term “child sacrifice” you would find something like this:
“Child sacrifice is the killing of an infant or child as an offering to a deity or deities. It may be conducted as part of a religious observance, ritual, or service.”
According to dictionary.com, a deity is defined as: “A person or thing revered as a god or goddess.”
To take this further, the same site defines a god as: “One of several deities, especially a male deity, presiding over some portion of worldly affairs.”
Sounds pretty serious. And straight forward. Yet, it’s not. Too often we have this notion that gods are something that existed only in the ancient world.
But I don’t think that is the case. I think we have plenty of gods in our modern time. Money could easily be identified as a god. All too often, we allow money to make decisions for us. This is the more common way of saying “presiding over some portion of worldly affairs.” And I would argue that we still offer sacrifices to these gods – yes, even child sacrifices. The only question is – which gods are we offering child sacrifices to and why. I don’t say that lightly or in a flippant way. Stay with me on this.
I don’t know how else to describe such things as when children die in school shootings. And we do absolutely nothing to prevent the next one from happening. I don’t know what else to conclude except that we are clearly, as a society, offering a child sacrifice to some kind of deity. Why?
I don’t know how else to describe such things when we allow abortion right up to the moment of birth. Yes, I understand abortion is a complicated issue. But right up to birth? Why?
Maybe you think I sound extreme. Great – give me an explanation as to why these children’s lives are worth less than whatever rights you claim to be protecting. Seriously, give me an explanation. Because I’m struggling with all of this – really struggling.
In the case of school shootings (or other mass shootings), I keep seeing children as the ones who are paying the price with their blood and lives. The only question is for what god are they being sacrificed. And why? What god are we really protecting by allowing more blood to be spilled? What god are we just unwilling to name for what it is?
But then again, maybe I’m crazy. Maybe there is some rational reason I’m missing as to why this goes on. Maybe there’s some kind of easy explanation. Maybe there are easy solutions. Maybe – but frankly, I doubt it. If it were easy, I’d like to believe we would be doing it already.
We think we are advanced as a society. The idea of worshiping gods sounds ridiculous. The idea of offering child sacrifices sounds insane. Yet, I’m stuck – I just don’t know how to make sense of what our society finds acceptable by our lack of action. I don’t know how else to describe children dying.
Gun violence and abortion are complicated issues and challenges with no easy solutions unfortunately. There are complicated stories. They are messy issues to deal with and even consider. Tempers flair when you touch these issues. When you talk about them, you risk touching something much deeper than just some issue. You risk touching a person’s identity and what they hold dear. These are issues that can be confused with our identity – a critique of the issue is too often perceived as a critique of the person holding a belief about either one of them.
I’m currently leading a bible study on the book of Hosea in the Old Testament. It’s quite a book. It describes God’s relationship with Israel using Hosea’s life. God instructs Hosea to marry a prostitute who is whoring herself out (not my words – it’s Scripture. Just start at verse 2 and you’ll see what I mean, especially if you read the NRSV translation). The idea being that Israel has been unfaithful to God for a long time – worshiping other gods, and offering sacrifices to these gods, and seeking out assistance and salvation from foreign powers and gods. God offers an indictment of Israel and declares a punishment for Israel’s unfaithfulness. Ouch.
Instead of making the easy claim that we are no different, what I’m left with is this – oh how little we have changed in thousands of years. The names of the gods we sacrifice to might change, but we still struggle with being faithful to God. This is true for humanity across time and nation. Why though? Why do we resist God and God’s love? Why do we seek out other gods? Is it because we think we can control our lives and control these gods? Yet, what they require is costly. What God offers is costly too – but comes with a promise of hope and love, mercy and forgiveness. What God offers is costly – our lives. We are called to die to self so that we can be transformed.
All we are doing right now though is offering up our children’s lives, so we don’t have to change – so we won’t be transformed. We’ll pretend that we are in control. And we keep lying to ourselves. And we’ll suffer the consequence. See, God doesn’t have to smite us or actively do anything to punish us. I think God loves us so much that God will accept our rejection of God for other gods – I doubt God likes it though. I think God loves us so much that God will allow us to take our own path, which leads to destruction at our own hand. Again, I doubt that God likes this. Doesn’t sound very loving? Actually it is. Love isn’t about using force. Love is invitational. God doesn’t give up on us. God keeps the invitation coming because love is patient. And when we finally do respond, then we are embraced by God. We will be transformed. But it starts with God’s action.
It would be easy for me to cry out to God and say – “Why don’t you do something!” But I have a feeling God would respond by saying – “I have and I am. I keep offering a loving invitation. And you all keep rejecting me. I don’t like the consequences, but because I am love, I will not force myself onto you and turn you into robots who do everything I command. No, rather “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6, NRSV).