Creative Team Building and Leadership Resources - In our Elements

Power in the Blood

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Fellow Passengers: This week’s Prophetic Passage* (Isaiah 57:1-10) transports me to the Mayan ruins of Bonampak in the southern Mexico state of Chiapas. It was the spring of 2003, and Kim and were there on a tour with a group of faculty from Mars Hill. The excavated sites there, as in Palenque and Yachtilan, were absolutely fascinating, after having seen pictures and studied the Mayan myths from the Popul Vuh. I remember standing on the site of their ecstatic religious rituals, which included a fair amount of blood-letting, especially one ritual which involved the ruler getting high off some kind of hallucinogenic enema, and then offering some blood from his private parts to the gods. Human sacrifice seems to have been common as well, with captured enemy combatants and children among the victims. The Mayan’s ritualistic ballgame also ended with a human sacrifice; some scholars believe that it was actually the winning player who was sacrificed to the gods. The players did not resist this early version of sudden death, or try to throw the game to save their lives, because dying in this way was considered the highest honor, a fate far better than wasting away with disease.

As perverse and repugnant as such ritualistic sacrifices seem to us, we have to note that the Mayans were not alone in including them in their religious practices. Humans sacrifice, include child sacrifice, is evident throughout the history of various cultures and world religions, and it was obviously part of the practice of the early Canaanites, as the Hebrew prophets such as Isaiah railed against the covenant people who slaughtered their children or sent them through the fire to appease the gods. The prophetic ire and the Mosaic taboos were not against human sacrifice per se, but specifically against the ritual killings in homage to the fertility god Molech. The taboo was not always there when it came to sacrificing lives to Yahweh. We read the conquest stories, and see that when the warriors defeated a city, they were to take neither prisoners nor booty; God mandated that everything and everyone surviving  the attack – including infants and children – be considered “devoted to destruction” and burned. Then we read a curious story in the history of battles between Israel and Moab, when God was giving Israel the victory; Moab was getting soundly defeated until their king sacrificed a child, after which God immediately turned the tide and Israel had to retreat. Or we read about a man of faith named Jepthah who promised God he would sacrifice the first thing to walk out of his door; he grieved when it turned out to be his beloved daughter. And then, Ezekiel recounts a time in the history of the Exodus and the rebellion of the wilderness wanderers, where God says: I gave them other statutes that were not good and laws through which they could not live; I defiled them through their gifts—the sacrifice of every firstborn—that I might fill them with horror so they would know that I am the LORD. Wow, that is horrifying way to get a people’s attention.

It should come as no surprise, then, that when the gospel writers and early church writers wrote of Jesus, they framed his story in terms of a child sacrifice – for God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son. It is something virtually every pre-modern culture throughout history, including the Canaanites and the Hebrews and the ballplayers of Bonampak, would understand. It has something to do with the awe-some and awe-ful fragility of the human condition in relationship to the creator and sustainer of life, and the deep-seated need to demonstrate some sense of reverent homage to that sacred force in order to experience the blessing of continued life. Hence, the ritual blood-shedding is called sacrifice – a sacred act. We moderns are repulsed by the idea, but that doesn’t mean we don’t participate in sacrifice. I wonder how Isaiah might rail against a civilization like ours, rich beyond compare, claiming moral high ground as we sacrifice 16,000 children a day to hunger, and thousands more to preventable water-born diseases, far more than were ever sacrificed in all the pre-modern cultures. Until Jesus’ sacrifice moves us to be as repulsed by this as we are by images of Molech worshipers slaughtering children and burning them alive, we would do well to hear Isaiah’s words directed squarely at us.

How about you? Where does this Prophetic Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.



  • March 1, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Takes me to the blood sacrifice of the millions of children aborted. When are we going to be so repulsed by this act that we do something as a nation to stop it! I wonder what Jesus would do?

    Comment by Bill

  • March 1, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Amen Bill!

    Comment by jim munsey

  • March 1, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    Stan, As usual, you have done a beautiful job of interpreting the ancient scriptures. Thanks so much.
    As for Bill and Jim, I agree that abortion is something of deep concern. It is a very painful and controversial topic. However, I do not feel, from the point of view of the majority of women, that a bunch of men in Washington should be making laws on women’s personal issues, These issues should be between a woman and her doctor.
    I am absolutely appalled at the religious right and the Republican spokesperson Rush Limbaugh. He needs to stop pointing his finger at women and realize that the other four fingers are pointing at himself. He should be removed from the media because he has crossed the line.
    Bringing up the abortion issue and birth control are part of a smoke screen that is covering up the most serious issues such as war, poverty, hunger, and vicious power.I find that the right wingers lack the kindness and compassion of the Jesus I have come to know.

    Comment by Janet Davies

  • March 1, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    I guess the war on the unborn children is an act of kindness from the left wing!!!!!!

    Comment by Daryl D

  • March 1, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    Maybe also you should find out who Jesus of the Bible is,not the peace camp version!!!!!!

    Comment by Daryl D

  • March 1, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    Janet aren’t you glad your mom was pro life when it came to you? I know I am glad my mom was pro life!

    Comment by jim munsey

  • March 1, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Amen Janet! Great blog, Stan. :)

    Comment by Jessica

  • March 1, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Amen Bro. Daryl

    Comment by jim munsey

  • March 1, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    Thanks Janet, good insights. As for the other issues, I believe that when the folks who are concerned about the pre-born invest as much time and energy and resources and advocacy efforts into the fate of post-birth living children who are suffering and dying, there will be more credibility to their concerns over birth control and abortion. One difference between the two issues – any time a child dies, the community commemorates that life and shares the grief in a funeral service. I don’t know of any churches that perform those kinds of public memorial services for miscarriages. You don’t read about miscarriages in the obituaries. For me, there is a great difference between someone taking a morning after pill, and a child suffering and dying from malnutrition. I suspect that if most people are honest, they would admit to a similar difference in emotional reaction and level of grief. One other difference in the two issues- it takes no real sacrifice for people to advocate for regulating birth control. To solve the hunger problem would require a great deal of economic sacrifice on our part. I suspect that’s why the issue of hunger doesn’t get as much attention.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • March 1, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    If the child is alive,then there is a chance some of us folks WHO DO CARE, can do something to save the child!!!!!!!

    Comment by Daryl D

  • March 1, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    When you have an eclectic theology, you can pick and choose which parts fit and which ones don’t. So you can discard what you don’t like and its convenient that way. Hunger is bad and abortion is worse, you are ending a human life.

    Comment by jim munsey

  • March 2, 2012 at 6:39 am

    Daryl – I appreciate your testimony of caring for the impoverished children of our world. It does seem odd, at times, that instead of getting an “Amen Brother” when I write about an issue like caring for poor children, the Amen corner changes the subject. But since you have once again given assurance of your compassion for the poor children, I’d encourage you once again to consider being a foster parent. There are so many kids in our community that need a loving parent, and I know you and Shannon would be great at this. I’d be glad to introduce you to our foster care social worker from DSS when you’re ready to explore that possibility.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • March 2, 2012 at 7:01 am

    Jim, as we’ve discussed so many times in the past, everyone “picks and chooses” when it comes to Biblical ethics. Remember, your wife wears jewelry, right? And you condone violence/war and retribution against enemies, right? Your assertion that abortion is worse than hunger is absurd – you are bound to know that when a day-old pregnancy is terminated, either naturally or through a pill, that day old zygote does not suffer to the extent that a year old baby who dies of starvation suffers. I am friends with four people who experienced starvation in their childhood, and survived, but witnessed many of their friends not surviving. I can assure you from their testimonies that the suffering from starvation is unimaginable. And to your remark about your mom being pro-life, yes, I think any of us who came into the world with parents who wanted us and who loved us and cared for us have many things to be grateful for. But it’s also true that our parents practiced birth control – given the number of children in our families, and therefore there are many children who did not get to come into the world because of their practices. For people like Rick Santorum, this is an evil. Contraception is, in his words, “not ok” and a “danger” to society. For the Catholic bishops, it is evil, because it is ending a human life (from Jeremiah, we know that life begins before conception). This goes to show the wide range of thought around the unborn within the Christian community, while I don’t think there’s any disagreement that starvation is something we should all work to eradicate. Let’s focus our energy on these things we can agree on. Amen?

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • March 2, 2012 at 7:03 am

    To Jim
    My parents were married during the depression and waited six years to have a child. They really wanted me. That is the difference.

    My friend’s daughter is married to a fundamentalist pastor and has had her eighth child. Her body is worn out and the child has a hole in its heart. The family is on every governmental program for assistance. I find it interesting that the extreme right wing wishes to outlaw abortion and contraception, yet wants to end all these governmental assistance programs for these families. It doesn’t make sense to me.

    Comment by Janet Davies

  • March 2, 2012 at 7:26 am

    Amen Stan.

    Comment by Jessica

  • March 2, 2012 at 8:44 am

    I would recommend the movie 180 then tell your position on abortion and I am in agreement with Daryl and the so called peace camp!

    Comment by jim munsey

  • March 2, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Jim, so a young girl who gets brutally molested and takes a morning after pill is the same as Hitler? That’s the kind of outrageously offensive conclusion your movie would have us believe. I don’t share that view. And I don’t think you would honestly compare the termination of a one-day old zygote to the horrendous suffering of concentration camp Jews, either. Let me ask you this, to demonstrate my point: how many funerals of miscarriages have you attended at your church? How many tombstones are in your church’s cemetery commemorating miscarried babies? Until you find yourself placing flowers on these graves, and attending these funerals, I’d encourage you to spend more time in the “so-called peace camp” and join those folks who are working to end starvation and bring health to those children who have been born, and spend less time worrying about birth control.

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • March 2, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Once again, you distort the facts for some reason maybe to justify your beliefs. Here are some facts, around 2-3% of all abortions are the hard case i.e. rape or incest, the other approximate 95-97 are for social reasons such as INCONVENIENT,OR UNWANTED. These are not the ones taking the morning after pill. These women have gone to a doctor and paid anywhere from 600-2500 dollars to abort the child. The most helpless in society are the unborn and as you can see this isnt about choice, it is a very profitable business. Every year in the US around 1-1.5 million children are aborted, that is 3700 babies a day. Now you tell me these children have not been dehumanized. There is no peace camp there, sounds violent to me but again lets don’t let facts muddy the water.

    Comment by jim munsey

  • March 2, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    By the way, just to name a few names that the doctor or someone recommended abortion to the parent ended up with Tim Tebow, James Robison was a product of rape I’m pretty sure and Bethoven was supposed to be aborted if memory serves me correctly. I am getting old.

    Comment by jim munsey

  • March 2, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Jim, I don’t know where your statistics come from, but from the medical doctors I know who deal with women’s health, I don’t think they hear a lot of women saying, “I want to end my pregnancy because of convenience.” From what I understand it’s always a lot more complicated and intense than that. But you didn’t answer my questions about your participation in funerals of the miscarried children in your community. Does that happen on a regular basis? If not, what does that say about your belief about the unborn? The what if cases like Tebow don’t get us anywhere, because the crowd who wants to ban contraception make the same argument – what it Tebow’s mom had been on the pill, or his dad used a condom? God forbid. Think of how many potential Tebow-type babies have never seen the light of day because their parents practiced birth control? And on the flip side, you could bring up examples of folks like Hitler, and say the world would have been better off if his mom had aborted him. Let’s agree to disagree on the best way to diminish late term abortions, which we both can agree would be a good thing (I and the doctors I know who work in women’s health would much rather women practice birth control, including the morning after pill if they do not want to carry a child).

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • March 2, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Almost every study is basically the same with the numbers listed above within a small margin of error. You can google it yourself. I am telling you, in the preamble of the constitution we are guaranteed the pursuit of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Looks like the first one is definitely under attack

    Comment by jim munsey

  • March 2, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    Jim,it is clear they only want to talk about the pill take it be done with it,but no one is talking about the butchers who perform these murders or how they kill these sweet baby’s. Just breaks my heart!!!!!!!

    Comment by Daryl D

  • March 2, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    Janet, would it have been ok if they really didn’t want you? right is still right, right??

    Comment by jim munsey

  • March 2, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    Jim, I did Google, and the only “research” that makes your conclusions are from anti-abortion groups, and they give no supporting evidence for their conclusions. I also found this site, Reasons Why Women Have Induced Abortions- and here is a quote: “There is little empirical research on why women obtain abortions. This lack of information is part of an overall scarcity of data on abortion. Legal, moral and ethical issues surrounding abortion make research on all aspects of abortion difficult to undertake, and also affect the quality of the information obtained. Collecting good information on reasons for abortion may be especially difficult, because it requires asking women to articulate the often complex and sensitive process that led to the decision.” This corroborates what I have heard from doctors. And Daryl, the reason we advocate preventive birth control and early intervention is to prevent the late term abortions, which you call “butchering.” The sad thing is, so many right-wingers refuse to support birth control and contraception, which would go a long way toward diminishing late term abortions, because they believe that this is an evil that prevents potential Tim Tebow types from being born. It seems like our parents did not go along with that line of thinking, as their generation went from having 12 children to having 3 or 4. They practiced birth control. They prevented many children from being born. And Daryl, I’d still love to get you and Shannon involved in Buncombe County’s Foster Care program – many children are starving for loving parents!

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • March 3, 2012 at 7:23 am


    Comment by jim munsey

  • March 3, 2012 at 7:28 am

    yes Jim, you’ve started a good song – “amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.” Which part of amazing grace were you referring to there? The grace of family planning that means our moms didn’t have to bear 12 kids? The grace of the possibility that a wonderful couple like Daryl and Shannon would be foster parents? “Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come, twas grace that led me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • March 3, 2012 at 7:31 am

    I will be praying for you, love you cousin

    Comment by jim munsey

  • March 4, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    I did a little research on this subject and this is what I found:
    Thou shalt not kill.
    Gen. 9.6 · Lev. 24.17 · Mt. 5.21 ; 19.18 · Mk. 10.19 · Lk. 18.20 · Rom. 13.9 · Jas. 2.11

    Comment by Bill

  • March 5, 2012 at 6:50 am

    Amen Bill and Stan I hope you will return to the faith of your youth.

    Comment by jim munsey

  • March 5, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Jim, surely you have these verses memorized, and know better than to hope for such a thing: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
    And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

    Comment by Stan Dotson

  • March 5, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    I know the verses, it just seems Romans 10 is more applicable.

    Comment by JIM MUNSEY

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