Whip It


According to a new book, the previous pope used to whip himself "to get closer to Jesus".

If you ask me, I think that if those who engaged in self-flagellation instead spent a little more that time improving social justice for the poor and disenfranchised, they'd find themselves a lot closer to Jesus than whipping themselves would ever accomplish.

In a way, I think kind of activity is a product of the perverse notion, exemplified by such films as Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, that Jesus's suffering was in and of itself some kind of a virtue, rather than a terrible and unfortunate consequence of the power of his life and message. Perhaps one can draw a straight line from the doctrine of substitutionary atonement to people whipping themselves. Sure, I wholeheartedly agree that it was virtuous that Jesus was willing to suffer and become a martyr for what he believed in; but in no way can I see that it was a good thing that these things happened to him. The idea that God wants anyone to suffer or thinks that torture is in any way desirable--be it inflicted by Empires or by one's own hand--makes a mockery of Divine compassion.

I can see that there is value to be found in developing self-discipline and even in certain forms of self-denial. Self-denial as a growth exercise is one thing; glorifying self-torture and ritualized suffering as some kind of saintly virtue or is another thing altogether. Given all the negativity about the human body found in certain forms of Christianity to begin with, maybe this isn't surprising. Equating Mary's supposed virginity with saintliness gives the message that the human body's natural urges take us away from the Divine ideal. If you really hate the human body enough to claim that virginity is saintly, then perhaps it is a small step from that to whipping one's self and thinking that this somehow makes one holier.


CT said...

Agree - sounds like a rather distorted view of the world. Lets imitate Jesus by all means but not via self-abuse.