Philip Jenkins, a great historian and theologian, stresses how African cultures are so much closer to the world of the Old Testament than our modern Western societies are. This makes the message of the Old Testament resonate much more deeply with them.
We speak of sacrifice and atonement without ever having experienced such a ritual, seen or smelled the poured out blood. I must confess that I have never seen or smelled a sacrifice, so I went on youtube.com to find the closest alternative. I watched some obscene videos of animal sacrifices, including the mass animal sacrifice festival in Nepal. Yes, it is shocking indeed, even from behind a computer screen!
So the question is: Has my 21st century, high-tech, Western and protected sterilized life robbed me of the immediacy of the meaning of Old Testament sacrifice and, as a result, the full sense of Jesus’ sacrifice?
I would argue, not necessarily. The fact that I come to a world of sacrifice from an environment completely foreign to violence against animals (or at least visible violence) has managed to maintain my shock reaction to such scenes. Every particle of mine resists and objects to the treatment of an innocent being in this manner. And this sense of obscenity together with the reaction it causes in me is something that should have been preserved in these cultures.
One was not meant to get comfortable with the concept and act of sacrifice. It is an obscene violent act which visually demonstrates what sin actually does: sin is violence against innocent beings. It should have generated an aversion and a longing towards its abolition. Better, an aversion towards the sin which necessitated it because, essentially, one is not permitted to think of sin as non-consequential and bloodless. Hating your brother equals slaughtering your brother. The association of sin and innocent blood is a mental exercise we should continue to engage in, much more now in our Western world where sacrifice is invisible and sin “appears” bloodless.
So, I do encourage you to watch some “animal sacrifice” videos, and yes, feel the horror…