One does not often find expressions of dramatic changes in Protestant Theology so blatant and explicit as in the story of ‘The Room’ by Joshua Harris (i). What occurs in this story is remarkable, not for what it does not say but precisely because of what it does say, in its not so subtle allegorical form. After a long tale of seeing his sins canvased on an innumerable amount of index cards, Joshua notices Jesus walk into the room, predictably to save him from his sins. Joshua acts like a Peter figure in refusing his Lord to accept the account on his behalf (Matt. 21:21-23), but Jesus continues to write his own name on the cards of Joshua so that the accounting of Joshua’s past sins is now ‘finished’. What immediately is narrated however at the end of the story is truly remarkable for its blatant proposition as to what the death of Jesus accomplished, for it says,

“I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.”

            What we have here is the reinstatement of the sacrificial system of atonement. Effectively, what Christ’s death did for the character was wipe his past record clean but left wide open the entire system of recording of wrongs and rights. How the sure-to-be many ‘Conservative Evangelical’ churches that have read out this narrative before their congregations in praise of its description of our sins missed this blatant transformation of atonement theology is certainly something to be followed up upon. If I can dismiss myself from an academic tone for one moment, when it comes to the Gospel, we must contend against falsehood,

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you.They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord (Jude 3-4)

            Now why is this whole ‘atonement’ thing so important for Christian Theology? Ever notice as part of New Year’s rituals or diets that we often talk about our ‘guilty pleasures’? And how this is okay because we had an apple for breakfast or something other cheap excuse? Sacrificial systems are alive and well today, and not merely in less ‘barbaric’ forms (as if the central problem of the sacrificial system of the ancient world was that it was violent and unhygienic), no…think about war. Are not wars mass events of child sacrifice to pay for the sins of past foreign intervention? Or are not abortions sacrifices to appease the gods of sex who have unleashed terror upon us as we began to worship her in the sexual revolution?  We have these forces and fates whom we every so often pay tribute and sacrifice too so that we can maintain our bad habits and evil desires. Think of the sacrifice for ‘peace’ as portrayed in The Hunger Games (Lionsgate, 2013) as 23 deaths a year, or the sacrifice of Jon Martello in Don Jon (Voltage pictures, 2013) to maintain his porn addiction as a certain amount of prayers.

           The obsession of our culture concerning ‘balance’ and ‘holistic’ lifestyles is precisely the same anxiety and terror of ancient cultures but perhaps in a neo-pseudo-Asian disguise. The central Christian idea however was not that the crucifixion was just another sacrifice to re-establish right relations with ‘God’, but precisely the end of the entire idea of a sacrificial system. Here is exactly why Harris’ narrative of ‘The Room’ is so insidious: it preys upon the guilt of past records of sins, absolves those sins, and leaves the reader terrified that now its up to them to make sure the room does not fill up with sins again.

           ” You’ve been given a second chance in the Game!!!”-But the game is evil. “Should not you thank the Lord that he’s paid your penalty?”-But only till the next crime. “Peace between God or the universe or whatever you wish to call and you has been restored!!!” -With the impetus upon me to keep the peace. We don’t need the game to restart. We don’t need pay our tributes to keep the peace. We don’t need to off-set our crimes with good deeds. We don’t need to pay charity tithes to relieve our guilt for oppression…We need for the game to end. We need to dismantle the altar. We need to abolish the court. We need to abolish the system of debt.

(i) Harris, Joshua. “The Room.” New Attitude Magazine, 1995.