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The Economy of the Soul: I enter into a debate with my nemesis on a variety of theological topics.
Posted by Douglas, Jun 19, 2008. 1952 views. ID = 1396

The Economy of the Soul

Posted by Douglas, Jun 19, 2008. 1952 views. ID = 1396
This post was written in 11 minutes.
If you haven't read the previous installments of this story, you should be sure to read them first, otherwise this probably won't make much sense to you.

This is the second time I wrote this. The first time I accidentally deleted it, so I had to start over from scratch. Very frustrating, and I almost couldn't get up the ambition to go back and write it again.
This post has been awarded 28 stars by 7 readers.
This post is Part 8 of a writing series titled The Bovine Man.

The laughter continued for quite some time, growing louder, more strident, fading to a cynical chuckle, then disappearing altogether. I turned to face him, this horrid man who was also a god. I realized that I had been mistaken about his appearance all along; he was not a man with a bestial face, but a beast who was wearing a human face. I also realized, standing here in this ancient shrine which was more his home than anywhere else, that his bestial qualities were becoming far more evident. No longer was he short and stout; he appeared to be as tall as me, and much more muscular. It was as though he was drawing power and strength from this site of child sacrifice, and that power was manifesting itself in a renewal of his physical form.

"Yes," he said, "That is one of my more popular names: Molech. That's what the Ammonites called me. And Milcom. The Moabites called me Chemoth. But I've had so many other names throughout history. Golden Calf. Ba'al Molech. The Apis Bull. Jeroboam's Folly. And my personal favorite: the detestable god. That's the name your Judeo-Christian god called me. I didn't take it personally, though; that was just his way of trying to keep his followers loyal to him.

"Not that he had much success with that. Those stupid descendants of Abraham couldn't make up their minds what they wanted out of a god, or who they wanted for a god. I think they changed deities as often as they changed their robes. It's no wonder though - it's tough to maintain respect and awe when you're as hypocritical as he is."

"Hypocritical?" I demanded.

"Of course. What does he tell his followers in the law? Don't make your children pass through the fire as sacrifice to Molech. He even threatens to kill them outright if they disobey that particular law. But who is it that tells Abraham to sacrifice his son on the altar? Who is it that conducts a wholesale slaughter of the first born children in Egypt? And for heaven's sake (if you'll pardon the pun) if he's so all-fired powerful as you Christians seem to think he is, why in the world didn't he stop Pharaoh, Herod, and every other baby killer throughout history? Hm?"

I wasn't sure my theology - or my debating skills - were up to the task of arguing the complex issues behind the Plagues, the Exodus and God's omnipotence as it relates to sin in the world, but I could answer his first argument. "Abraham was only tested," I said, feeling a bit foolish, since I was sure the bovine man already knew this. "God never intended for him to kill his son. At the last minute God showed him a ram in the thicket, and he sacrificed that instead."

"Precisely!" Molech replied, cheerfully unphased by my rebuttal. "And therein you will find the essential likeness between me and your god. We both require the sacrifice of the innocent on behalf of the guilty. A ram, a lamb, a Jewish carpenter, or a little child - what difference is there, really?"

"The difference," I replied, "is that the sacrifices of God were made for forgiveness of sins, not to win a pathetic human war like the one between Carthage and whatever that other place was."

"Syracuse. And I would most respectfully disagree, and point out once again the slaughter of the Egyptian children, which was, if you will forgive my saying so, to win a pathetic war between Egypt and Israel."

His eagerness to return to the subject of the plagues and the slaughter of the Egyptian firstborn seemed to me a ploy to distract me from the real issue. But I was unsure what the real issue might be, so I floundered deeper into his argument. "In a war, the enemy is slain. But your worshipers slaughter their own in order to receive victory in battle."

"So dropping a bomb on Hiroshima, killing thousands of innocent non-combatants is okay, but sacrificing your own troops as part of a greater strategy is not? And what of your Christian god? Didn't he sacrifice his own son in order to win a battle against gods like myself? A battle which, I must say, I don't think is going so well for him. As you can see, I'm still here, and as powerful as ever." Indeed, he seemed more powerful now than he had just minutes before. He towered over me now, this bovine deity, and his face had become even more bestial in appearance. I half expected to see horns sprouting out of his head at any moment. No wonder they called him the Bull of Apis.

"The sacrifices of your worshipers give you your power," I said. Seeing how he had grown strong and tall in this place, I felt sure that this was true. "The sacrifice of Christ gives no power to God; it gives forgiveness to his worshipers."

"Nonsense," the bullish god replied. "You've already forgotten your Sunday School lessons. What did Jesus say to the man who was lowered through the roof to be healed?"

"Your sins are forgiven."

"Yes. And what else?"

"Get up and walk."

"Yes, yes. But you're missing the key point that's right in the middle of all that." He muttered under his breath about lazy Christians who didn't even know their own Bible, then continued, "Jesus only healed the man's body as a way of proving something. He did it to prove that he had the power to forgive sins. You say that the sacrifice of Christ gave no power to your god, but you're wrong. The sacrifice of Christ did give power, just as my worshipers' sacrifices give power to me. The only difference is that he squanders that power on something as useless and uninteresting as forgiveness, while I use it to shape the world as I see fit.

"This is what you Christians don't understand. Forgiveness is the most costly commodity in the universe. It costs more than all the gold in every mine, and every bank. The cost of forgiveness is life itself. Your god forgives you, and paid the price for that forgiveness. Those idiotic African women, Perpetua and Felicity, they forgave their tormentors, but they paid the price for it as well.

"Your Jesus, he tells his followers, love your enemies and forgive your persecutors. You all smile and nod and say what nice sweet words those are, but none of you actually dares do it. Deep down inside, you know the cost of forgiveness. Deep down, in the most secret places of your heart, you have no desire to squander the energy and the life of your soul on something as useless as forgiveness."

He smiled at me, and for just a moment it seemed like the affectionate smile of a father toward a son. "What you don't want to admit, what you fear most of all, is the secret which I'm about to tell you: Though your apostle Paul wrote most eloquently about reflecting the image of your god, you are, when it comes right down to it, far more a reflection of me than you are of that god of yours. Like me, you know economy of the soul, and you don't want to be the one to pay the price."

He chuckled. "That makes you one of the smart ones."

The frightening thing was, I knew he was right. Forgiveness is costly. To say the words, "I forgive you," costs nothing, but to wipe clean the stain of bitterness, of hurt, that requires a price few are willing to pay. I remembered then the story of the man who was forgiven a debt (and what a costly debt it was!) yet refused to forgive a much smaller debt. He was a man who understood the heavy cost of forgiveness, and I have no more desire than he to pay that price. Molech was right; I am that man.

And if I am that man, does that not mean I have doubted, at its very core, the truth of my faith?

I knew that somewhere, somehow, there must be answers to all these questions and arguments, but no matter what I said, he seemed to have just the right response to turn my words against my own beliefs. I felt as though we were engaged in a strange dance, and I was trying to get to the center of the dance floor, but he kept me skirting around the edges, in the shadows. My concern, which was quickly turning to fear, was that in his heightened state of power, he would persuade me to reject what I had held most precious. In the back of my mind I felt the prickling of a warning: You need to get away from here.

It occurred to me then that as long as I stayed within the radius of the god's repulsive circle, I would remain unnoticed by the many men and women working this archaeological dig. But step outside that circle, and I might be free of him. I took one step backward, away from him, and then another, expecting him to stop me, or follow me. He did neither.

He simply laughed again, and said, "Coward! What happened to Resist the devil and he will flee from you? Doesn't your Bible say that? Didn't your Jesus say something about that holy spirit of his giving you words to say? Has he left you? Forsaken you?" Then, with one more taunting, cynical laugh that echoed throughout the valley, he disappeared, leaving me alone in the shrine of Molech with no good way to explain my presence to a group of very irate archaeologists.

Copyright 2008 Douglas. All rights reserved. has been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work. For permission to reprint this item, please contact the author.

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This post has been awarded 28 stars by 7 readers.
This post is Part 8 of a writing series titled The Bovine Man. The next part of this series can be found here: The Game.
This is a revised version of a post. Click here to view the original version

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