There’s a scene in H. G. Wells’ novel “The Island of Dr. Moreau” when the monsters product of Dr. Moreau’s imagination become empowered – learning from Montgomery their warden-keeper through an unfortunate series of events the nature of their captivity and the true source of the good doctor’s power over them. They storm the chalet where Dr. Monroe is hiding and proceed to engage him in conversation, entreating him to explain the reason for their sordid existence. The explanation is ultimately unsatisfactory and Moreau is killed, as is Montgomery and Edward Prendick (the narrator of the story) is hunted through the jungles until he escapes on a raft; where he is picked up traumatized and closed-lipped, silent for life as to his adventures lest some curious future scientist deign to visit the island and continue on the horror or worse – much worse – release it onto the rest of the world.
I’ve always had trouble with “The Passion” story, as it is sold to us by tradition. Let me explain. I am Edward, and have been living for most of my life on Dr. Moreau’s cursed island. I’ve always known that the creator lives in a chalet just beyond reach. But this has had little impact in the daily struggles of the wretched. We steal and murder and fight and fornicate while the “Sayer of the Law”, placed there by Dr. Moreau to keep order stands on a rocky outcropping above admonishing us. “Not to go on all-fours; that is the Law. Are we not men? Not to suck up drink; that is the law. Are we not men? Not to eat flesh or fish; that is the law. Are we not men? Not to claw the bark of trees; that is the law. Are we not men? Not to chase other men; that is the law. Are we not men?” Until he too is killed, for our great iniquity will suffer no law. LRA making brothers rape sisters. There is no law. Boko Haram sending pregnant women in suicide vests to confuse the guardians. There is no law. Hugo Chavez “expropriating” his once-well-off nation into famine. There is no law. Soldiers running drugs. Public defenders defending only their illicit ways. The apparatus of government turned suddenly and deliberately against us time and again. There is no law.
I have had a front row seat to all of it – and it is an abomination.
Cue the Easter story. We are told each year at this season that we are celebrating the time when God condescended to meet us where we were – in the jungles and beside the streams under banana leaves and in stick-and-mud huts – in order that we would know Him and apologize; thereby sealing our admittance into the chalet.
We – the terrified inhabitants of the island – apologize to Him? That has always seemed to me a little unfair. Should Dr. Moreau’s monsters be the ones apologetic? Or is it in fact Dr. Moreau who owes the fearsome creatures His words of solace? After all – it was His bad idea that brought us all into existence; we are just trying to make the best of it.
I know – blasphemy. My theology degree gone significantly off the rails; making D. L. Moody push back from the banquet table where I’m sure he’s spends most of his time and burp a little.
I was thinking about all this again this Easter season. Because I think that maybe we as a race have perhaps misinterpreted “The Passion.” Could it be that it was not after all an act of condescension – a powerful God extending an olive branch down to us? Could it be that “The Passion” is in fact an apology? The only way God could think of to make up for the island that He created, oversaw, administered and feels pretty bad about? To suffer Himself, sending His Boy from the chalet into the darkness– so that the bridge between the two was perfected and cemented and made sturdy and – yes I’ll say it and just. God’s apology, to have His Son live on the island for a time until He, too, was murdered by we the monsters. Yes, that does make some more sense, doesn’t it?
And as with every relationship in which trust is broken, restoration comes only through forgiveness. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do (Luke 23:35)” Jesus said of his torturers as He died on the cross. Now it is up to us – will we forgive Him for our island life?