“The Passion” as God’s Apology

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.

Passion 1

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?

About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright. His most recently released work is "Dreams of the Defeated: A Play in Two Acts" about a political prisoner in a dystopian regime. His novels include "I, Charles, From the Camps" about the life of a young man in the African camps and "Lords of Misrule" about the making and unmaking of a jihadist in the Sahara. "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio" are about the rise and fall of socialist Venezuela (with magic).
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23 Responses to “The Passion” as God’s Apology

  1. smartyjones1 says:

    Joel, you’ve done some outstanding work and on Venezuela it’s been nothing less than a marvel simply for the fact of its documentation as much of the Karcrapsian influence of the States ignores this historical event of human destruction.

    Let’s just leave it at that and say here; it’s a miss.


  2. Phil Breault says:

    Joel, could ‘monster’ be another term for ‘free will’? Talk about opening a theological can of worms…


    • Ya, I know. Its amazing what we’ve done with free will, isn’t it? There are good things of course – when God’s light shines through in amazing moments of compassion or joy or goodness. But that isn’t the norm, is it? And I’m not blaming God for our actions – at the end of the day we make our decisions. But when God “designed” man, if he was looking for joy and kindness and purity, He didn’t really do a very good job – did He?


  3. pslloyd says:

    Ah, yes. You have felt the beat of human existence in all of its color and stripes and have real questions…I love this entry and the struggle to make sense of a worldview that neatly responds to the lowest of our human actions in a way that won’t offend God, the Un-offend-able. His walk with us as an apology for more suffering than perhaps He could imagine…just short of the redo during The Noah era. I won’t pile on, but do affirm these questions.


  4. Rob says:

    Christ’s Passion is no apology, but it does offer reconciliation of Man and God. In order to have the Passion at the end, one must start at the beginning. God did not create Man as the half-beast, half-man of Dr Moreau. As the first Man and woman, Adam and Eve were given free will, and also told to avoid certain things that would harm their relationship with God. The first act, symbolically the taking of the fruit of a certain tree and eating it, is an error, a sin, but it is only after the following act, Adam’s does not admit his error, it is in fact refusal to admit fault in sin, in fact blaming both Eve, and God for bringing Eve into his life, that causes the separation of Man from God. To continue the Dr Moreau metaphor, the Law tells the beast-men what not to do, but it does not prevent them from doing it. Man’s sinful nature, especially his pride, keeps him from adhering to to the Law. This is emphasized countless times in the Bible, both Old and New testaments. The Law only makes Men aware that they are not perfect, or the blameless party in the relationship to God, and that the penalty of this blame is death. The beauty of the Passion is that the penalty is paid by Christ’s death, Man could not pay on his own, his very nature prevents him from doing so, but Christ stands as advocate for us, pays the cost, in fact, in acknowledging that sacrifice, Man is no longer estranged from God, but is adopted into the family of God as His own child. The resurrection stands as evidence that all that was foretold is in fact true.


    • Well said Rob, thanks! I’ve of course heard that many times. But don’t you think that there might be some sort of “design flaw”? I mean God must be feeling very sad indeed about the mess – if he sent his Son to try and fix it, right? Don’t you think that shows some sort of responsibility on His part?


      • “But don’t you think that there might be some sort of “design flaw”? I mean God must be feeling very sad indeed about the mess – if he sent his Son to try and fix it, right? Don’t you think that shows some sort of responsibility on His part?”

        Not a design flaw but a possibility. Adam and Eve could have chosen differently, they do not. We can choose differently, so often we do not. Yet God continues to give us free will. If we imagine God’s values most our “joy, kindness and purity” we imagine too small. Those are very good things but first and foremost, God values our freedom: we can only become like Christ if we are willing to choose to be like Christ. Take away the “design flaw” wherein we can choose to love but can also choose to be heartless and vicious and all that is left are slaves when God wants heirs.



      • I do like the “we imagine too small” idea. Thanks.


  5. pjlazos says:

    This was the first Easter in dozens of years, maybe ever, that I didn’t go to church. I am not a religious woman, but a spiritual one. I was raised Catholic, went to eight years of Catholic school and was spoon fed dogma until there was no room in my brain for anyone else’s religious ideas or idealism. Then, as a sophomore in college I took a comparative religion class and I never saw my religion the same way again. When my almost 17-year old who was both baptized and confirmed tells me she doesn’t want to go to church anymore because she’s not sure what she gets out of it I say I know because I feel the same way (although I still love to sit in an empty church before a statue of the BVM having just lit a candle and have a little chat, cause Mary rocks). Even as a child, the whole idea of the crucifixion was terrifying to me, more barbaric than loving, and not something easily equated with what my God looked like despite the way the nuns blathered on about it. If that’s the Catholic church’s best shining example of a loving and merciful God, it’s no wonder we have priests as pedophiles, women as whores or virgins with nothing in between, and control issues out the wazoo. What if God is the wind through the trees or the sun on your face? That’s a God I could get behind, not one that feels the need to let his son be killed to redeem the rest of us. Did he need a sacrifice that badly? Couldn’t he just make the sign of the cross and call it a day? I mean, he’s God, right? I wish we didn’t take the stories so seriously. Perhaps they are steeped in truth — as legend often is — or perhaps they are just stories. It doesn’t matter who or what or how we believe, at the end of it, we need to find our own internal compass, the I am that I am, and Jesus, or Buddha, or Allah or the tree in our backyards is not going to do it for us no matter how many prayers we say. The sooner people realize that, the sooner they’ll stop turning the world upside down in the name of religion. Cause it’s freakin’ ass-backwards out there now, and it’s got a whole heck of a lot to do with religion. And to answer your question, I think the idea of God saying mea culpe makes as much sense as anything else.


    • Thank you. So many are struggling with the same things, as they have always done. At least there’s solace in that – that we aren’t alone in these questions. I often turn to CS Lewis; in A Grief Observed he is furious with God for having taken his wife from cancer. In The Problem of Pain he tries to explain what we’re talking about; a world on fire that God could do something about if he wanted and “free will” doesn’t seem to be a good enough answer to brush off the genocides. I don’t know exactly what I feel. My faith in God and Jesus is as strong as ever, because I now have a little boy and can see Jesus through his eyes and its magnificent. But my work takes me to face the darkness head on and its heartwrenching. Alas – reading, writing and asking the Lord for guidance may be the best we can do. But stale sermons from ministers in Demoins who make 100k a year sure don’t help, do they?

      Liked by 1 person

      • pjlazos says:

        No, they do not. And to clarify, my faith in the Holy Trinity is no less diminished. It’s just that I have a hard time looking at it through the 3-D lens and I absolutely do not buy into the Catholic Church’s mythology that I need a priest to talk to God. Having said that, I do believe in the inherent grace within the sacraments. My beliefs pull from so many religions that they are themselves a conundrum. I don’t know how to explain it all. I just know there is a force greater than me, a benevolent one, that is listening and wants to help my soul succeed. But my guess is that there’s probably some Star Trek kind of prime directive that forbids anyone but me making steps in that direction. I think that’s my biggest problem with the Catholic religion (and Donald Trump!) that says “come to us and we’ll make it right for you. All you have to do is pray.” It reduces people to infancy with no accountability for how their life unfolds. Which is why the world is so effed up.😩
        And I’m loving this conversation.👍


      • I grew up in the church (evangelical) and there’s so many fights that don’t seem very important. For example, I was in a conversation the other day about the difference between Southern Baptists and conservative baptists. I couldn’t name one – but those two groups hate each other! 🙂 Very odd indeed, humanity. But also we can’t become universalists. That denies Jesus’s sacrifice – and that is something that he can’t/wont stand for, irregardless of God’s motivation of sending him to die. Of that I am sure!

        Liked by 1 person

      • pjlazos says:

        Did you just say irregardless?!😆


  6. Hey, Joel!
    Here’s some irony. We support freedom, enough to go around the world promoting it, speaking out against people who would deny it to others. Yet… when God gave mankind free will, that we deem as a mistake. So… we want it but we don’t?


    • David Berkey says:

      Sorry, Joel. That posted as our blog. It’s me, your old friend, David Berkey.


      • Hi David. Its an excellent reflection. I guess I’m taking a step back from that though on my own thoughts. Its not about self-determination or freedom really that I’m writing on this moment. Its about the nature of that free will. Why is it so destructive? Microsoft created a Artificial Intelligence bot once that was on twitter to learn from its interactions what was acceptable behavior. The bot became a racist and ended up a Nazi. They had to delete it. But that was men. My reflections; couldn’t God, who is perfect, come up with a cocktail for free will that worked better? He could have done whatever he wanted – created huge green men with twelve heads, whatever. Why did he go this route? Food for thought 🙂


  7. ritagail says:

    First of all, thank you. For those of us who have experienced violence/abuse especially as children, but even as adults and our prayers for God to intervene during the acts of violence came back “No”, this question of what the Passion means, of if God cares, etc. is crucial.

    I also found the following article, hard to explain it, makes the case that Scripture says it’s ok to hold God accountable….but to still worship God.



    • “our prayers for God to intervene during the acts of violence came back “No”” — I’m so sorry, and so is the Lord I am sure. Why he refuses to protect us I don’t know, but that he has participated in our suffering is certain!


  8. Pingback: Night – by Elie Wiesel | Joel D. Hirst's Blog

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