“Why do we still carry a device of torture around our necks?
Oh, how rotten your pre-apocalypse is
All you bible-black fools living over nightmare ground.” –Nightwish, Song of Myself
One of my friends was obsessed with revisiting the death of Jesus. She watched films and plays depicting his torture and death over and over, and I asked her why the resurrection got so little time in such plays. The resurrection was short and the crucifixion was long in every story. She admitted to the problem, but didn’t have a solution for it.
I was walking home from the library last week, deep in thought as I usually am, and I was thinking about holidays. Every Christmas, Christians revisit the birth of Christ and remind themselves how incredible it is. Every Sunday, Christians revisit some aspect of the Bible they’ve read before. They aren’t looking for something new, to be challenged, for growth.
I’m speaking generally. Calm down. I haven’t started getting controversial yet.
It’s all a search for renewal, but I don’t want renewal of the same old things. I want to grow, and experience new things that really are new.
When I watch people return to church, and return to watching Christ die in their expensive mega-church plays over and over again, and return to the same summer camps and religious retreats, I see them get older without growing older. It’s therapy, but the kind of therapy that never comes to an end. People don’t graduate from church, even though it’s set up like a school.
Like I do when I’m walking down the street, listening to music, ranting to myself, I turned an angry use of the Lord’s name into a prayer. Christ, the obsession with the death of Christ is weird. People are obsessed with torture, and want an excuse to watch it, while denying all other forms of horror in their sheltered Christian homes (from media, anyway. Horror often exists in Christian homes in the way people twist truths and control children). Jesus, do you revisit your own suffering the way your followers do?
I let the question answer itself, and watched the mountains and sky in the Colorado Springs evening. I don’t think God dwells on the past. I mean, that’s kind of the point. Even from the most basic, dumbed-down versions of the Jesus story, all the religious rituals of renewal don’t make sense. Jesus-died-on-the-cross-to-forgive-our-sins-so-our-past-doesn’t-own-us-anymore.
That night, I had a nightmare in which I was tortured. I’ve never felt pain so intensely as I do in my dreams. I haven’t always endured excruciating torment in my dreams; it’s a recent development. Sometimes this makes me question reality. What is real, if dreams are more vivid and painful than real life?
The next day, I wrote the following rant, and used it to start conversations:
“The religious ritual of renewal is a bit odd. Why should we need to revisit the death of Christ so often? It’s like we love our circular expectations of reawakened emotions, and begin again on the same racetrack, running laps when the whole purpose of grace was to free us from these constraints, and to let us run on mountain trails, nay, to create new paths. I don’t think Yeshua agonizes over his own agony. His suffering and death is in the past, and he’s handed us the keys to full life. Paid for and free, we steal clues from ourselves and seek therapeutic retellings of stories instead of living our own stories. I despise this kind of therapy. It masks complacency, it plays with emotions, and it deprives forward motion. Stop telling me about depravity and death, and stop wearing crosses. These are the symbols of revisited torture, of people incapable of loving themselves, worn by those who constantly re-inspire themselves with ritual, and sleepwalk back into the same patterns of living. If your God is infinite, you don’t have to prove it. Just get involved with what God’s doing, and stop chasing the past.”
My brother and sister who carry crucifixes from a Catholic retreat got defensive and said, “But I like wearing my cross.” One friend replied, “Amen. A freakin’ men. Jesus.” Another gave the more dodgy yet eloquent response, “I can’t imagine that’s garnered unilateral accolades.” When I posted it on Facebook, I got a collection of comments quoting the Bible to defend ritualistic renewal. My friends should have known better than to try and convince me with the Bible, or to say “of course you can’t take it to an extreme.”
Callan said those who focus just on death and depravity, when partaking of the Passover feast or communion, for instance, are missing the entire point. I’ll grant him this, but the symbols of death only serve to reinforce an emphasis on death, and the cross is a symbol of death.
Sam chimed in, “we don’t lament, we rejoice at the freedom that the death of Christ gives us! And we do this when we take communion: ‘eat, drink, remember and believe that the blood of Jesus Christ was shed for you.’ He didn’t just die, He rose!”
Good, yes, emphasize the resurrection. I’m all for that, but it’s not a defense of the cross as a symbol. A focus on pain and death brings up unnecessary, immobilizing guilt of the past.
I asked on the Facebook thread if anyone wanted my actual logical responses. I got no requests. In part 2, I’ll give my unsolicited logical reasoning for why the cross sucks as a Christian symbol.