Tuesday, 7 June 2005

The crucifix fetish

Not long ago I attended a wedding, in a nice little white-painted church on a wooded hilltop. The sun shone from a clear sky, and far below, sailing boats moved slowly over the blue sea. A perfect day for a wedding, and all went well.

Inside, the church was cosy, but as I looked around I saw one thing that didn't seem right for the occasion. Here we were celebrating a happy event, and all around the walls were paintings and carvings of someone being tortured to death.

Doesn't it seem odd to you that Christians are so obsessed with The Crucifixion that they need to remind themselves (and the rest of us) of it constantly? There was nothing unusual about it in that time and place: many other people must have died in the same way.

If Jesus returned today, wouldn't he be disconcerted that his modern-day followers remain fixated on the manner of his execution? "Hey, folks, there was nothing special about it, really. Why don't you focus on the positive things I did and said during life? Why surround yourselves with images of pain and death?"

Fortunately I don't often have occasion to go into a church. When I do, I must say that the decoration strikes me as bizarre. What would you think if you went into someone's house and found it all clean and neat but decorated with paintings of people dying in pain?


Rusty Coleman said...

I am a Catholic and I see your POV. In every church around here there are the paintings or sculptures of the 12 stages of the cross. Were Jesus around he might be horrified to see his last journey made epic. Nice Blog there JP!

Jonathan said...

Hello Rusty, thanks for your broad-minded reaction.

I did wonder at the time if my comments might cause offence; but stating any significant opinion in public is likely to offend someone. I thought I'd risk it.

There haven't been any angry responses so far...

Anonymous said...

It is simply the symbolic beauty of his death. Jesus died for us, to relieve of us all of our sins, in is a true and final blessing of unconditional love, one so great he died for. The crucifix is symbolic of all those things, what the lord has done for us, and how far his love has truly gone for us.

John said...

Hi Jonathan, I have a long time ago become a Darwinist but wanting to have a freedom-for-everyone to follow their own religion I would say that the Christians would say that Jesus died so that we could go to heaven. Thats why they show the death of Christ. Its an important moment for them.
My father believes or is that, has faith, and why should I try to take that away from him. He gos to bed (88 years old) and is not afraid of death. If I told him my point of view it would be like kicking his crutch away. Now, I would be a very nasty person to do that. Don't you think?
I don't thank Mr Richard Dawkins dos us a favor in telling us that God dos not exist. By the way I have read his books and like everything he says about our history. But kicking crutch's?

Jonathan said...

Hello John, I don't think I'm kicking anyone's crutch away here. Indeed, I'm not commenting on the Christian faith at all; I'm merely commenting on church interior decoration.

Just above your comment, the anonymous writer in October replied well to my post from a Christian point of view, and I appreciate that explanation, though it still seems weird from my point of view.

I read Dawkins's The God Delusion a couple of years ago, but I wasn't very keen on it overall. I don't associate myself with him particularly; we're both non-religious, but we have little else in common.

Jonathan said...

Now even the Anglican church begins to agree with me. The BBC News reports that "A large sculpture of Christ on the cross has been removed from outside a church in West Sussex after its vicar said it was scaring young children ... In a survey carried out by the church, every comment about the sculpture was negative."

The offending sculpture has now been removed and replaced with an empty cross that doesn't bother people.