08 February 2007

Power Behind the Crucifixion

I can't help but wonder if the powerful images of the Crucifixion of Christ are lost on my generation. Even to modern believers, I think that the Passion isn't as well understood as it was in times past, even up to the 1800s (though I would suspect that the power started to trail off after the fall of the Roman Empire).

Keep this in mind: I am not saying that the Crucifixion is not important. I hold to the belief that Christ suffered, died, was buried, and resurrected as payment for the sins of Man. All I claim is that the power behind the images don't have as much of an effect on my generation (for the sake of argument, let's group anyone below the age of thirty in here).

Christ was humiliated, tortured, and hung on a cross to essentially drown in his own bodily fluids. One of the reasons that this doesn't have much impact on us today is that in what we consider the civilized world, that type of thing doesn't happen. In the US and other western nations, punishment, especially capital punishment, are no longer public events. It used to be that the entire town turned out for hangings, but this is seen as barbaric now (and for good reason). People cannot grasp the idea that Christ was mocked on his way to die. The most recent example of this was Saddam Hussein, and most people claim that he deserved it. In the times of public executions, and in places where this travesty still occurs, the humiliation and suffering of Jesus might have a more tramatic impact. But not anymore.

The second reason that people fail to grasp the power behind crucifixions is that it was torture. Western, civilized societies aren't supposed to do this. We get up in arms about water boarding and the abuses at Abu Grahib and Gitmo (again, for good reason). We as a civilization cannot bring ourselves to imagine the pain of being whipped, beaten, nailed to a tree, and left to die. Modern executions, as horrible as they are, are nothing compared to the ways of old. Lethal injection, electrocution. All seem horrible ways to go, but there are worse ways, and chief among them is crucifixion.

Last, but certainly not least, is our tolerance of violence. Even when executions were public, the idea behind it was not entertainment but enforcement. The message sent was, "Be a good citizen and this won't happen to you." Now violence is fun. First-person shooters, slasher movies, and internet videos have made violence something to be enjoyed and laughed at rather than feared. My neighbors spend most of their free time playing games like Counter Strike and Soldier of Fortune and watching videos of police shootings and plane crashes. Few things are outside of the realm of public pleasure.

While a few things still pop up to scar the minds of westerners (the beheadings of Americans in Iraq, murder of missionaries), most things are considered to be too unrelated to us for us to care. Cases of genocide (Cambodia, Iraq, Rwanda, and the Sudan) are ignored because the populace cannot relate to the victims. If that is the case, how are we expected to relate to the torture and murder of a Middle Eastern rabbi nearly two thousand years ago?

Rock on.