Holy Week

Column by Dr. Carl Krieg on 21 March 2024 0 Comments

The chronology of the week is where the difficulty originates. Most Christians believe that first Jesus was crucified, and then he rose from the dead. The reality is that first came the resurrection and then the crucifixion.  This is crucial.  

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The Cross, an instrument of death, repels me as a barbaric way to symbolize Christianity.  Were a modern-day Jesus or a female equivalent to die from gunfire, would it be appropriate for the resulting places of worship to feature guns on top of their buildings and for religious leaders to wear guns around their necks, all for honoring the new messiah?


Thank you Barry for calling the cross into question! There are so many ways we can symbolize, uphold, and remember Jesus' life and actions, so why boil it down to the moment of his death?

Always standing up to empire, Jesus continually spoke with the authority of creation.  He celebrated our Earthly paradise and used metaphors from nature to pull us out of fear, greed, or perceived separation and back into generosity, trust, and inter-relatedness with all life.  After Jesus’s death, early Christians continued to recall the natural settings where Jesus had gathered groups together.  Preserved mosaics from the earliest churches depict this imagery and did so for a long time.

The era of Constantine (4th century) marks a point in history where the church went in a very different direction from what Jesus taught.  Constantine, a Christian convert, claimed the cross as an official symbol.  Crucifixion scenes were popularized as late as the 11th century to support theories of atonement and the crusades which served politics and power.

It is also important to remember that the cross existed long before Christianity.  For earth-centered cultures and First Nations people around the world, the cross has reminded us of four directions, four seasons, four energies, four elements, and so forth.  Studying how the cross has been used throughout history and across cultures, anthropologists describe the cross to be a symbol of balanced connection.  It emphasizes the importance of integration and relationship.

So, is the cross barbaric?  As a vehicle of the death penalty, it is very barbaric.  As an earth-centered symbol, it connects us with Creation.  Symbols have multiple meanings.  For those who continue to be perpetually and systemically oppressed, the cross may offer assurance that G-d accompanies all who suffer.  And there can be healing in that.  Some visual artists have embraced the cross by portraying crucified endangered species as a wake-up call.  Might this painful imagery stir us back into balanced and caring relationship with all of creation, as Jesus modeled for us?

For Christ followers today, the cross is over-simplified and most certainly misunderstood, AND it can also be one symbol in a host of others that invites us to connect more deeply with the teachings of a man and his steady invitation for us all to choose Life.

~ Rev. Lauren Van Ham




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