Don't Frighten the Children...


I come from a church tradition that doesn't often have crucifixes with figures of Jesus on them, preferring an empty cross (whether that be because of an emphasis on the completeness of the atonement, a wariness of breaking the second commandment, or a simple tendency to be different from the Catholics... actually, even a cross is at times regarded as a wee bit "papist"... I am told that when our current church building was erected only 40 years ago there was a resistance by some to having any cross inside the sanctuary or outside the building). With that in mind I am wary of criticising Rev. Ewen Souter, the Vicar of St. John's Church, Broadridge Heath in West Sussex, who recently had the figure of Christ removed from the cross outside his church to avoid putting off people coming inside or frightening children, a story which has been picked up on elsewhere (including here, and in limerick form here), and which, doubtless, will be keeping right wing copywriters in business for days...

I have said elsewhere that I have problems with unduly focusing on the physical agony of the crucifixion... The scriptures don't, but then they were written at a time when such brutality was a fact of life, indeed physical cruelty was a form of entertainment, be it in the circus or on the execution ground... We are a little more refined... we prefer our gore in celluloid form... Where even if it is excessive, be that in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Passion of the Christ, we know that the actors involved all survived to die another day...

But I do have two problems with this:

1) If the crucifixion of Christ is central to our faith, once we have placed a representation of him on that cross in the public eye, we need to be very careful about what we are percieved to be saying in removing him. The symbolism is telling... Simply to say that it is being done to take into account the sensitivities of people (including children) speaks of a Christianity that wants to run away from the core of the gospel and the messiness of human life and death that Jesus actually came to identify with. A nice Christianity... Apparently the crucifix in question has been taken down in order to be replaced in the near future by a steel cross with rays of light eminating from it's centre reminding us that Jesus died a horrific death on the cross, but is now raised from the dead. This is entirely valid... but why not make the actual replacement a true "good news" story... Do it at Easter, when the very act relates the good news, rather than serving as an example of the church going all wishy-washy and pc...

2) The thought that such a figure alone was keeping people from flocking through the doors of the church is entirely deluded. Instead of tidying up the shopwindow and expecting people to come inside, they would be better placed going outside the doors and doing what Christ on his cross was doing. Seeking to redeem the world through incarnation and identifying with us in our sin, suffering and death. Not trying to avoid the gory side of the gospel, but showing how the gospel relates to the messy world we live in. Jesus is not to be found nailed to a cross, but both among the poor and marginalised, and in his people the church... The sacrifice we need to show the world is not in a piece of sculpture of dubious merit, but in acting as Christ's body, serving him in the world at large.

Comments

Thanks - I think you state the case well, and with somewhat more eloquence than I could manage late yesterday evening!
crookedshore said…
Love it...remember the movie Dogma and the cool Buddy Jesus?

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