People get exasperated with me because I’m too serious. it was a problem in the ministry because people expected fun, joy, safety and other nice things for nice people. But if you can’t be serious on Good Friday, you must not be truly Christian. Christianity, in spite of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” is meant to confront suffering. It’s a rich source of symbolism for hardships, trials, and death.
This morning my “feeds” supplied a powerful essay originating in the cross that became the jewelry symbol of the religion. “Crucifying the Prairie: An Eco-Theology of Resistance for Good Friday”. By Jacob J. Erickson April 13, 2017
The article uses a philosophical interpretation of the horizonal bar representing the secular world as it intersects the vertical bar that reaches towards the transcendent sky at a point that creates human religion, combining the worldly with the supernatural. One could also use the phallic idea, but where’s the crossbar? Also, some have tried to get an interpretation out of the fact that the bottom of the cross is embedded in the earth, a going-down instead of a reaching up. A hole. But Erickson uses James Cone’s book, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree” to point out the dark abyss, the grave at the foot of the cross, the oil well. (Which gets redeemed by the hole that is Jesus’ tomb that He is able to leave.)
Then a new but related image came in from “Naked Pastor” email@example.com. “I had been thinking about the cross and what it symbolized. It certainly is a metaphor for perseverance in spite of suffering. It is about victimization of the innocent. It also represents determination, sacrifice, surrender, struggle, and the desire to work for justice in the face of incredible injustice, as well as abiding under threat.”
His idea was the Cross as the "Narrow Gate."
If you like the image he created, you can buy it from him on a t-shirt. https://www.etsy.com/shop/nakedpastor It’s an effective artistic premise to think of the space occupied as well as the space emptied.
Lots of other good stuff in David’s shop as well. In one cartoon Jesus assures the thief beside Him that He’s had “gooder” Fridays. You know David Hayward made that up, because surely a good middle-class Savior would not be ungrammatical. David has been what I call a minister and he calls a pastor, both Protestant terms trying to distinguish Protestant clergy from Catholic priests, but he gets called out of ministry, falls out, runs away, is tossed out -- as have many parishioners -- so that he has to struggle back through “the Narrow Gate”, another Biblical image of doing hard serious things.
Now he has the idea that a congregation that uses a building to go sit together at a specific meeting time is maybe not where he fits, so he’s trying to invent an online interactive sort of congregation. Others are doing the same. It’s the old Unitarian Universalist idea of being united by differences that the UUA abandoned when they got snake bit by corporate liberal politics. Thelastingsupper.com
Through my decade in the ministry, I tried to come up with new and striking images for Easter, all those nature tales of renewal in Spring. Shedding one’s snakeskin, emerging from one’s cocoon, sailing off on a gossamer kite like a baby spider. I just wanted to escape from all the chickies and bunnies and candy, the fol-de-rol of pastel baskets and new bonnets. Well, I really rather liked the bonnets, but no one wears anything but a billed ball cap these days. Maybe with a fertilizer slogan embroidered on the front.
What persists in my own store of imagery is the Good Friday service the Portland, Oregon, downtown ministers used to present at lunchtime so the office workers could come. It was in the Congregational church, I think, which had no windows in its sanctuary, because the ceremony was that of Endarkenment. I googled for more references and was startled when my own post came up, the one for Friday, Aprl 14, 2006, “The Easter Peony.” The details of the performance are described there. It’s a little startling at the moment because of the UUA struggle over dark people. The actual event was somehow reassuring, sitting there in that dignified traditional setting, listening to “God” speaking on the amplifier. But it was supposed to be terrifying, a depiction of death.
At the moment there’s a bit of news about darkness. Our fascination with Black Holes and Dark Matter as features of the cosmos is beginning to provide some new ideas, even notions about how to photograph a Black Hole. It only means transitioning the code of whatever is Out There into patterns our eyes can see, but that makes us think we understand, which is an illusion. But it’s easier to think about.
The other new You-Tubey phenomenon is a paint so utterly black that all one sees is a silhouette, no features at all. An invisible cloak that color would indeed make a person only a hole in perception.
Maybe in our time of displacement and persecution, the Cross imagery that is most relevant is not the single X on Golgotha (well, one of three) but what we are assured was the true situation at the time when Romans tried to intimidate political enemies into obedience by crucifying hundreds of people. (Game of Thrones picked that up to epitomize class domination in one of the “redeemed” nations that Daenerys Targaryen added to her kingdoms. I forget the name of the nation.) The Romans put up the crosses along the roadways so that people couldn’t avoid them.
What is the symbolic motif for people drowning in an attempt to escape domination and devastation? Maybe we should return to the acronym name for Jesus which meant “fish” in Latin. You know, like the Christians in “Quo Vadis” drawing a fish in the dust. Does anyone watch “Quo Vadis” anymore, or does everyone prefer the absolutely authentic and ghastly versions of Jesus’ actual and certified death on the Cross? Maybe “Bones” should take on Crucifixion before we all leave the scientific paradigm entirely and surrender to demagogues of propriety. Maybe they have — those scriptwriters are pretty bold. They wouldn’t shy away from the sexiness of a naked tortured man.
“Maybe” is the anti-principle of symbols and metaphors and acts that can be depicted in jewelry. I guess that fish shows up on automobiles. Many believers want certainty, a guarantee, and hopefully one they don’t have to fight for, something handed to them from authorities. A nun once told me I was a Post-Christian, sort of like French Post-Colonialism. That is, staying in the same paradigm while unraveling it, a dangerous thing to do. True enough. Maybe if Christianity weren’t so political, its roots so drenched in blood, I might stop thinking about Ydddrasil, the Norse cosmic tree with its roots in the Well of Urd. But then the jewelry might depict a hanged man, a dangling man.