In Rags

I was kneeling, facing the altar of our local church, when bits of a conversation reached my ears.

“Isn’t it uplifting to see a child in deep religious thought?” a woman said.

“I know,” said a different female voice. “I love it when passion for The Lord touches a young soul.”

What? I thought, are they nuts? I was only ten, so the wording might have been different.

I wasn’t “in deep religious though.” I was horrified. I kept my eyes shut as tight as I could to keep myself from looking at the agonizing, eternally bleeding image of poor Jesus on the cross. And the only thing touching me at that moment was the hard cement floor, which was murder on my bony knees.

I made a rude noise with my tongue and teeth after I heard my self-appointed godmother chuckle. I guessed she heard the ladies’ exchange and knew exactly what was going through my mind. I would go as far as to think that she thought her plan—or punishment—worked like a charm. According to her, kneeling on concrete in front of a life-size crucifix, would remind me of the Son of God’s sacrifice and I would stop questioning the real religion.

Well, it didn’t work. I still feel sorry for the sad image of Jesus on crucifixes, and it scares me. I told my older brother this much last night, while we discussed the issue on the phone. My brother who was raised Caribbean Catholic like me, but has become a devout Baptist, tried to explain that it was just a symbol.

“I understand that”, I told him. “But I would like for someone to enlighten my thoughts, as of why such a cruel looking symbol is necessary. 

My brother repeated old words and said “it serves as a reminder of The Lord’s sacrifice”. 

But does anyone really need that in order to remember?

I think about how my Dad had to work several jobs, and never got anything nice for himself, just so he could provide for his children. I can tell you this, I don’t need to see my Dad dressed in rags in order to remember the hard life he lived in order to make mine better. I remember his sacrifice everyday of my life: when I drive my car, whenever I look at my diplomas, and even more when I think about the fact that I am such a happy person. I remember all the time.

So I still can’t understand the need to see Jesus in rags, bleeding and nailed to a cross, in order to remember what he did for his followers. Can you?

28 comments:

  1. I've never understood this "symbol" either. In it's purest most literal form it serves only to gross out young minds and was one of the first things that started the seed of doubt in my mind when all the other literal facts about this religion were paraded before me. It's one of many grotesque things about the christian faith that just doesn't add up.

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  2. It serves as a reminder of "The Lord's Sacrifice" to make you feel guilty. If you feel guilty, then you would be more inclined to behave in the manner of which you have been told. Guilt is a form of control. Guilt is one of my major issues with Christianity. Without guilt, you cannot be forgiven. Jesus/God wants his followers to be Contrite and Dutiful. His followers are Sheep for a reason.* (I'd much rather be a Goat!)

    *That sounds a bit snarky, but while I do know some good, nice Christians, but I really don't have much time for the religion as we know it now.

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  3. Cogent Ascending, I’m sorry to hear you had to go through the same—trust me; I feel your pain. When I was younger I used to try to explain the feeling and tell anyone who wanted to hear that it wasn’t ‘uplifting’ it was pure barbaric, but as you can imagine they’d just look at me like I was a delusional blasphemer. Today, I’m grown and fully capable of saying that if I must have to have to understand the need for this symbol to be sane, well… call me crazy because I still can’t.

    MouseDemon, “I'd much rather be a Goat!”? If we are choosing, then I want to be a flamingo (I just love the pretty pink ;). I am so glad you brought up the issue of guilt. I believe that’s the worst part of the idea of this symbolism. Can you imagine a loving father who goes around trying to control a child using such an unhealthy tool? Therapy comes to mind, but not for Jesus of course, but for those who truly believes that guilt is going to work on anyone who has the ability to think.

    Guys, I hope you have an excellent day. And, thank the gods is Friday!

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  4. I think it's a sad statement that the symbol of Christianity is a torture device. Other religions are symbolized by Thor's hammer, the five pointed star, the six pointed star, the crescent moon and star, the lotus blossom, the wheel, the OM symbol, the shining sun and other uplifting icons. I believe that if Christianity celebrated the life, death and rebirth of Jesus as equally important events and not just his gory death, it would be a saner religion. Happy Freya's Day and bright blessings to you!!

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  5. It's a symbol to make you feel guilt in my opinion - there would be many more fiting images that they could use to remind his followers of his 'sacrifice'. See, I don't think it has to be such a grusome image, his followers understand what he went through and therefore why would they not want to use an image that was uplifting, invoking,inspiring? I agree with everything MouseDemon has said - I too would rather be a Goat (a sentance which actually made me laugh after a really tough day)
    I could rant on and on and on about this but better leave space for others lol xx

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  6. Bonnie & Pixie thanks so much! It is always good to know that one is not alone in one’s thoughts. When I was little I always wanted to get him off the cross and clean him up a bit. I know it sounds silly, but I always wondered why no one tried to wipe the blood away. How can someone so be portrayed in such a state is beyond me. But like almost everybody has said: control by guilt is a powerful tool against those too afraid to think.

    P.S. Pixie, I was LMAO about MouseDemon’s phrase too ;)

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  7. Being raised Catholic in a Filipino/Italian way, I can relate to the Caribbean/Latin American style of Catholicsm more than American Catholicism which is devoid of tradition, art, and ritual. The crucified Christ never evoked fear in me but pity. It is gruesome but so was the castration of the Goddess Cybele's priest or the ripping apart of the body of Osiris by Set. I think what it should evoke is not guilt but the idea that the gods suffer and can understand suffering. I always liked the image of Mary crying or the sword piercing her heart. It shows emotional suffering rather than the physical suffering of Christ. It shows the tears of a mother grieving for Her son. In Mary's grief we see echoes of the older goddesses, of Isis, Aphrodite, Ishtar, and Astarte grieving for their beloved consorts.
    I think it is better for Christians to focus on the resurrection of Christ rather than death. There is the true glory, the rebirth which is also a theme in other religions, ie Osiris, Persephone, Inanna, etc.
    In the orisha religions Shango hangs himself but we never say it out loud that he did. Instead we focus on his rising from the dead and deification exclaiming in Yoruba, Oba Koso Oba Koso, the King does not Hang! In Trinidad they sing to Shango saying Aladoye, He lives, He lives!! Shango lives so we can also celebrate life and rise above our daily struggles to greater glory. As for the female orishas suffering occurs in the stories of Obba, Oshun, Oya, and Yemaya. Obba got the worst it seemed and yet she is one of the most compassionate orishas.
    I think we can identify with the sufferings of the gods, the grief of Isis for Osiris and yet share in their triumphs and rebirths. For no matter what difficulties we face, what tears we cry we know that they understand our pain and love us unconditionally. How many times have I cried in front of my orishas, in front of Yemaya, in front of my mother Oshun? My tears are the river of Oshun and the ocean of Yemaya and they wash my sorrows away into the purity of joy.

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  8. I once saw a Renaissance painting of Christ crowned with thorns and being mocked at in the Metropolitan Museum and I just started crying as I sketched the image. I felt so bad for someone who wanted to preach love and got spat at for it. I think that happens to spiritual people today, regardless of tradition. We get laughed at or called at best dreamers or worse, delusional. I guess I cry a lot because I'm over emotional son of Oshun. Also I think I have that reaction to Catholic imagery not just because of my upbringing but I think I was a monk in another life.

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  9. I was in church the other day, and wondered the same thing myself.

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  10. Dominick (Filho de Logunede), thank you for the insightful response. I understand what you mean when you write about being emotional. I remember going to the movies to watch the Passion of the Christ and walking out because I just couldn't believe the horror of it. I like bloody fiction, but that is just too much.

    I can also relate when it comes to getting emotional about certain aspects and/or images of th gods. I feel the same way. Back home we have "La Basílica de Higüey" where La Virgen de las Mercedes cry constantly for the death of her beloved son. My mom took me to see her when I was very little--I was extremely sick, with a strange skin allergy and the doctors couldn't figure out what it was. My mom went to look for guidance and to see if her tears could wash the soars of my skin. I remember how much I cried that time. And after time passed, I couldn't remember if her tears were real or if it was my imagination.

    That kind of symbolism I understand, but never the one of Jesus nailed to the cross. There are things that should be left alone.

    P.S. My skin didn't clear out until my mom took to a Bruja who was friends with my grandma. She bathed me in the smelliest concoction, and then danced and changed around me while smoking the biggest cigar I've ever seen. I will never forget that day. I was both scared and having the time of my life. I wanted to start dancing too and my mom would give me a dirty look. My skin has been clear ever since, to tell you the truth, I think the smoke killed whatever bacteria attacking my system ;)

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  11. Melissa B., what answer did you come up with? Are you still thinking about it? Is the crucified Jesus at your church just as huge as the one at my old church?

    Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

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  12. That must have been some good bruja! I remember at a tambor one time I was recovering from the flu and still couldn't breath fully. A santero was possesed by Babaluaye (San Lazaro) orisha of disease and healing. Babaluaye cleaned me with his purple cloth and then put his hand on my chest. All of sudden I took in a deep breath and my lungs were cleared!

    I think also that Jesus if he really did exist as a teacher and prophet would want to be remembered for his good works and teachings rather than the torment he suffered. It is like being killed all over again. Same thing with Joan of Arc.

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  13. I think that Jesus would be very ashamed of the way his name (and image) is used at times. It is a shame...

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  14. I never did get why the use of such an image has become a symbol-being syncretic i see Jesus as being the mask of Dionysus, and there is a myth from the Orphics that Dio was torn apart by the Titans-yet we don't have images of that inorder for us to worship-

    I think they the church uses that symbol as to serve as a reminder, look at his suffering it's for you and how he continues to suffer for you etc-

    I mean i have seen images of the crucifixion-inwhich he appears to be just sleeping there on the cross-

    But myself don't get it.

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  15. Written In Earth, thanks for your response. Reading your words and the ones of everybody else who has shared their minds, makes me feel much better about my own opinion. I like knowing that I'm not the only one who can't "get" the meaning of the symbol in question.

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  16. I agree w/ Mouse Demon.

    + I find crucifixes to be a bit inappropriate for a family setting.

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  17. You are both absolutely right, just imagine the tiny little faces of the youngsters wondering why the half-naked man is crying and bleeding ;(

    I should know, I did a bit of wondering myself.

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  18. I agree w/ Mouse Demon.

    + I find crucifixes to be a bit inappropriate for a family setting.

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  19. Melissa B., what answer did you come up with? Are you still thinking about it? Is the crucified Jesus at your church just as huge as the one at my old church?

    Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Dominick (Filho de Logunede), thank you for the insightful response. I understand what you mean when you write about being emotional. I remember going to the movies to watch the Passion of the Christ and walking out because I just couldn't believe the horror of it. I like bloody fiction, but that is just too much.

    I can also relate when it comes to getting emotional about certain aspects and/or images of th gods. I feel the same way. Back home we have "La Basílica de Higüey" where La Virgen de las Mercedes cry constantly for the death of her beloved son. My mom took me to see her when I was very little--I was extremely sick, with a strange skin allergy and the doctors couldn't figure out what it was. My mom went to look for guidance and to see if her tears could wash the soars of my skin. I remember how much I cried that time. And after time passed, I couldn't remember if her tears were real or if it was my imagination.

    That kind of symbolism I understand, but never the one of Jesus nailed to the cross. There are things that should be left alone.

    P.S. My skin didn't clear out until my mom took to a Bruja who was friends with my grandma. She bathed me in the smelliest concoction, and then danced and changed around me while smoking the biggest cigar I've ever seen. I will never forget that day. I was both scared and having the time of my life. I wanted to start dancing too and my mom would give me a dirty look. My skin has been clear ever since, to tell you the truth, I think the smoke killed whatever bacteria attacking my system ;)

    ReplyDelete
  21. It's a symbol to make you feel guilt in my opinion - there would be many more fiting images that they could use to remind his followers of his 'sacrifice'. See, I don't think it has to be such a grusome image, his followers understand what he went through and therefore why would they not want to use an image that was uplifting, invoking,inspiring? I agree with everything MouseDemon has said - I too would rather be a Goat (a sentance which actually made me laugh after a really tough day)
    I could rant on and on and on about this but better leave space for others lol xx

    ReplyDelete
  22. I think it's a sad statement that the symbol of Christianity is a torture device. Other religions are symbolized by Thor's hammer, the five pointed star, the six pointed star, the crescent moon and star, the lotus blossom, the wheel, the OM symbol, the shining sun and other uplifting icons. I believe that if Christianity celebrated the life, death and rebirth of Jesus as equally important events and not just his gory death, it would be a saner religion. Happy Freya's Day and bright blessings to you!!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Being raised Catholic in a Filipino/Italian way, I can relate to the Caribbean/Latin American style of Catholicsm more than American Catholicism which is devoid of tradition, art, and ritual. The crucified Christ never evoked fear in me but pity. It is gruesome but so was the castration of the Goddess Cybele's priest or the ripping apart of the body of Osiris by Set. I think what it should evoke is not guilt but the idea that the gods suffer and can understand suffering. I always liked the image of Mary crying or the sword piercing her heart. It shows emotional suffering rather than the physical suffering of Christ. It shows the tears of a mother grieving for Her son. In Mary's grief we see echoes of the older goddesses, of Isis, Aphrodite, Ishtar, and Astarte grieving for their beloved consorts.
    I think it is better for Christians to focus on the resurrection of Christ rather than death. There is the true glory, the rebirth which is also a theme in other religions, ie Osiris, Persephone, Inanna, etc.
    In the orisha religions Shango hangs himself but we never say it out loud that he did. Instead we focus on his rising from the dead and deification exclaiming in Yoruba, Oba Koso Oba Koso, the King does not Hang! In Trinidad they sing to Shango saying Aladoye, He lives, He lives!! Shango lives so we can also celebrate life and rise above our daily struggles to greater glory. As for the female orishas suffering occurs in the stories of Obba, Oshun, Oya, and Yemaya. Obba got the worst it seemed and yet she is one of the most compassionate orishas.
    I think we can identify with the sufferings of the gods, the grief of Isis for Osiris and yet share in their triumphs and rebirths. For no matter what difficulties we face, what tears we cry we know that they understand our pain and love us unconditionally. How many times have I cried in front of my orishas, in front of Yemaya, in front of my mother Oshun? My tears are the river of Oshun and the ocean of Yemaya and they wash my sorrows away into the purity of joy.

    ReplyDelete
  24. This type of symbolism is just one of the many issues I have with the "Church" as a child was subjected to several different variations of Christianity and it does not matter if it's Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, or any other form of Christianity they all revert to using guilt and in a big way; once we were made to watch a film about the Rapture and I tell you I was horrified, I was maybe 12 and we had to watch people being beheaded by guillotine for reusing to take the sign of the beast.

    At that point I ran as far away from any and all religion, it took me years to be comfortable enough to seek out any type of spirituality or even discuss it.

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    Replies
    1. I'm always confused (and a little saddened) by the idea of devotion that seems to be pushed by guilt. Then again, it might be that we don't understand this issue the way that those who believe in it do... who knows.

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  25. I was raised Methodist and always had a hard time viewing a crusifix ... For whatever reason, all I saw was a half naked man... Guess I didn't get the sacrifice thing...

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    Replies
    1. Half-naked and bleeding... terrifying. I still don't get it.

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  26. I went to Catholic school as a youngun. I had never seen Jesus on the cross all bloody and in rags before because the church I went to had the cross sans Jesus. I was scared to death. I couldn't look at it. It was just frightening. Of course when I mentioned this to Sister Mary Geraldine......I was sent to the principal's Sr. Margaret Mary and she beat the hell out of my naked bottom for being an evil child. Needless to say, I have a very strong opinion on the Catholic Jesus vs the empty cross (signifying the resurrected Christ). Oma Linda

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