Sometimes It’s Hard To See The Execution For All The Pomp

Christian worship is somewhat morbid.  At least it used to be.  I have smoothed over the story of Jesus’ death so often that it has lost some of its texture, some of its content.  I regularly sing songs at the foot of a torture device and share meals with my church in remembrance of a death sentence…

Yet, I rarely think about state-sponsored execution when celebrating the gospel.

Maybe it’s the way we dress up the cross (not that this is inappropriate), but I start to forget what we’re dealing with; Jesus was unjustly executed by the empire.

Or maybe it’s our practice of putting crosses on buildings and stringing them on silver around our necks– a fad that’s more respectable than offensive thanks to cultural distance, rappers, and the extremely lucrative Christian merchandise business.

Imagine if we swapped out the cross for the electric chair.

Jesus Electric Chair by Paul Fryer Pieta (Photo Credit: iieeef)

Then again, that might make for awkward steeples.

And God knows we don’t want things to get awkward.

Chair On Roof (Photo Credit: Larraine Formica)

It should probably be said that some people think Christianity focuses too much on the suffering of Jesus and his followers and that it takes on overtly masochistic tones.

They have a good point.

This sometimes problematic tendency becomes more acute when we excessively normalize Jesus’ death and turn it into a purely individualized thing.  It might do us well to remember the scandal – the wrongness of it – on a large scale.  Jesus didn’t die just for our own personal issues; he unmasked the cold, unfeeling “justice” of empire for the sham that it is.  We could remember Jesus the rebel…

But, again, that might make things awkward.  Oh well.  Here’s a gorgeous cross pillow – it costs $8.82.



Allen Marshall O'Brien

Allen Marshall O’Brien is the pastor of a UCC church in Northern California and co-host of the Irenicast. He believes in the importance of education, peace, and ecology, throws things to his border collie Sonata, and writes for multiple platforms.

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  • kathsprout

    Good afternoon. I have just found your blog through some random Googling of something and I think this post is excellent. It also made me think of a sadly not-findable-using-a-Google-search song by Obadiah and the Minor Prophets called “Cross with a Pillow.” I suspect it isn’t available on iTunes either.