Thursday, August 07, 2008

Holy Gas Chamber Lutheran Church

Over the centuries Christians have (rightly) come to view the Cross as a blessed thing -- it is where Jesus died for our sin. But in doing so, I think we also may have become a bit dulled to recognizing just how offensive "the message of the Cross" would have been in Jesus' day. To understand perhaps just a glimpse of that offense, I sometimes play a game where I substitute modern execution devices for the word "Cross" in different phrases. As in:

"I attend Holy Electric Chair Lutheran Church."

"Just take your problems to the Gas Chamber."

"The Blessed Hangman's Noose."

"On Being a Theologian of the Firing Squad."

Those phrases sound pretty repellant to me, so I figure that they capture at least a little of the offense that the ancients faced when confronted with the message of the Cross.

Or think about this: What would parents do if their daughter began wearing a little golden electric chair on a necklace around her neck? Or what if she wore tiny silver hang-man nooses as earrings?

The point isn't at all to censure that behavior. It's just that after centuries of hearing that the Cross is a blessed event -- which it certanly is -- I think it's also obscured the fact that the Cross was a Roman execution device, one in fact more terrible than the relatively humane (at least in intention) execution devices used today.

I've found it useful for myself occasionally to shake myself out of thinking of the Cross as a purely benign event by thinking about modern execution devices as replacements for the cross, and so reminding myself how truly horrible sin is, and what a truly horrible thing Jesus needed to undergo in order to procure my forgiveness on the Cross.


Blogger Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...


Good point. I might add though that Jesus did scorn the shame of the cross a little bit -- Hebrews 12:2 :)

August 07, 2008 7:42 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

Hey Dan,

Yes, absolutely, Jesus scorned its shame. That scorn is all the more noteworthy the greater the shame. "That's what Jesus underwent for us!"

August 08, 2008 6:56 AM  
Blogger Michael Lockridge said...

Jumping in a bit late (since I just discovered you) I have followed a line of thought like this.

Just think of the possibilities for jewelery. All sorts of interesting pendants for necklaces and earrings.

How would you do a firing squad?

How would the church respond coming in one day to find an electric chair sitting in a prominent place at the front of the church? It would certainly bring perspective to a symbol taken too much for granted.

Pretty nice blogging for a blogger with an account just for reading and responding to blogs. Keep up the good work.

October 18, 2008 4:46 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Hi Michael,

Thanks for dropping by.

It would be shocking to see an electric chair behind the altar, wouldn't it?

Hmm. I wonder if I can talk my pastor into . . .

October 24, 2008 2:41 PM  

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