“Christianity persecuted, tortured, and burned. Like a hound it tracked the very scent of heresy. It kindled wars, and nursed furious hatreds and ambitions. It sanctified, quite like Mohammedanism, extermination and tyranny . . . ”
—-George Santayana, philosopher (1863-1952), Little Essays, No. 107, “Christian Morality”
From time to time a scene from classical painting emerges on the Internet depicting the trials of the Christian Savior. Given the story line of his final days, it is often a scene from the torment he received at the hands of the Roman government. He taught that He was the Son of God which was viewed as an act of blasphemy. The paintings are usually gory, blood being the major feature, while bruises and cuts make for a sobering latticework of rip-torn flesh. There may be a thorny crown forced across his brow with drips of crimson traced upon his forehead and a face twisted in agony as if he had just been beheaded. Grim, sad and very graphic, these depictions of the Christ cause one to wonder just how painful the course of salvation must have been. It is believed that Jesus died for our sins. And as despicable as those sins are, so also should the look of the dying Savior be as well. No doubt about it, the artists have captured it.
More contemporaneously, the movie going public have nearly tasted the blood of an exhausted Christ while watching screen antics produced by a Jew-hating actor/director. There were even undisguised whimpers and weeping during the scenes of great passion and throughout the movie called, “The Passion.” The fascination with blood, guts and gore are not the exclusive domain of the warrior but appear to have a charm for the Christian as well. Many Catholic churches sport the cross with a dying Christ portrayed centrally in their mass and visuals that make plain what the grand sacrifice accomplished for humanity.
A question comes to mind: to what purpose is the blood, guts, and gore presented? Is it to entice one to look more directly at the message? Am I to be impressed with an interpretation that has as its purpose, shock? To what objective would a visual portrait or a moving picture show convince me and my will to become a follower of this bloodied Christ? Is it the canvas or film drama that convinces?
A fascination with drama of this kind begs the question, why? Why do we need to see this? Why do we need religious symbolisms forced upon us displayed as crucifix, bleeding heart, or nails thrust through the palms of the Savior’s hands? If “gross” is appealing the Christian church has an ample portion what with a ceremony that displays the body of Christ in one of three forms depending on the resident theology. We are presented with “gross” as if it were a Sunday drive to Grandma’s, a pure, simple, and trusted journey. But, is it really? For years witnesses recounted the Golgotha debacle without writing it down allowing further elaboration to make the story as fascinating, creative and original as one could imagine. If the story be true as claimed and that the message produced personal wonders of salvation and healing, then why would it be necessary to frighten or disgust someone viewing these macabre classics for the first time? Don’t we have enough violence as part of our culture? And, why would Christian hands wish to add blood to their reputation?
“God having a hemorrhage,
Blood coughed across the sky,
Staining the sea red,
That is sunset in the Caribbean.”