Tuesday, December 29, 2009


At the Chair, at the Chair, where I first saw the light ...

Friend of mine, a pastor, has been going off about just driving past the Tallest Cross in Texas, off Interstate 40 in the Panhandle.

He wants to buy land adjacent and erect a huge electric chair.

I'd chip in.

I wonder if anyone of the people whose necks, cars and skin are decked with crosses realizes that it's the equivalent, executionwise, of wearing an electric chair, or a noose, on a chain around the neck, or on a bumpersticker, or on a shoulder.

Before I thought much about it, the bloodiness of the Cross made me squeamish. Now that I think about it, it just makes me wonder: How can anyone find glory in any kind of capital punishment.

Atonement? Amen. Blood atonement? Barbaric.


I have a similar feeling about those "washed in the blood" or "river of blood" hymns. Or how about those schlocky pewter "nails" shaped into the form of a cross that are sold at Christian bookstores? If some schlockmeister can stick a cross on some piece of plastic crap, you can be sure you'll see it in a Christian bookstore.

This is tough, though. These images mean so much to people. Once you've metaphorized something, and grown up with it ... well, suffice to say that I still have an emotional response to:

"There is a fountain filled with blood -- drawn from Immanuel's veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guity stains. Lose all their guilty stains. Lose all their guilty stains! ..." Especially if sung bas a bass singer.
We don't do the "blood" songs at Jeff Street anymore, or at least very rarely and only by accident (if someone requests a song and it turns out to have one of those sorts of lines).

Still, I'm with ER in that there is some sentimental value attached to some of them songs.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the prince of glory died
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown.

What a beautiful melody and sort of good sentiment, sort of spoiled by this verse...

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ, my God;
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

I've tried to ask "them" what they get out of this insistence on literal blood atonement - a blood payment demanded by an angry god, why it isn't a rejection of grace? Why isn't saying we are saved by God's grace through faith in Jesus degraded to something else by saying... "we are saved by Grace through faith AND through a blood sacrifice to pay for the horrible crime of your sins..." - isn't that saying that we are NOT saved by God's grace but by a buy-off dependent upon a human sacrifice?

Never get any good answers. Just "That's what the bible says so you gots to believe it!"
This kinda goes along with your "Restore What" blog. The Cross doesn't show up as "Christian" symbol until the end of the second century and the crucifix not really until sometime in the late forth century and wasn't prevalent until Emperor Theodosius in the early 6th century.

The earliest Christian symbol apparently was the Fish. Not only was it an anagram for Christ it was a numerical equivalent for Christ in Greek.

The earliest symbol once lost and now resurrected by the pentecostals is the raised arms bent at the elbows with both hands pointing towards heaven.

The second and third century saw the prevalence of the Chi Rho symbol which was adopted by Constantine as the early symbol of the Roman Church.

There were many many more used before the "Cross" became the standard.

As to Restoration, shall we go back to the earliest symbols? I mean if we all restored the religion that Jesus taught and followed, would we not by definition have to be Jewish( as per the Jerusalem Church's contentions)?
What we are really practicing is the Paulian version of Christ worship, beneath the Cross of Jesus, etc. etc..

So what is the "Christian" symbol?
I vote for the fish.
"the sign of Jonah," as Jesus mentioned? Would that be a great fish?
On Frankie Goes To Hollywood's debut album, in the liner notes, they had a bunch of religious symbols from different traditions. They labeled them without reference to any religious meaning, and the cross they labeled "torture instrument". While I appreciate the Lutheran approach to the theology of the cross, and its contemporary manifestations in the political theology of Jurgen Moltmann (Reformed rather than Lutheran) and Roman Catholic liberationists, it should always be done with one eye to the reality that the Roman Empire used those two pieces of wood to execute thousands of people. Being crucified was a horrible way to die - slow, painful, usually asphyxiation.

As for the whole "which symbol is earliest" - there are remnants of house-altars in Pompeii with crosses, so to say it didn't emerge until the second century is just wrong. Pompeii died as a city before the end of first century. There were other symbols, but the cross as one Christians used among themselves - rather than the fish, which was a way to communicate belief with others - might have been a source of Roman belief that they were a secret society rather than just another Jewish sect.
GKS: "... there are remnants of house-altars in Pompeii with crosses, so to say it didn't emerge until the second century is just wrong. Pompeii died as a city before the end of first century."

Well now let's see. "...that very year, 1938, Maiuri discovered inside a cupboard at Herculaneum markings that resembled a Christian cross, if so, it was the first ever found at any Pompeiian site." Maiuri was Mussolini's personal favorite among archaeologist because he promoted the "...majesty of the Empire of Rome." The cross provided Mussolini with some needed help with the Vatican. "The finding suited the political mood of conciliation wiht (sic) the Church."

P-225 "Pompeii Awakened: A Story of Rediscovery" By Judith Harris 2007

I would note that it was just one cross, not crosses. The leap to a house church and an alter is a lot.

Now back in 1950's if you toured Herculaneum this "possible cross" and "maybe alter" was a popular stop on the tour. It was after all from A.D. 79 less than 50 years after Christ's death.

Re: http://jaar.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/pdf_extract/XIX/1/16

The Catacombs of Rome (certainly among the earliest of Christian meeting places) however are not adorned with the cross or crucifix as a symbol. However there is the 'Alexamenos graffito' to be considered.

This is interesting stuff isn't it.
I wear my cross to keep away vampires. And I've never seen or been approached by a vampire so it must be working ...
That sound reasonable! :-)
I find eating garlic three times a day works just as well.
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