This road sign illustrates the meaning of Easter for some conservative Christians, capturing so eloquently the pathos of their experience and even their very existence. When I saw this sign two years ago it just brought to my mind so vividly the caricature of the story of Jesus that I am so familiar with and which captivates so many people around the world. By calling using the term “caricature” I do not intend to diminish the story itself in the least. I am merely referring to the misplaced emphasis, the “Mel Gibson Passion of Christ blood-and-guts gore” theme that will get such wide play today in Christian churches today. This emphasis misses the point. For example, when the Apostle Paul spoke of being “crucified with Christ” and the need to “die daily”, he was making reference to an historical event but speaking of an experience in his contemporary life. And the “crucifixion of Christ” is still an historical event but if it is to have any personal value it must be interpreted in personal terms. If meaningful interpretation is not done, if hermeneutics are not employed, then the literal brutality and ugliness of the crucifixion will supersede the symbolic value of the event, and the personal value and relevance will be diminished. The over emphasis of the literal event by the clergy will allow them to get their flock’s “panties in a wad” once again but will not introduce any meaningful change in their life.
So, I guess I am espousing a notion that is really kind of boorish and even offensive to some people—be crucified with Christ! That sounds like a crazy idea in our modern world. And it is a crazy idea if you take the idea as it is often first presented to us and do not make any effort to interpret it. If you do not interpret the event in terms of your personal experience, you merely are regurgitating dogma and probably indulging in a masochistic orgy of shame, humiliation, and anguish.
But if you interpret this event in personal term, there might well be significant pain from time to time…yes even “shame, humiliation, and agony” for some…but the anguish will be personal, it will be about the accumulated impact of “those thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to” that burdens hearts and lives. I am presenting here a version Karl Jung’s interpretation of the crucifixion as an archetype, a cosmic event woven into the warp-and-woof of the human heart. And this archetype emerged in the human heart, and found a notable expression in the crucifixion of Christ, because it is an intrinsically valuable, and even essential, part of the human psyche.
It is very self-indulgent to amuse oneself with the paroxysm of shame and humiliation at Easter and not allow the symbolism to evoke from the hidden regions of the heart. It is in this evocation, or”anamnesis”, that the experience of crucifixion becomes personal and allows individuals to address the issues that stymie them in daily rituals of outdated and maladaptive patterns of behavior. It allows the people of this southwest Arkansas church to remain untouched by the real message of the Cross and facilitates a personal and collective status quo. The cultural bondage in which they are enslaved will not be addressed.