National Public Radio produces one of my favorite radio/podcast shows, This American Life. Each show, the host, Ira Glass, interviews guests who are connected to a central theme. Each theme is an exploration of the hidden stories found in American life.
In one particular show, the staff interviewed different people whose parents had been murdered. A woman described how her mother had been shot and killed by an intruder. When she became an adult, she could not watch shows about murder. They resurrected all the feelings of grief associated with losing her mother. Then she made a point which changed me. She asked Ira Glass, “Do you know what this does to your social life, if you cannot watch murder?”
Think about how many television shows are about solving a murder. How many movies, plays, songs and books deal with people being killed. She talked about “Murder Mystery” dinners, noting, we turn violent crime into a social party and a game. It reminded me of time when a Danish exchange student couldn’t watch the movie, Witness. It was too violent for her. At the time, I thought it was strange. It was a tender movie about the Amish…where several people are beaten up, shot and murdered.
Every year, I become less and less tolerant of violence as a form of entertainment. It has continued to shape a distaste I have for decorative crosses. The kind which draw the response, “What a beautiful cross.” While it is a symbol of God’s redeeming work, it is also a proclamation of the horrible violence we are capable of waging on each other.
One cross, the Koinonia cross, continues to speak to me. Many people found this cross offensive. It was not symmetrical. The left side of the cross was higher than the right side. The Christ figure looked naked, beaten and tormented. It was difficult to look at and guests often wanted it hidden. Yet, in that cross I found life, hope and faith.
The artist who created it, poured into the Christ figure his own intimate encounters with violence and suffering. The uneven cross beams forced those who looked at it to embrace imperfection. The Executive Director, Pastor Bob, would tell guests the story the cross was meant to communicate. Though the world is full of suffering, hatred, violence and brokenness, Christ remains in the center of it all.
Tonight, we gather to remember the cross in the midst of a violent world. Bombs are destroying life, poverty wreaks havoc on children, violence continues to destroy peace. Yet, Christ remains in the midst of it all. Not as an innocent bystander, but the one who comes to proclaim, death is not the end of our story. Our story is about life.
Click to read: John 19: 16-30
- Where has an encounter with violence shaped your view of life?
- Have you ever found yourself uncomfortable looking at something violent? How did that make you feel?
- What do you see when you look at the cross?
- How does this shape your view of hope?