Tuesday, January 21, 2003

From CT:

Sarah Hinckley stresses about religious jewelry:

Why was I wearing a cross? Was it to advertise my Christianity? Was it the only way anyone would know me as a Christian? Could my faith not mark me as strongly as a piece of pretty metal? And on and on—the inner vortex of a self-conscious Christian can be as sinfully ignorant of God's grace as the external veneer of righteousness. At any rate, I quit wearing any kind of religious jewelry at all.

The rightness or wrongness of my sudden conviction aside, the wearing of a cross as decoration bears some reflection. Its origin was a hideous instrument of state-sponsored execution. It killed not by the wounds it inflicted on wrists and feet but by thirst, suffocation, and heart failure. When these means took too long, the criminal's legs were crushed with an iron club in order to hasten death, a technique called crurifragium. The cross was not a tool for hasty and efficient elimination of unwanted specimens; it was a device of premeditated intimidation.

Political and religious zealots, pirates, slaves, and sub-citizens were its most frequent victims. The Romans regularly crucified the paterfamilias of a significant enemy clan with his whole family gathered to watch. In 88 B.C., the Judean king and high priest Alexander Jannaeus crucified 800 Pharisees who opposed him. A hundred years before the death of Jesus, 6,000 slaves were crucified along the Appian Way after Spartacus's rebellion. For nearly a thousand years, crucifixion was a favored form of death-by-torture until it was outlawed by the first Christian emperor, Constantine the Great, in A.D. 337 out of respect for the crucified Christ. And we give miniatures of the cross to preteen girls?

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