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Home | News | Gallery+Story: The Beauty and Controversy of ‘The Crucifix’

Gallery+Story: The Beauty and Controversy of ‘The Crucifix’

“I don’t like the cross or ‘torture stake’ as we call it,” said Mr. Clark, who is a Jehovah’s Witness.

“Let me paint you a picture whereby I will give you the explanation as to why,” Mr. Clark began. “Imagine one of your beloved family members died a violent death. For the sake of this explanation, we will say they were either killed by a drunk driver or killed in a drive-by shooting. Would you hang a photo of the car crash or their body on your wall?”

The Crucifix – the cross – is seen as a superfluous aspect to their faith. They know that Jesus Christ was put to death, at the behest of the Sanhedrin, on a cross. Denominations, like the Baptist, some Lutheran churches, non-denominational churches do not display a Crucifix in their sanctuary.

Some don’t even display a cross at all, like the Church of Christ or the Jehovah’s Witnesses in their Kingdom Halls.

For others, it’s a very vivid, ever-present reminder of the one who died for them.

“I see the Crucifix as a point of focus,” says Fr. Thomas, a Franciscan Friar with whom I often discuss religion and religious beliefs.

“You see, Christ not only died for us, but he also died in our place,” Fr. Thomas said. “He took our sin upon him and willingly bore our punishment so that we would not have to die within our sin thus earning eternal condemnation.

There is a bit more, says Fr. Thomas, as to why liturgical churches have a Crucifix and not a simple, unadorned cross.

“Canon law dictates we have a Crucifix that is visible during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” said Fr. Thomas. “This is to remind us, again, of that sacrifice Jesus made on the Altar of the Cross.”

“When I look at Jesus on the Cross,” says Bertha Ortega, a resident in El Paso’s Lower Valley, “it makes me uneasy. Jesus was taken down when He died. He’s been resurrected. For me, the cross should be bare as He is up in Heaven now.”

With over 2 billion Christians in the world and an untold number of denominations, there are going be varying views of what the Cross is and isn’t. With most Christian denominations subscribing to the Easter story and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ upon the cross, it has made the Crucifix one of the most recognized pieces of religions icons upon earth.

“It represents, it typifies a certain brand of hate,” says Rebekah Reich, a student Pastor on assignment in El Paso and Juarez. “It represents the displeasure Pontius Pilate had towards the people of Palestine. Knowing he could have simply freed Jesus, he decided to fan the flames of religious discord. It also expresses the hate the Jewish class had towards anything new or expressing a more universal form of love. The Crucifix, as a result of this, is a device of hate.”

The Crucifix, in my opinion, is an ever-present reminder of faith. To know that Jesus Christ decided to follow Heavenly Father’s plan, knowing full well it would open Heaven to us and end the perpetual sin offering, is an amazing testament to His and Heavenly Father’s love.

But is having the Crucifix, or cross present in our homes, our churches, or around our neck required of us?

“In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul indicated that the ‘preaching of the cross … is the power of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:18). We understand through this scripture that the meaning of the cross is much deeper than just a symbol or outward sign, especially for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,” wrote Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

“It is the preaching of what happened on the cross that is more important than the symbol of the cross.”

The Crucifix, in my opinion, is an ever-present reminder of faith, but not necessary to express or show our faith. To know that Jesus Christ decided to follow Heavenly Father’s plan, knowing full well it would open Heaven to us and end the perpetual sin offering, is an amazing testament to His and Heavenly Father’s love.

None-the-less, the Crucifix is an amazing expression of love towards Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Throughout the centuries many artists have carved, cast, or created some of the most beautiful Crucifixes I’ve ever seen.

What follows are some of my favorite representations of the Crucifix and Crosses in El Paso, Las Cruces and Juarez.

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What does the cross mean to you? What is your favorite Crucifix? Let me know at steven@epheraldpost.com

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This is part of my Year of Faith series. If you would like me to come out to your church, or place of worship, send me an e-mail, or call me at 915-201-0918.

About Steven Cottingham

Steven Cottingham is a writer, photographer, and poet. In addition to his work for the El Paso Herald-Post, he is a videographer for AJ+, is launching a weekly podcast based on his forthcoming book, “Leap of Fatih” which will be released November 2018 from HarperCollins. Through his company, Still Going Somewhere, he is producing a series of micro-documentaries with individuals who have survived the Holocaust. You can contact Steven at 915-201-0918, or by email at steven@epheraldpost.com. To learn more about Steven, visit his webpage at www.StillGoingSomewhere.com

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5 comments

  1. I wish for Steven to focus more on this kind of article. When he writes of religion I can tell it comes from the heart. It is good for us to be knowing about other faiths and religions. Please, I encourage you for more of these articles.

    (Editor, maybe you make him editor of religion section. You don’t have one for the Herald-Post. This man be perfect for it!)

    I love quote from Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints it become excited when I see others quote the church, or write about any religious faith!

  2. It used to be the pentagram (representing the five wounds of christ) but it didn’t stick. The pagans took that while crucifixion is a pagan practice yet the christians took the meaning of the cross off us.

  3. Crucifixes only have meaning to those who have been indoctrinated to think they have meaning, so it does not matter to me. Jesus’ death was no sacrifice though since as an immortal divine being he really could not really “die” anyway. And the story say all he “lost” was a weak human body that as a GOD he had no use for anyway! He could have died and come back to life a thousand times that day if he wanted, correct? The ones who made the sacrifice were the other crucified victims who did actually die.
    But in previous resurrection myths the custom in resurrections was to wait 3 days so the Christian writers went with that idea which they knew the people would more readily accept as being familiar, and thus have it sell better. Mostly the stories that the people liked best and the early Church Fathers knew would bring in followers and donations were the ones eventually selected as being “divinely inspired.” Still took them two centuries to decide which were the best sellers of the hundreds of manuscripts.
    I think a more honest term than “divinely inspired’ would be “marketable and revenue inspired.”

  4. It’s passive/aggressive to me. “Look what he did for you!” the church cries. “You owe us!”

    Yeah, but he knew coming in, and that it was only for a few days!

    Anyway, the crucifixion isn’t the point. The resurrection is. Portray that instead.

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