No B.S Friday: What unlocked the potential for peace in the human mind?
I spent a lot of time at Sunday school when I was a kid looking at the image of Christ – all scrawny and beautiful – nailed to a cross.
It’s a potent image.
There’s a great scene in the TV show Vikings where the Vikings are ransacking a monastery, and they come across a wood carving of Christ on the cross for the first time. They stare at it for a while. It confuses them. And then they smash it to pieces with an axe.
In that moment I could really get how strange the Christ figure would have been to them. They were a spiritual people as well, but the Gods they worshiped were heroes too – great warriors and conquerors. Thor was so mighty, Hollywood had to come to Australia to find someone tough enough to play him.
So who was this scrawny dude, miserably nailed to a cross? And why did the Saxons worship him?
I think it’s easy to forget just what an unusual age we’re living in. These are exceptionally peaceful times – on any measure.
Sure there are still wars and crime and murders on all sorts of horrible things, but these are at an all time low.
If you’re an adult male, the chances that you’ll die in your sleep of old age, and not some violent death at the hands of one of your enemies, is the best it’s ever been.
In medieval England, you could go to the theatre and watch a cat, tied to a stake, set on fire.
Not a dramatization of a burning cat. An actual cat, set on actual fire.
It was part of the programming. 7.00 -7.30, puppetry show for the kids. 7.30 – 8.00, kitty torture.
Today, it’s unthinkable. But it wasn’t really that long ago that we used to find amusement in acts of shameless cruelty – that we used to think that cruel was funny.
But at some point we became “peace-loving.”
We stopped glorifying war and violence. It took millennia to achieve, but now if our leaders want to take us to war, they have to do it at least in the name of peace – ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction, and bombing them into freedom etc.
That’s a new thing. In past times they could have done it simply because war is awesome and conquering others was glorious.
We have come a long way.
And the image of Christ on the cross has a lot to do with it, I reckon.
Because for the first time in history, we had a lightning rod for the best aspects of humanity, and the necessary ingredients for peace.
It was not a figure that glorified power and strength and kicking holes in the sky. It was a figure that showed us the power of self-sacrifice and commitment.
Even though he was being nailed to a cross, he never turned his back on the sacrifice he was called to make.
This is a powerful idea. Selflessness in the face of hardship.
And it’s the foundation of compromise, charity, playing nicely…
… and peace.
And so this is what I’ll be remembering this Easter. We live in an amazing, peaceful age. But that peace is always and ever built on a commitment to something bigger than ourselves.
Have a peaceful and joyous Easter everyone.