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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Lent / Tarot / Trapped: The Eight of Swords

Catholics probably see at least one crucifix every day, and probably many more. Anyone living in the Western world probably sees at least one cross a day. The crucifix, of course, is a cross with an image of a crucified man on it. Protestants prefer crosses, just the cross, no image of a man.

I think seeing crosses and crucifixes so frequently has desensitized us. We don't really consciously register what a horror crucifixion is. It's horrible to contemplate the pain victims endured. It's horrible to contemplate an empire, the Roman Empire, built on that kind of sadism.

Crucifixion is bottom-of-the-barrel human behavior. The Roman Empire deserves to be regarded as monstrous on this basis alone. And there are plenty of other bases.

Think about it. I think about it because I am a student of the Shroud of Turin. I've read numerous books and watched many documentaries. It's so horrifying I often have to put the book down, place the video on "pause."

There's a History Channel documentary called "The Real Face of Jesus." Emmy-winning 3D digital illustrator Ray Downing is staring at a computer screen with an image of the Shroud on it. He is describing, for the camera, the wounds he sees on the Shroud. Downing comes across as a rather cool customer. He has to be to do the painstaking work he does.

In the middle of his description, Downing just stops. He can't stand what he is seeing; he can't stand what he is describing to the audience. It's so overwhelming that one human being would do this to another, and would do this acting as the arm of the state.

Frederick Zugibe was the chief medical examiner of Rockland County, NY, for 33 years. He researched the Shroud by researching what crucifixion does to a human body. In his research, he used live volunteers. Others, like Dr. Pierre Barbet, used corpses. You can read about that research here. I find it really hard to read this work. I can't imagine what it must have been like to carry out this research. Thank heaven we all have different gifts, and there are some people who can do stuff like this and remain calm.

The Romans were not the first nor the last to crucify, but they are the most famous. They crucified thousands. Damn the Roman Empire. I don't understand the high regard it receives. I think any society that entertains its people with spectacles of animals eating live people and men fighting to the death is a sick and evil society. Sure, they had impressive plumbing. I bet their trains ran on time, too.

I'm thinking about crucifixion because my randomly drawn tarot card this morning is the eight of swords. We see a woman bound and blindfolded and surrounded by swords. She is trapped.

Her blindfold reminds me of Luke 22:64. "The men who held Jesus in custody were ridiculing and beating him. They blindfolded him and questioned him, saying, 'Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?' And they reviled him in saying many other things against him."

Tarot readers emphasize that this woman can and will break her own bonds. She will escape. Her sensation of being trapped is temporary.

Jesus' suffering and death was also temporary. We know the end of the story – Easter. Easter doesn't make Good Friday any less horrifying.

It really bugs me when people make crucifixion jokes. Atheists and other Christophobes make crucifixion jokes all the time. Christophobes refer to crucified Jesus as "a dead Jew on a stick." I googled that phrase and found it attributed to George Carlin. I have no idea if he really said it.

Penn and Teller performed a lengthy, obscene crucifixion skit in Las Vegas in 2003. Whether you believe Jesus was God or not, the historical consensus is that Jesus was a man, and he was crucified by the Romans. I don't share Penn and Teller's aesthetic. I don't think it's funny to make fun of a torture victim. 

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