Abu Ghraib Crucifixion

Photographs from Abu GhraibI know this is a little late – such a reflection would have been more ‘appropriate’ a few weeks ago, during Lent. No matter. It’s worth thinking about today.

“This year I am reading the crucifixion story through the lens of an unknown photographer’s camera. One of my responsibilities…at Berkey Avenue Mennonite Church has been to choose visual images to project during the scripture readings. For me, these kinds of juxtapositions are a form of Bible study that can break open the text in new ways. I searched for images to pair with Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion. Certainly there were many traditional paintings to choose from. One particularly jarring representation is Matthais Grunwald’s Crucifixion, which shows Christ with lacerated skin and lips already blue from asphyxiation.

However, I found myself drawn to a more recent time and place: Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi prison where U.S. military personnel tortured and shamed prisoners in 2004. One of the most widely disseminated photographs from this ghastly chapter of the Iraq War is a fuzzy snapshot of a man with a pointed black hood, balancing on a box in a black cape. Wires attach to his extended palms and he has reportedly been told he will be electrocuted if he falls off the box.Could this man’s experience teach me something about the story at the center of my faith? Does Jesus’ crucifixion speak to what happened at Abu Ghraib?”

Read Jennifer Halteman Schrock’s full reflection here. This is a striking photograph, and one that belies an even more striking reality. It reminds me that the systems that crucified Jesus are still active in our day and age – and even in the name of our government. The moment the story of Jesus’ crucifixion becomes too unreal, we should try getting involved in the life of someone here and now who’s caught in a cycle of violence. We might discover Christ afresh.

In a similar vein, my friend Brian offers a three part reflection on ‘Three Crises of Peace.’ Here they are:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

If you pray or have quiet ‘centering’ time with God, please consider within this holding for a moment both your own pain and the pain of those around you before God. Let the love and ‘down & within’ power of Abba, Son & Spirit encircle you and embrace the pain & violence you’re taking the time to bring before God’s throne. Watch as God transfigures this energy, and gives you gifts of peace, as well as empowerment…in the form of an idea perhaps, of how you can be that change; an answer to your wordless prayer. It’s in this way that we can begin to bring healing to a wounded cosmos, emanating God’s victory here & now.

Selah!

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2 Responses to “Abu Ghraib Crucifixion”


  1. 1 jbonewald April 20, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    that is a powerful image, i wonder, what kind of response did you get from the congregation? I imagine that in my own church this might have upset a few folks.

  2. 2 Nathaniel Ruland April 23, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Brian McLaren sings protest songs too? And he sounds like Tom Waits!


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