There are two perspectives at the scene of the cross.
On one side, we have the crucified God. On the other, we have God’s crucifiers. Who do you tend to identify with in this story? Are you the victim or the murderer?
It’s a hard question.
Members of the early Church probably identified with Christ on the cross, as they were persecuted and murdered by the Romans in the first century. Christ went before them -- the perfect example of non-violence, even to death. But Christianity would become the dominant religion of the West. And here we are today—offspring of an obscure Eastern religious movement now more massive than anybody could have planned.
So where do we stand?
Many of us in the Church today seem to identify with the crucified Jesus. We speak of a culture war, where Christians are persecuted for not participating in gay weddings, or for believing in creationism. I do not mean that we will always say that we identify with the crucified God explicitly, but our language is that of the victim. This perspective has no room for understanding the nature of power dynamics or of privilege.
The two sides of the cross have a fundamental difference in power. Jesus gave up all power to become subject to death on the cross. What power do we have? As Christians, we are at least empowered by the fact that we share the same religion as most other Americans. We live in a country where Christianity is still considered normative. The “persecution” that most Christians face in America has more to do with a fear of losing power than of actual persecution. And besides, when did Jesus ever try to defend himself against persecution?
The argument has been made before that millions of indigenous and African people were crucified to make this country what it is. These same people groups (not to mention many others) are persecuted (even crucified) today.
To have a crucified people necessitates a crucifier.
Painful as it is to consider, when we benefit because of our religious, racial, or gender privilege, we are cashing in on someone else’s crucifixion.
Jesus’ refusal to play into the system of oppression gives us a way out. The passion narrative holds a mirror up to the powerful and shows them their violent ways. We as Christians (especially those of us who hold various types of privilege) must see ourselves as the ones who killed Jesus. This is the posture of humility and faithfulness.
Who are you crucifying today?