“The crucified Christ became the brother of the despised, abandoned and oppressed. And this is why brotherhood with the ‘least of his brethren’ is a necessary part of brotherhood with Christ and identification with him. Thus Christian theology must be worked out amongst these people and with them…in concrete terms amongst and with those who suffer in this society…Christian identification with the crucified necessarily brings him into solidarity with the alienated of this world, with the dehumanized and the inhuman.
The church of the crucified was at first, and basically remains, the church of the oppressed and insulted, the poor and wretched, the church of the people.
But for the crucified Christ, the principle of fellowship is fellowship with those who are different, and solidarity with those who have become alien and have been made different. Its power is not friendship, the love for what is similar and beautiful… but creative love for what is different, alien and ugly…”
Upon the cross, Jesus becomes ‘different’ ‘alien’ and ‘ugly’. He is despised and abandoned. If you have ever felt that way, such is one reason it is ‘Good’ Friday.
From Peter Rollins:
“While the affirmation of signs and wisdom to justify a particular religious position is part and parcel of religious discourse, Paul sets his sights firmly against them when critiquing the Jewish community of his day for seeking the former and the Greeks for wanting the latter,
Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. [1 Cor 1:22]
What’s fascinating here is the way Paul sets up the Crucifixion as the very opposite of a sign or wisdom. From the perspective of both, the Crucifixion can strike one as nothing but empty nonsense. Why? Because this method of execution symbolized a divine curse. More than this, the idea of an innocent man, let alone God, being murdered in such horrific terms strikes against the idea of justice, reason, or goodness.
In other words, the event of the Crucifixion is actually the very contradiction of our expectations. This contradiction is much more than the liberal concept that the cross represents the idea of a good person being killed because he stood up against injustice. It is rather a direct confrontation of all that we think religion and God is about—it is that which breaks apart “our sense of reality.”
For Paul, the Crucifixion was that which defied reduction to a sign or system of meaning. As *Hessert notes,
“Christ crucified” makes no sense. Instead of linking God to the enveloping rationality that absorbs or even overrides the passing contradictions of goodness, it focuses attention on the contradiction itself. That is, “Christ crucified” is no key to the meaning of life and human events. It is a problem to meaning, a problem requiring explanation.”
Hessert notes that the Shoah operates in a similar way within Jewish thought. For the Shoah is that horrific, unspeakable event that ruptures and renders offensive any attempt to make it into a divine sign or element of wider rationality. This is why the term Shoah is often preferred over Holocaust. For the latter is derived from the Greek holókauston, a term that has connections with the notion of religious sacrifice and thus religious significance. In contrast, the Shoah simply means destruction and thus lacks any justificatory undertones.
The attempt to provide a cosmic meaning for the Shoah is not simply misplaced, it is a profound offense. The event stands as an affront to all such strategies. In terms of the European intellectual tradition, the First World War can be seen to act in a similar way. One of the features of this horrific event is found in the way that the war disrupted all our attempts to tie it into some deeper meaning or significance.
It is precisely this connection with meaning, religious or otherwise, that the Crucifixion of Christ cuts against.
Once we grasp this idea of Christ representing a break with signs and wisdom, we can begin to perceive how the actual existing church has fundamentally betrayed the scandal of the Crucifixion, effectively making it into a type of Stoic doctrine that doesn’t challenge our world, but confirms it.
In contrast, for Paul, “Christ crucified” is that event that defies all attempts at being reduced to some system of meaning.
It is a type of anti-sign that fractures religious signs.
An anti-wisdom that confounds human wisdom.
A nuclear event that blows apart all of our apologetic enclosures.”
* “…theologian Paul Hessert picks up in his book Christ and the End of Meaning…”