How popular it is nowadays to bash Jesus. Many bad things have been done in the name of Jesus, such as the Crusades, anything an American President has done, or the Third Reich. As the religion of science begins to ascend the latest absolute empire on wings of liberalism, the crucifix has become a symbol of backwardness; of close-mindedness; of everything wrong with the past. Hip urban yuppies quiver at the thought of meeting someone god-fearing while hiking in one of the flyover states, while scorning the backward attitudes of religious types who do appropriately stupid conservative things.
The crucifix, then, is to the modern, enlightened person, the epitome of a phase of religious humanity that is best passed over.
Jesus, the neoliberal's pinnacle of stupidity, is the ignorant patriarch of 0 A.D., personifying anti-semitism, motivating wacky Baptist social movements, and always trying to put up wooden idols of himself on state property to force children to pray and ignore science.
This conception is grossly in error, and Jesus--or the image thereof--needs forgiveness.
How? Why? Well, take a look at the world. The first true and useful questions to consider in evaluating any human society over the past 10,000 years are:
1) who has the money and the food?
2) who's starving?
3) who's being killed?
Once the pioneering life of humanity had begun to spread from Africa around the globe, a particularly noxious ideology began to coalesce in the northern regions of Africa. This religious movement was dangerous; deliberately genocidal; horribly racist, ethnocentrist, homophobic, violently sexist; intolerant; exclusive.
Relying on the deadly justice of its all-powerful masculine god-figure, the Torah-based religion began doing a number of highly troublesome things:
1) Mutilating the genitals of all its male children;
2) Subordinating all its women to the authority of those with testicles;
3) Expanding a racist empire where those who resisted the superior People of the Book were murdered, "down to the last child";
4) Attributing spiritual, racial and cultural superiority to its members.
Spreading out in this holy war against infidels, the followers of the Torah murdered the inhabitants of various city-states across the Middle East ("God" did it by raining fire and stone on their buildings) ran into some hiccups against the brutal Egyptian Empire, spent some time as slaves, then escaped to continue the crusade in other realms. By mandating inbreeding, excluding non-ethnic members from the club, and monopolizing various professions, early expansionist Judaism survived.
In the meantime, Greek city-states formed little empires to extract resources from less-fortunate city-states; Athens won the crown for a while, and then came Imperial Rome. The city-state Rome managed to take over a large chunk of the known world. Those who resisted the Romans were tortured horribly to death on crosses: nailed up to die slowly as a warning to those who resisted the empire. A little known fact about death by crucifix (which those wonderful, classical, creators-of-western-civilization Greeks had been using before Rome adopted the technique) is that death generally came not from bleeding, but from the compression of breath due to the weakened chin falling onto the chest of the crucified--or from the impalement, through the anus, of the homoerotic Roman soldiery's penchant for supporting the majority of body weight anally upon the central crucifix shaft.
Die slow. Die in incredible pain, as your body sinks by its own weight onto a wooden contraption roughly in the shape of a man. Die rotten, and hang there, so that everyone can see what happens when you fuck with the empire.
"Jesus" may never have existed, but human or deity or social construct, he was a backlash against the most visibly horrifying sins of the imperial project. From Torah to Athens to Rome, the mass genocide and brutal torture of those who resisted expanding groups of "superior" civilizations, reached its culmination, then, in Jesus upon the cross.
Here was a man--or an image--who threw corrupt moneychangers from temples. Here was a man who went through all of the pain and death experienced by the victims of empire, and in a marvelous tale of hope, came back from it to promise people that they would someday be delivered from horror. Whether or not one particular guy named Jesus actually did these things is irrelevant to the story and the power behind it. In the standard historical record, there are countless men, women, elders, and little kids that the Romans, and their predecessors, brutalized on the cross.
Not only did people want to believe that a higher power, in the form of a human, had gone through this suffering that they had endured, they also knew--or wanted to know--a Jesus who finally cracked the restrictive barriers of the Torah. Like Martin Luther, or Martin Luther King, or Susan B. Anthony, Jesus crashed the barriers of a bigoted, restrictive system of membership and expansion. Jesus proclaimed that all people could properly worship God, even if they were not semitic "children of Israel" lucky enough to have been born in a certain place and been raised within a certain cultural subset. All could be saved, for God so loved the world that He gave His son to save it. All.
Naturally, this did not sit well with imperialists. The people of the Torah did not approve of such attitudes, whether or not personified in one guy named Jesus; nor did Imperial Rome like it very much--obviously.
The "barbarians" finally overthrew Rome. And thank God--there, at last, a surge of victory over the most horrific empire yet to rape the planet. Crosses came down.
Time passed. Filthy opportunists saw an opportunity to co-opt Jesus' movement, and produced the Catholic church--a church where Jesus/God was not everywhere, and available to everyone, but accessible only through a closed, formal church structure, which handed out salvation and sold redemption from sins for cash. Centuries passed; Martin Luther put up his proclamation, Protestants fought Catholics. Eventually, the British Crown came up with its own version of "Christianity" to justify its own bloated horrors, America slapped crosses and "under God" on everything, and began using the graven idol of Jesus and His suffering to justify carpet bombing, like, a lot of little kids.
But back to the cross. The cross is the symbol of imperial horror. To wear a cross is--even if the wearer doesn't realize it--to say, "I feel the horrors of empire. I bear a tangible reminder of the vile tortures that brutal murderers committed against so many of my kind, even before my parents were born. I will not forget them."
There is, nach, an irony of the utmost sadness in the golden crosses dangling around the necks of our valiant soldiers as they gun down little brown children in dusty streets far away. Or in Obama so much as pretending to mention the term "God" when people think he's talking about something related to what dream Christianity might once have been. It's as profane as anything verbal can be.
Someday, two thousand years from now, people of a new religion may wear about their necks little golden symbols of a hooded man kneeling in the Cuban sun.
...and they may wear those symbols while orbital saucer-ships blow the everliving hell out of forty billion alien children in Planet 242 just off the Horsehead Nebula. But that doesn't mean it's not something worth remembering. Jesus, and the cross of the suffering of so many thousands of people, was bought out and sold by the latest generation of evil murderers and torturers.
Buying and selling, though, can't change meaning. Keep hating the hypocrisy, ignorance and murderous ways of the imperial American "Christians" now, if you must, but don't blame "Jesus," or the story of Jesus, or learn to think of the cross as emblematic of anything other than the human suffering caused by empire.
Jesus, today, would be hanging from a wall by the ankles in Guantanamo Bay, hooded in black, waterboarded every day, and beaten until he admitted he used to be bin Laden's cabana boy and helped plan the 9/11 attacks. Then he'd be executed, and his memory lost, until someone came up with the story of a human whose spirit was not crushed by the horrors of empire. So give Him or him or it a break.