Flipping the Bird

The_Body_of_the_Dead_Christ_in_the_Tomb,_and_a_detail,_by_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger.jpg

For Valentine’s Day, my wife gave me The Gospel In Dostoevsky It’s a compilation of the religious writings from Dostoevsky’s works. The picture above, The Body of the Dead Christ in a Tomb, plays a role in the novel The Idiot. Like the characters in the book, I became enamored with the painting. Most notably, Hans Holbein the Younger presents Jesus with his middle finger extended, and the more I thought about it, the death and resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate flipping the bird to the world.

By world, I mean all of the artificial cities, systems, cultures etc. created by humanity to govern our existence. These man made facades only have power over us because they have won wars. It is the military might of a civilization which gives it influence. This power to kill, to legitimize taking lives, is chief among what Jesus flipped off.  According to the Atlantic, people have been extending their middle fingers for thousands of years. The ancient Greek did it, the Germanic tribes did it to the Ancient Romans, and everyday a million times over, people continue to use it as a sign of protest.

The moment when this painting is taken is when Jesus is freshly laid in the tomb. The leaders of the system Jesus was born under had triumphantly used their power to kill, but there’s Jesus in the tomb raising a finger of protest because in submitting to execution, he disarmed and defeated the place death has in this world and pointed to a new reality when everything people have made will be made new.

 

2 thoughts on “Flipping the Bird

  1. Reading a couple of books right now that this post brings to mind: Crime and Punishment, which manages somehow to make me simultaneously detest and feel sympathy for a double ax-murderer. And “Jesus and the Disinherited” by Howard Thurman, a mentor to MLK, Jr. Thurman shows that when it comes to the various wisdoms of this world, Jesus has plenty of bird to go around. As always, the most offensive thing is his insistence on grace and forgiveness.

    Liked by 1 person

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