WARNING: This poem has references to self-harm, torture, and assorted cultural maladies. It is not very flattering of Christianity as an institution. The supporting notes are graphic. Think carefully before deciding to read onward.
"Sharper Than Nails"
He was short and brown
and nobody paid much attention
to one more poor beggar
hanging around the church.
He had an accent, too --
you could tell just by listening
that English wasn't his first language,
probably not even his second or third.
People kicked him and cursed him
and tried to drive him away,
but somehow he kept coming back.
There were a few, though,
who'd make space for him
in the back pews,
people who knew what it was like
to be poor and foreign
and hated just for existing.
One time, a slender girl
with skin the color of milky tea
pushed up her sleeve to show him
a row of long thin scars.
"You're not alone," she said.
"Lots of people cut themselves
when they feel bad -- not boys so much,
but you know, some do, along with the girls."
She'd seen the bandages
wrapped around his wrists and feet.
"You know what hurts worse?" he said.
"When people don't care about each other.
When they spread hate instead of love.
I feel it all the time. I can't not.
It's a pain sharper than nails on a cross."
"I hear you, brother," she said,
patting his knee where the skin showed
through a rip in his faded jeans.
"I'm glad someone does," he said.
"People these days, they don't listen."
"So what's your name?"
she asked. "I'm Carmen."
"Jesus," he said.
"Funny, I thought you looked
more Middle Eastern than Hispanic,"
He shrugged. "I get around."
Then he stood up,
although the sermon
was nowhere near finished.
"Mind if I come with you?" she asked.
"Nobody should have to walk alone.
This city isn't as safe as it could be."
"Anyone is welcome to follow me,"
Jesus replied, holding out a hand.
As their fingers twined together,
the world seemed a little more hopeful.
* * *
I have long felt that Jesus wouldn't join his own church as it is today. Attacks on the poor, foreign, and homeless are ubiquitous. He's all of that, with unpopular opinions, and I think he'd probably just get killed. Again. But apparently at least one artist and Pope Francis have a clue.
Here is a reconstruction of what Jesus would have looked like, using forensic anthropology to gauge facial structure, skin tone, and other details. Doesn't look much like modern icons, does he? That guy would get a downright hostile reception in today's world.
Self-harm is a maladaptive coping technique. There are ways to stop hurting yourself or to support someone with self-harm issues.
Crucifixion is often rendered inaccurately. Here is a graphic medical and historic analysis. I have placed Christ's wounds accordingly.
The thing about being divine is that you perceive everything about your sphere of influence. A vivid rendition of this appears in the Bible with Matthew 25:31-46. For a compassionate person, watching others suffer is torture. It is that, as much as the cross, that was crucifixion for Jesus.
Now put all that together, and it answers the question of why an all-powerful deity would submit to crucifixion. Like cutting, it makes the pain manifest, and therefore easier to cope with.
The name currently rendered as Jesus was originally Yeshua. To someone who had only heard the English and Spanish versions, the original pronunciation would probably sound Spanish.