I have a Vietnamese friend who converted to Christianity as a young adult. She talks about when she was a young girl in her native village; she was frightened of the crucifix outside the church in her little town. It seemed terrible to her that the people who went into that building could have done such a terrible thing to the poor man. For years, she refused to watch the Jesus movie because, as she put it, "I don't like horror flicks!"
That statement amazed me – to think that someone could view the crucifixion as a horror movie was beyond me. Then it struck me – why wouldn't I view the crucifixion as a horror movie? After all, the story of the crucifixion is horrible and gory beyond description. What is really strange are the sweet songs we sing about the crucifixion. It's sort of like playing a score from Mozart to scenes from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
And what's up with the crosses we wear around our necks? Isn't that like wearing little gold statues of electric chairs? We don't wear silver hangman's nooses around our necks. So what is our obsession with this ancient Roman method of execution? Isn't it a strange way to show honor to the man who was crucified so cruelly?
Actually, modern Christians are getting more and more uncomfortable with the cross. We try to push the idea that our faith is supposed to be inspiring, uplifting, and happy. A lot of talk about suffering and death just doesn't connect with many of us. But the New Testament plainly teaches that the removal of the cross from the center of our faith removes the power from the gospel. Without the cross, there is no transformed life. Without the cross, we are lost. That is what the New Testament plainly teaches.
In the end, Christianity cannot survive the removal of the cross. It becomes a mere philosophy about morals and ethics. It turns the faith into a talk about self-improvement.
As it turns out, the real cruelty is the removal of the cross because with is goes "the power of God unto salvation."