The March 31st issue of The New Yorker had a long article profiling the woman who took many of the most well-known photos of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. This picture of a hooded prisoner standing on a box, naked under a poncho-like blanket, arms extended with wires attached to each hand, has become one of the iconic images of that mess. In pondering the significance of that photo and others, the author makes this observation:
Of course, the dominant symbol of Western civilization is the figure of a nearly naked man, tortured to death—or, more simply, the torture implement itself, the cross. But our pictures of the savage death of Jesus are the product of religious imagination and idealization. In reality, he must have been ghastly to behold. Had there been cameras at Calvary, would twenty centuries of believers have been moved to hang photographs of the scene on their altarpieces and in their homes?
An interesting perspective... I've never thought of the very common piece of jewelry we see people wear, the crucifix, as an instrument of torture. But it really is. Can you imagine wearing a rack or an iron maiden around your neck? Or an electric chair? Or a bucket of water?