Thursday, April 19, 2007

Filipinos Crucify Themselves

Why, in God's name, would someone do this to himself? Wait, I guess one would only do such a thing in God's name. These men are whipped, tied to a cross, wear a crown of thorns, and have nails pounded through their hands. At least they're sterilizing the nails and aiming so as not to do permanent damage. But still.

Filipino Devotees Crucify Themselves
Filipinos Crucify Themselves on Good Friday

Here's a video of this absurdity:
Filipino Man Crucified on Good Friday

I saw a more detailed video on MSN (it has been removed for some reason) about one man's reasons for having himself crucified. Apparently, his daughter had been ill, and he begged God to ensure her recovery. As a bargaining chip, he offered to suffer crucifixion if God would intervene. The medical procedures were successful (I suspect they would have been anyway) and, to his credit I suppose, he kept his promise and returns each year to be nailed to a cross. He proudly showed off his crown of thorns, and said that he constructed it of barbed wire for the sake of durability.

It is easy to see why someone would offer this sort of bargain to God. One can hardly imagine anything more grievous than watching a son or daughter suffer afflictions completely out of the parent's ability to control to prevent. In a larger sense, I think that is where prayer comes from (at least, prayer of supplication). We despair, as humans, at how little control we have over so many aspects of life. Prayer often gives us the illusion of control, or at least, a sense of appealing to someone in control. The problem is that it is only an illusion and, though it can't hurt anything to try, it may prevent us from seeking some real means of affecting the outcome. And what good is hope, if it is false hope?

There is the further problem of what happens when the prayer is not answered. What if this man had lost his daughter? Instead of merely grieving at his own inability to help her, he would feel additional guilt that he had not done enough, had lacked sufficient faith, or was in some other way inadequate. Life is hard enough as it is! Why add a layer of imaginary explanations and make things worse?

Also, I feel that gratitude is often misplaced after a "successful" prayer. In church, I constantly hear people thank God that a loved one made it through a surgery. Why not thank the doctors, and the medical technology that made recovery possible? There are so many people who have lived through strokes, heart attacks, and other afflictions who would not have made it a hundred years ago. Granted, many people are thankful to God and the medical professionals. But I think this man could do much better to raise awareness about his daughter's condition, and demonstrate his love for her, than get himself nailed to a cross.

Update: This comes from (and NewScientistTech). Question for theologians: what was God trying to say here?

Eduardo Sese of Pampanga, Philippines may have exposed more than 100 men to rabies during a self-flagellation ritual. Sese died from rabies two weeks ago, but he had previously shared a knife with a large group of people who slashed their backs before whipping themselves with bamboo in honor of Good Friday. From New Scientist:

"The government doctor in Pampanga, Maria Clara Aquino, said vaccines had been given to 103 people who could have been exposed.

"Self-flagellation is an annual tradition in Pampanga and other parts of the Philippines in which men whip themselves into a frenzy on Good Friday to atone for their sins."

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