This Good Friday while walking around downtown DC, I crossed paths with a few Roman Centurions, a falsely bloodied man shouldering a cross and two women in mourning apparel. These were demonstrators, reenacting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. I thought, "Well, this is a rather unique way to share the story of Christ's death."
Later, I returned home and while reading the news online, I crossed electronic paths with an even odder demonstration of the crucifixion. Many mainstream news outlets reported a long-time tradition that took place today in Cutud, Phillippines.
For over fifty years, this town has held a demonstration that allows select citizens to publicly have their backs whipped or be voluntarily nailed to a cross all for the purpose of showing their devotion to Christ.
The Catholic Church condemned this practice and even accused the town of commercializing the demonstration. An AFP newswire article said:
District tourism officer Ching Pangilinan denied church charges of commercilisation, saying local authorities had an obligation to manage the event to prevent tourists from mobbing the place or being robbed.
But, even though the tourism officer denied charges of commercializaition, the press still seemed intent on labeling the fake crucifixion onlookers, "tourists."
Could this be that the press misunderstood the cultural tradition at hand?
The AFP article further called this event a "spectacle," saying:
In the small farming town of Cutud, a couple of hours' drive north of Manila, thousands of tourists gathered to watch what has over the years become the biggest and bloodiest Good Friday spectacle.
To me, using the word "spectacle" is insinuating that this was some kind of show, rather than a devout religious act of penitance.