Brazil Reflections: A Selfie With Christ the Redeemer

During July my family and some members from the Highland Church of Christ spent two weeks in Brazil learning from and helping our sister church in Itu, the Itu Church of Christ. Beyond Jana and I serving as group leaders for Camp Roots, the bilingual camp for teenagers hosted by the Itu church, I was asked to be a part of the trip to spend time learning from Crescimento Limpo (translated as "Clean Growth" in Portuguese), a non-profit housing and substance use rehab initiative supported by the Itu church.

In the weeks, months and hopefully years to come I'll be sharing more about Crescimento Limpo and how you can support their work.

In the meantime, in light of the Rio Olympics, I wanted to use some posts to share some assorted reflections about our time in Brazil.

Before going to Itu Jana, Brenden, Aidan and I spent a few days in Rio. And like most tourists the big attraction you want to see in Rio is the Christ the Redeemer statue.

High on Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park, the largest urban rainforest in the world, Christ the Redeemer overlooks the city of Rio. Built in a art deco style from 1922 to 1931, Christ the Redeemer is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

The two days we were in Rio before visiting the statue were cloudy. So we were worried that we'd have poor visibility. But the day of our visit dawned clear and we had a great experience on the mountain. Wonderful, stunning views.

As you can imagine, every tourist on the mountain wanted the perfect picture. The day we visited wasn't very crowded. Our tour guide said that was a rare blessing. During peak season she has seen tourists get into fights in front of the statue, trying to stand alone in front for a picture.

Interesting juxtaposition. People fighting in front of the Christ with outstretched and pierced hands.

But like I said, there was plenty of room the day we were there. The popular pose was to stand in front of the statue and to hold your hands out and open, copying the arms and hands of Christ towering behind you.

And that's the image that grabbed me. Smiling tourist after smiling tourist taking turns posing as the crucified Christ.

I'm not a very judgmental person and I have a high tolerance for blasphemy. But something about adopting the pose of crucifixion for a selfie seemed off to me.

You could argue that the pose isn't really one of crucifixion. The pierced hands of the Christ are opened wide over Rio in the shape of a cross, but the imagery is more one of welcome, embrace and hospitality.

Still, when that open embrace is marked by pierced hands the cost and unconditionality of that welcome is staggering. Are we willing to be crucified to offer that same radical welcome?

As I watched all the tourists taking pictures, arms outstretched and hands open, I looked for the nail prints on our hands.

The statue had them.

We did not.

And that, it seems--the cost of love outpoured--makes all the difference between his love and ours.

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