As we are transformed from a word based to an image based culture, the power of images becomes more and more persuasive; so persuasive sometimes that those images can move a culture and a nation to action.
I am guessing that is why an image such as that of a man being beheaded, killed while innocent it seems, can create a tidal wave of reaction. It is one thing to hear of the brutality of war and violence in the streets. It is another to see it. Image!
This image was the intention, created by those who did the deed. They wanted to make sure it was seen right in front of the eyes of those they wanted to convince. It will make them understand they thought.
But images can be an unwieldy thing. Seen by some as a rallying cry for our just cause, it can be seen by others as a cry for righteous indignation, a cry for justice; especially when that image plays into a storyline unknown by the image sender.
While many believe victory goes to the swift and strong, there is also a storyline of rooting for the underdog. When one man is seen paying for the sins of the many, it engenders a deeply held conviction, one deeper than all the rest, that individual sacrifice matters, and therefore sitting idly by is no longer an option.
Whether the image is of a reporter in Iraq, or a man in the streets of the great American Midwest, the image of a man sacrificed without hope of defense will stir the hearts of those who root for the underdog, those stirred by a story line even deeper, of one who died innocently for others.
We tell that story. We call it gospel.
Jeff Farley is husband, father, brother, trumpet player, scouter, and pastor of the Otisville-Mt. Hope Presbyterian Church in Orange County New York.