A dialogue from the movie Body of Lies

Ferris: When they find him, they are gonna torture him and they are gonna kill him.

Ed: You gotta decide which side of the cross you're on. I need nailers, not hangers.

A descriptive context of this dialogue can be found in this review. Is "on which side of the cross" idiomatic? I also can't find any source on "nailers" and "hangers". Does "hangers" refer to "hangmen"? Is this a biblical reference?

  • 1
    It's a whimsical "one-off" metaphor referencing crucifixion. But it's potentially risky, because the obvious intended meaning is you're better off being one of the people nailing someone else to the cross, rather than being nailed to the cross yourself. But most of us only really know about crucifixion in the context of Jesus, so we might understand the choice as Would you rather be the Son of God, or one of the murderous rabble? Sep 20 '20 at 14:19

I'm not familiar with Body of Lies, but I don't think "hangers" is referring to a hanging or to hangmen here. This sounds like a reference to the Crucifixion (of Jesus) to me.

Ed seems to be saying that you have two choices: you can participate in a crucifixion by "hanging" on the Cross (victim), or by "nailing" someone else to it (perpetrator).

I have not heard the expression "which side of the cross" before, and it doesn't really make a lot of sense in terms of spatial relationships. Both the "nailers" and the "hangers" would be on the same side. Perhaps it is not as literal as that, and "which side" would be a metaphorical/moral thing. But I really think the "sides of the cross" wording was a one time creative expression made up just for this occasion.

  • Yeah, I think 'side' here is more metaphorical(if that's the right wod) rather than positional. As in which side to take in an argument.
    – Smock
    Jun 28 '19 at 8:50

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