Here at the Mount Gambier cemetery, right at the top of the driveway, stands a large wooden cross, standing three meters high, made of two posts bolted against each other. It is central, imposing, but it’s made of wood. It will not last forever.
I wonder, because my mind wonders such things, that if the time ever comes what the attitude would be to its replacement. What about in the meantime? Will there be those who would seek its removal as a Christian symbol in a public space?
Our war memorial, located in a park near the center of town, also prominently features a cross in its design. Made of stone, it will not decay any time soon, but what of its future. Many similar places around our country feature the imagery of the cross.
In the USA there are a number of court cases being fought seeking to removal of crosses on display on Government land. Here is a report on one such case, from the Dallas Morning News.
A six foot cross stands in the Mojave desert. Currently covered in plywood so no-one can see the offending shape contained within. Its presence on public land is opposed by those who believe the law of the US forbids government to demonstrate any partiality to any particular religion.
Look these cases up on Google. Visit wikipedia. Given the sensitivities surrounding these cases open source record histories contain a fairly balanced record.
I’m concerned that folk who acted in good faith (pardon the term) are threatened with the removal of memorials that have stood for a long time. There will be lots of upset folk on either side. I think that it is insensitive to memorialise a group which includes people of non-Christian religions or no religion at all with a symbol that is considered Christian.
There are levels and levels of consideration here.
There is no biblical ground that mandates the cross as a Christian symbol. The only two physical symbols committed by Christ to the Church were bapstism and the supper. The Lord did tell us to take up our cross daily, but the metaphor involved does not carry the same weight as the sacramental signs.
Use of the cross as a symbol of Christianity is a choice, but one that no Christian should feel compelled to defend with as central to their faith.
If that is accepted, what should we make of the cultural appropriation of the cross by wider Western culture as a symbol representing death?
It shouldn’t make us think that those who do so are ‘Christian’ in some cultural way. Their doing so may actually make it harder for those who act for purely cultural reasons to accept that they may not be Christian.
So, rather than feeling threatened, when these sorts of issues arise, and they probably won’t go away we need to know what is essentially Christian and be prepared to defend that. There will be others who will fight for memorials, symbols and history. We may even have cause to join them from time to time. But this is not our central calling.
Our calling is to defend the Gospel.
We’re not defending the symbol, we proclaim the truth that stands behind it.
For some expert commentary, below is a clip from the Colbert Report. It is a satirical comedy television show hosted by Stephen Colbert who portrays himself as a politically conservative commentator. His commentary on the Mojave Desert Cross case is very amusing. Don’t forget to read all the text blurbs as well.
Vodpod videos no longer available.