Sunday, August 24, 2008

Changing The Meaning Of Symbols

We are creatures that imbue certain artifacts with meaning they do not necessarily carry in and of themselves. Consider, if you will, a flag. It is a piece of cloth, dyed and stitched together, hanging out in the wind. Yet, should one decide to rip this piece of cloth down and burn it, say, or place it on the ground and walk on it, there are those who believe this should be a criminal act. If it was only a piece of white linen, no one would have a problem with it; it is the addition of dye and stitching to create a certain pattern that transforms ordinary cloth in to something potent.

The cross is no different. On the inner gatefold of the debut release from Frankie Goes to Hollywood, there are a series of symbols, with their definitions underneath them. Underneath the cross are the words "torture instrument". That is what is was, although "execution instrument" would have been more accurate. To die hanging on a cross was excruciating; very often, those left hung out so had their legs broken (after having spikes pounded through their wrists and ankles, or after working for hours to keep from suffocating by lifting themselves up to keep the pressure off their diaphragms). Yet, for two millennia, Christians have transformed this machinery of Roman death in to one of the most powerful symbols of love and renewal in human history. Christians are people marked with the sign of the cross; we carry the legacy of that symbol with us as a token of the lengths to which God will go for love of creation.

Yet, the symbol is now changed, not through habit or custom, but the decree of a Federal court.
"The Court finds the memorial at Mt. Soledad, including its Latin cross, communicates the primarily non-religious messages of military service, death and sacrifice," U.S Dist. Judge Larry A. Burns wrote in his July 29 opinion allowing the cross to stay where it is.

"The primary effect of the Mount Soledad memorial is patriotic and nationalistic."

So, the cross has been naturalized, now a citizen of an Empire in decline. With the blessings of the legal system, it no longer is the sole property of Christians, who have used it to define their lives as self-sacrifice and unconditional love. It is now "patriotic and nationalistic". Why? Because the court said so.

If this ruling is allowed to stand, not only will a significant line in church/state relations have been irrevocably crossed (no pun intended), but the single most important symbol identifying Christians as unique partners with God in a mission that transcends national, racial, and even temporal boundaries will have been erased. If the cross becomes all red, white, and blue - I'm giving mine back.

Virtual Tin Cup

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More