A Symbol for All

May 14, 2019 · Print This Article

I wonder what you would think if you were met by a 40-foot (12 meter) granite Cross as you entered a town? Maybe because we are so used to them in idyllic country towns and villages, we may not think twice. Not so for the US state of Maryland.

There is always a certain sigh that comes with hearing of the most recent secular-religious fisticuffs. And the gloves are well and truly off for the town of Bladensburg, which hosts this 96-year-old World War I monument.

The “live and let live” spirit has been put to one side in an attempt to have this Cross removed. The American Humanist Association (an organisation with a philosophy of seeking the greater good without God) are seeking grounds in the First Amendment to have it removed. But the opposition are not going down quietly.

Ok, let me get my unconscious bias out in the open. I’m a Christian…but wait…I’m actually not a huge fan of crosses nor their public display (fellow Christians, please put down your stones). But my natural antipathy to such overt Christian signposting is offset by something we may all be able to agree on.

Whether you are of faith or of no faith, I wonder whether we may lose something with the removal of such monuments?

We all watched Notre Dame burn. It was a moment that shocked secular and religious emotions: something that had stood for so long, endured the centuries, stood not just as a Christian monument, but a symbolic one for all. One that reminded us of the value of permanence and dedication in a world that is so often transient and throw-away. And so, thinking about the Cross, could there be symbolic value for all in this 40-foot secular offence? Value that would be lost if it were removed?

What symbolism, we should ask?

In such a fast-paced, disposable, pleasure-seeking world, having a symbol to ground us to healthy values is a healthy thing. The cross is a symbol of suffering. What’s healthy about that?! Now, I’m not going to get all self-flagellating on you, but in a western world that often seeks pleasure over purpose, the cross is a reminder of the inevitability of the suffering of life. Taking up our daily cross is about accepting this inevitability, and in the accepting lies a kind of detox of the often-felt feelings of injustice and the anger that comes with this frustration.

And there’s more…

There is an irony in that this Cross is a war monument. It is a symbol of self-sacrifice. A sacrifice that put other’s needs before our own. A sacrifice that went a long way to giving us (western European and America) the freedoms we enjoy today. I think symbols that are about making room for others through the pouring out of our lives is a good thing.

But maybe the most counter-intuitive meaning to this symbol is that it reminds us that beyond suffering and sacrifice there lies glory! It’s a strange thought, maybe more of a spiritual thought. Even on a humanist level, we could agree that we reap what we sow (there are, of course, other variations of this karma idea). But from a Christian point of view, Jesus endured dying on a cross, so our sins could be forgiven, because of the reward set before him – becoming the saviour and king of all the earth. Wherever we stand with this idea, reward is at the end of suffering and sacrifice because of this universal rule.

Maybe we should think twice before removing these symbols that hold meaning for us all.


[Photo by Albert Dehon on Unsplash]


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