A small pendant cross has long been popular as an item of jewelry to wear. I enjoy wearing one made out of small nails held together by red wire wrapped around them because it reminds me of the Crucifixion and Christ’s blood offered as an atonement for my sins — ideas central to the Christian faith. In prior decades I noticed it was somewhat of a fashion trend for musicians and pop stars to wear a small ornamental cross, often without any profession of Christian faith on the part of the wearer. Here lately, however, I’ve been noticing a different reaction to my small pendant.
Twenty years ago, a small cross pendant would often elicit a smile from passing strangers when noticed. I don’t ever remember a negative reaction. Here lately, I’ve noticed that some people still flash that smile, while others simply ignore it, a few others get a frown on their faces, or quickly look down or away as they pass me by. Alternatively I also sometimes wear CMA (Christian Motorcyclists Association) t-shirts with the CMA logo on the back — a cross and praying hands. I have actually received hostile glances from a few folks, especially at the gym where I work out. One fellow actually started wearing a t-shirt with a caricature of the devil, complete with horns, accompanied by the slogan “This is a myth; it doesn’t exist.” I’ve also noticed a few who wear t-shirts with slogans promoting atheist organizations.
The cross itself as a Christian symbol has certainly engendered heated opposition over the last decade when displayed on government property. Simply do a Google search with terms such as “atheist Christian cross” and you will pull up page after page of newspaper headlines such as “Atheist sues City of Santa Clara over Christian Cross”; “Atheist group files suit against Pennsylvania County because its official seal includes a cross”; “Atheist Sues Texas Mayor for Attending Christian Cross Project in Corpus Christi, Texas”; “Humanist and Atheist Groups Join Forces to Fight Giant Christian Cross at Bayview in Pensacola, Florida” — and on and on it goes. Those small white crosses that you see along highways and roads commemorating the death of a loved one in a traffic accident — there are people who want to ban them now. Those two crossed steel beams that became a symbol of hope after 9/11 at “ground zero” — there actually were people getting upset over that. All those crosses adorning the grave sites of veterans at Arlington National Cemetery — it apparently creates heartburn with some folks. I honestly think that some people would prefer to ban pubic displays of large crosses on both private and government property, as certain communist and Islamic countries have done. All this tends to create a backlash, however, as Christians band together to finance the erection of huge crosses by public highways on private land, knowing that nothing can be done about it.
That got me to thinking — I just haven’t noticed any intense opposition when Jewish menorah’s are publicly displayed, such as the annual National Menorah lighting ceremony on the White House lawn. I haven’t read anything lately in the news about that 32 foot tall menorah (the world’s largest) at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 59th street in New York near Central Park. In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled as constitutional the lighting of the 18 foot tall menorah in Cincinnati’s Fountain Square. The State of Ohio Holocaust Memorial prominently displays a Star of David. Muslims displayed a minaret at Chicago’s Daley Plaza and the Islamic Crescent and Star at the Armonk, New York Christmas holiday display. If a few isolated atheists complained about these, it pales in comparison to the outrage directed at Christian crosses. Perhaps it is because the United States was never viewed as a “Jewish” nation or “Muslim” nation in our past, while most citizens did view it as a “Christian” nation in prior decades — Christianity being the dominant faith of both the citizenry and most of our Founding Fathers.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I occasionally get a few hateful stares by wearing my cross pendant. I’m not going to let it bother me, it’s a free country. Wear the Star of David or the Islamic crescent moon; I don’t really care. Actually, a bit of opposition is entirely appropriate — the cross as a symbol was offensive to many even in the first century. The Apostle Paul spoke about the “offense of the cross” In Galatians 5:11. It is a symbol of an excruciatingly painful death via capital punishment by the Roman government, reserved for criminals. When God came to earth robed in a human body, He was treated as a common criminal and killed as one. That speaks volumes to me about human nature and the need for spiritual salvation. I will wear mine proudly.