Crosses should be true symbol of divine

Published 6:37 pm Thursday, August 11, 2011

“A Stetson hat and a pair of boots do not a cowboy make.”
“Fifteen miles and a $15,000 dollar motorcycle do not a biker make.”
“A fancy gold cross does not a Christian make.”

Since I am on vacation, and away from my duties at Holy Cross during August, I have had the opportunity to watch what goes on in the world around me a little more intently.
For instance, while recently at Folly Beach with our youth group, hiding behind my sunglasses I saw an amazing number and styles of crosses tattooed onto bare arms, backs, bellies, legs and the barely hidden nether regions of the human anatomy.
The “bling” (if that word is still in vogue for tacky jewelry) displayed by old and young alike was gaudily festooned with innumerable styles of crosses. And the T-shirts with crosses were a veritable serigrapher’s nightmare of variations.
It appeared, if the display of crosses in Folly Beach were any clue, that you can’t swing a dead sand crab without hitting a devout Christian – semi-naked or otherwise.
But what some people think the sign of the cross is all about came as a shock last week when I took a motorcycle ride to Asheville.
Now, if you go to Asheville at all you know the bumper sticker “KEEP ASHEVILLE WEIRD” is not only humorous, but true.
At one point I wound up downtown near Pritchard Park looking for a bite of lunch. As I was stowing my helmet and gloves one of the street folk came over to compliment the looks of my ride.
Trying to think of something polite to say in reply in return I noted that he was wearing a modest cross on a leather thong around his neck.
“Nice cross.”
“Yeah, man. That’s my talisman. It protects me.”
“Really? That’s nice. Where do you go to church?”
“Ah, man. I don’t do that church &#@*.”
“OK. So how do Jesus and that cross protect you?”
These days sacred symbols seem to be a dime a dozen; usually displayed as mindless and unreflective decorations; at worst seen and used as magical totems – but, oh, so rarely as a display of genuine commitment and devotion.
To be a cowboy or hardcore biker is a way of life. To be a Christian is a way of life.
In some parts of the world to merely display a cross publically is to invite imprisonment or death because it declares to the world that the one who puts forward that sacred symbol adheres to a set of values rooted in the ministry, teaching, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – a lifestyle, not merely a tag or an empty display.
Nor is a cross a magic symbol with which to conjure God’s favor by some ostentatious display.
The symbol of the cross is far more powerful than mere magic because if seen and understood as a true symbol of the divine presence in the world it can elicit change on the most fundamental levels of human life.

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