The Cross and a Statue

I wonder sometimes, whether I’ve gone off the deep end; I find myself criticizing stuff like this so often.  There are so many things that get under my skin; I’m a very happy and fairly contented person, really I am.  It’s just when I see things like this I want to crawl under a rock.

Shawn pointed this out to me earlier, but then I ran across a post on the matter which prompted this short reflection.  Pastor Dan from Street Prophets commenting on this monument located in San Diego, wonders what role history plays in our determining tthoughts on these kinds of issues?  Every symbol/image displays historical and present cultures colliding.  This is a great question and one not easily answered – but he came close when he said something that sounded almost Quakerish,

“The trouble is that we’ve come so far so fast that we’ve out-stripped
the lifespans of our cultural artifacts, or their social signification,
anyway.”

Many of these things have lost social significance, but I don’t think that the cross and the statue are two of those things.   The thing is that we are always redefining symbols and borrowing themes from the past.  We do this in hopes of transferring some kind of message to the onlooker, evoking some response.  The idea or meaning behind the image to the left is not hard to  get at, in fact it’s overly simplistic.

A helpful question that Pastor Dan asks is, “So does it do more violence to call for the complete removal of the
cross than it does to seek some kind of compromise that allows it to
stay?”

Knowing that I tend to be critical I want to learn from this last question, how can the church meet a compromise in this situation? Can it? If so what might it look like?  My tendency is to want to remove this all together – is there some way we can redefine this so we don’t have to resort to such a response?

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Wess

...is the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

7 thoughts on “The Cross and a Statue”

  1. It bothers me when there is an effort to somehow link the mission of Christ with the mission of America. Certainly, the two can co-exist to some degree (you can be a patriotic American AND a believer), but too often people try to make one synonymous with the other.

    I have a few right-wing, Republican friends who pretty use the terms unsaved, heathen, democrat, liberal interchangeably.

    I think it’s a bit of wishful thinking to believe that America stands for our romanticized ideas are. I hear the debate regarding immigration and it’s obvious that if America ever did live up to the inscription on her pedestal – those days are long gone:

    …Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

  2. Wait… that’s not an ironic art-project? Really? Wow.

    What I think is almost as interesting is how much the pop-art movement of the 50s-70s put in perspective the absurd way people use art to indoctrinate. We can’t help but look at this kind of stuff and see it as kitch – even though the creators were being completely sincere. Thanks a lot Jasper Johns!

  3. John,

    I completely agree with your comments of being a patriotic American, especially when it pertains to polarizing definitions of Republican and Democrat. When people ask me which party I allign myself with, I tend to cringe and want to affirm that I am seeking to be the best disciple of Christ I can be.

    I wrestled with the question of Christians in governmental roles in an Ethics class last summer, and I came to this conclusion: It is possible for a Christian to be involved in local or national politics, however, that person must be willing to sacrifice it all for the sake of what Christ has called us to do. I think this would be an amazing testimony to the gospel to see someone committ “political suicide” by standing firm on the love of Christ. The problem is we tend to want to place America under this God ordained authority that makes everything we do synonymous with the work of His kingdom. I do wonder if the system of government we have in place can really allow a person to keep their allegiance to Christ, while remaning in office. For instance, to get to the point of being nominated for President, a person must have promised certain groups allegiance in some ways, especially if a lot of money is backing their candidacy. This happens whether it is a Democrat or a Republican, so I have to wonder if a person can remain in office while putting the work of Christ first…without eventually making compromises.

  4. I can’t imagine trying to be a politician. To win enough support to win your race, you have to let consultants tailor-make your “beliefs” to fit the will of the latest opinion poll. Plus, you must pretend like you have no skeletons in your closet – and you have to toot your own horn everywhere.

    All of these fly in the face of Christ who calls us to be meek, transparent and honest.

  5. That is why I would imagine it could probably only be done well in the local region…working in your community politics to make things better. It would definitely take a different mindset.

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