Another View of the Cross — And of a Christian Message

By Linda Hart Green

Why don’t I wear a cross? You’d have to have known my mother. She wasn’t a cross-wearer either, and she didn’t really talk about it. That was not her style. She was a beautiful person inside and out who believed that actions speak louder than words. Her motto was kindness always. She worked in the business world and then with my father at our store. She felt it was not appropriate to display one’s beliefs in those settings. She let how she lived her life speak her message. And it did, loudly and clearly. She was always gracious, always able to find something uplifting to say. She had a quiet confidence that drew people to her.

She could sing many hymns by heart. One of her favorite hymns was “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” The chorus is, “I sing because I’m happy. I sing because I’m free. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.” She loved watching backyard birds and feeding them. A common sparrow was not to be overlooked. After all, it was one of God’s creations, too. My mother lived radical love and radical acceptance. Those are my words, not hers! God was love to her, and she lived that out as best she could in her 94 years.

Many wear a cross as a symbol of the way Jesus died. This shows their belief that the purpose of Jesus’ death was to save them from their sins. Without going too deeply into the theological weeds, this is one of the understandings of Jesus’ death. There are several other theological explanations that have swirled around Christianity over the centuries. This one, called “substitutionary atonement,” is most well known. For anyone interested in going deeper, I suggest Matthew Fox’s book, “Original Blessing.”

What is missing from this understanding is a wider view of social, economic, religious and political systems. Another way of looking at the cross is as a weapon of cruelty and domination used by the Roman Empire. Crucifixion was not for Jesus alone. The cross is where human systems and the divine realm clashed. God breathed new life into Jesus of Nazareth, representing the ultimate triumph of life, love, mercy, justice, equality and peace.

Crucified ones were left hanging to deter others from committing similar offenses against Rome. Jesus’ body was taken down and given a burial because someone had the means to pay off the authorities. You can’t cast ugly truth in gold or silver and make it OK. To me, it needs to stay raw and messy, as was its purpose.

I don’t deny that the cross is a powerful symbol. It’s a symbol of what can happen to those who defy the powers that be. A cross is a potent signal to anyone in the transformation of what they are up against. I think we should let that stand for itself. I would much rather experience God’s loving kindness or witness it displayed than try to wear it.

I feel similarly about the Bible. It is not a commodity! It is not to be waved around, sold for profit or used as a bludgeon. It’s a compendium of history, of trial and error, pain and heartache, and defeat and triumph. It is prose and poetry and sacred songs. It’s not like Google Maps for your life! It’s far more complex and confounding than that. I have been in the presence of scholars far greater than myself, who have given their lives to its study, and they remain in awe. Its wisdom is revealed drop by drop through meditation, prayer, study and lived reflection. I think of the scribes and the monks who spent their days in utter silence painstakingly copying from ancient sheepskin scrolls so that those who followed them would know its beauty and absorb its truths. I don’t know why those who mistreat it don’t instantly burst into flame! That’s what I would do if I were God. It’s a good thing I’m not.

In these times when hate is wrapped like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, I advocate giving up the hats and the T-shirts, the crosses and the flags, and the slogans that demean and defile. Let’s take our lead from a person like my mother who fed the backyard birds, sang hymns and loved her neighbor as herself.

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Barb Gingher
Active Member
Barb Gingher(@drbarbg)
1 month ago

My mom did not wear a cross either. Of course her cross was on the end of her rosary. I do not think it is necessary to wear it on one’s person to display your faith. Thank you Linda for this story!

Karen Schaffner
Active Member
Karen Schaffner(@karen-schaffner)
1 month ago

Thank you for sharing this, Linda. It was the perfect message to start my Sunday morning. Here’s to radical love and acceptance! 

1 month ago

BIBLE = Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth

Noble Member
1 month ago

Very well said! Symbols are not faith. Show your faith by who you are and what you do.

Mark Tomes
Trusted Member
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
1 month ago

Good point. One of the most difficult things to master and mature in in life is the understanding that our beliefs are ours alone and not to be forced on anyone else, that others have the same rights as ourselves. A person’s religion works for them for their personal reasons and not for everyone else. And by the way, please keep your “Have a blessed day” to yourselves.