First Person: The Meaning of the Cross

by on March 7th, 2015
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Having read yet another news bit about a complaint about a cross memorial, I felt it was time to stand up and say something about the meaning of the cross and true religious tolerance.

I am Christian. Though I do not wear a cross or display one in my home, I was raised in an environment in which it was worn and displayed. Though it is viewed by some to be the means of a gruesome death for Jesus, to me it always has symbolized hope and comfort. I see it not as a means of death, but as something that could not defeat the Savior, thus giving hope to us all.

When I see a cross along the side of the highway, I think not of Christianity or religion, but of the loss of life and the grief those left behind feel. I feel immediate compassion for their loss and remember to add them, even if they are nameless and unknown to me, to my prayers.

When I read of attacks against displays of the cross, I feel disheartened. We have the right in this country to mourn our dead and to freely express religion. The cross has become a symbol of recognizing the loss of life. It has been used as a memorial to our beloved dead; something to tell the world that a tragedy has occurred. I see that as no more “offensive” than posterboard with photos, ribbons, candles or any other things people use to remember and honor the dead.

When I see a Star of David, I do not feel “offended”. I am not a Jew, nor do I need to be to be respectful of their faith, traditions and symbols. When I am greeted by a Jew with BS”D, I do not take offense. I understand it is a respectful greeting and I appreciate the kindness. It is an acronym for the Aramaic for “with the help of Heaven.”

Years ago, when my (then) infant son was desperately ill, we took him to a hospital of another “flavor” of Christianity. When asked by the clergy there if we would like a blessing upon our baby, we quickly agreed. We did not need to be of the same “flavor” of Christianity in order to appreciate the gesture and the prayers. Had the offer come from a non-Christian clergy, the reaction would have been the same. If someone wants to offer kindness and compassion, I am happy to receive it.

I continually read and hear about the need for “religious tolerance” and yet also see “offense” taken at the least offensive things-things that can in any way be associated with Christianity.

I respect the right of all to choose the religion of their choice or none at all. I expect the same courtesy to be shown to me and to others. I have no right to insist you have a religion or memorialize your dead, anymore than you have the right to insist I or others cannot. That is where true “religious tolerance” begins.

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