G.K. Chesterton once said, “If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” I can’t imagine many atheists would agree with him on that, but he makes a logical point. In a country where freedom of religion is one of our hallmark values, we now have an organization called “The Freedom From Religion Coalition.” Their goal is clearly to take away any religious symbolism from any public forum. Is that really what the law has in mind?
The most recent area I have heard of their efforts was in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, at the sight of a 91-year-old war memorial at the town’s fire department. (story) At issue is a cross and a firefighter’s prayer on the memorial. The irony of their request for immediate removal is that they are actually spreading religious ideals in their quest to remove religion.
The fact of the matter is that religion is an important part of the culture of our world. The government is not supposed to establish a religion that we all must follow, but it doesn’t have to stay completely out of religious symbolism. There is no reason people need to separate their beliefs from their daily life in the world, especially when it comes to recognizing those who sacrificed their life for others.
Crosses have been used as a symbol of sacrifice in cemeteries for years. Does it mean that all of the men and women who have died for our country were Christian? Of course not. Doesn’t that meant we are endorsing a religion and therefore should get rid of all crosses in cemeteries? No. In the cemetery it is used as a symbol of hope, regardless of what your beliefs are. What is so offensive about the cross? Why demand they be removed?
In ancient times, a cross was not a symbol of anything positive at all. It was a symbol of justice, criminal activity, and execution. It would not have been something people in Rome would have worn around their necks or placed in their cemeteries. What changed the cross was an innocent man who died on one and then rose again from the dead. All of a sudden the cross was glorious. The cross became a symbol of hope and life, even when someone is confronted with death.
The reason this “coalition” is up in arms over this is because the cross represents Jesus Christ to most people. The controversy is that He is the only way to God, a way that many people would rather ignore.
Paul talked about this confusion of the cross in 1 Corinthians 1. God takes the cross and completely changes it from a symbol of foolishness to a symbol of hope.
“Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified; a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. ” – 1 Corinthians 1: 22-23
“For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:25
Even so, why should that take away from something like a memorial? The cross is not making anyone follow Jesus. It is not rejecting people of other faiths. It is simply reminding people that their death,while maybe not at a time that they would have chosen, is not in vain. It proclaims that there is hope for a future because someone greater than they are died on a cross and lives today! This is offensive to some people, but it is the very truth that provides defense from the punishment of sin that we all deserve. That is a good news message even if you choose to ignore it.