Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Of crosses and history

From Fox News comes this story of Riverside, a California city, which is being challenged by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State because it displays a thirty-five-foot cross on city land. One citizen wondered, "It’s been up there for over a hundred years, so why is this happening now?" Which is exactly why stuff like this has to be challenged-- because if it isn't, then it becomes "historical" and people argue that it must be kept. The citizen undercut his "historical" case a bit by adding, "Anything that has to do with Jesus Christ or our Christian faith – people are always going to have a problem." But the problem isn't that it's a Christian symbol, but that it's a Christian symbol on public land.

A columnist for the newspaper echoed the historical line of thinking when he wrote, "It’s not about religion. It’s about history." It is unclear, however, what is "historical" about the cross aside from the fact that it's been there a long time. I've blogged before about Virginia Beach's Cape Henry cross, and its image on the Virginia Beach city seal, which perhaps could justify the argument that "it's historical," based as it is on the supposed actions of the first Englishmen to stand on that spot. But what's the big historical story behind the Riverside cross? The article doesn't explain. It does mention that the cross is "home to one of the nation’s longest running Easter Sunrise services," which would seem to emphasize the idea that it's about, you know, religion.

The Riverside newspaper has a slightly more balanced article, admitting that not everyone in the area approves of the cross. "Some speakers (at the city council meeting) quoted the Bible and questioned why some religions are openly recognized while Christian symbols are under attack. But others said as non-Christians, they see the cross as excluding them." One man was quoted as saying, "The cross holds no religious significance to me. It's all part of the mountain as it is." But the fact that others quoted the Bible suggests that many see it as the religious symbol it is.

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