The little Pentecostal Holiness Church my family attended in my earliest memories had a large wooden Cross hanging at the front of the Chapel. It hung ominously and conspicuously as the only decorative fixture in the building. There may have been some banners on the wall with some scripture or something, but I cannot remember for certain.
And then when the family switched churches to the newly popular mega-church, the first thing one noticed on the platform was the absence of any cross, instead, a grouping of french doors. I have been in many churches, some with cross, most without.
A Cross means different things to people, but most know it as a device of death and torture and the foremost symbol of Christianity. The Cross as a symbol tells us in summary, that there was a problem, a deficiency, so great that required the Heavenly Father to send His Son to die such a brutal death. The Cross reminds us essentially that sacrifice was necessary; that the innocent needed to suffer for the guilty. It reminds us that the most noble sacrifices for the benefit of the less noble.
The Cross may also remind us of the many Christian martyrs throughout history, that by their noble death cry out that Jesus did not remain dead, but rose from the dead. The Martyrs cry out in their silent submission to their persecutors that if Jesus rose from the dead, we believe that we too shall rise again in the Resurrection. The Martyrs cry out that my personal temporal happiness is not the end of my religion, but the desired end is that heavenly vision of God which may only be obtained by obedience and sacrifice.
But it seems there is something in us that desires to destroy all outward symbolism in relation to our Islamic sympathies. That may sound absurd, but that idea called Iconoclasm is what united early Protestants and Islam.
But is there a demand in our Christian Religion that all visual and outward be removed? If we remove the reminder of the Crucifixion, we soon forget the price paid and Christ’s invitation to follow him in the Way of The Cross. If we remove the reminders of the great martyrs we may soon forget the price paid for the faith to be handed down to us. If we remove all religious tradition and symbolism, we will fill that void with secular tradition and symbolism.
What have we lost? A better answer is what we traded. Many modern churches promote pictures of their logo or of their pastor in brand recognition efforts. So the reminders of our religion are now cults of personality; gathering follows with pure personal charisma rather than a life self denial, which is in the Way of the Cross.
So now that we insist on the removal of all symbols and reminders, we have filled the void with marketing and devices of our own invention.
The Chinese government is famously forcing all churches to take down their Crosses. Why? Could it be they would remove reminders of sacrifice? Could the Communist know that to take the strength out of the Church is to remove symbols of sacrifice?
In light of the falling away in church attendance nationwide and the falling away from faith in the younger generations, could it be time to take a look at the lack of religious tradition that’s been passed on? Have we really gained anything by removing the reminders of Sacrifice and the Cross itself? Let us reflect on these questions and also reflect on our affection for modernism and learned behavior of despising reminders of faith.