Why the Cross?

Deborah Venable

October 2, 2010


Symbolism is one way humans have of conveying a long message in a short sign.  Most symbols are instantly recognizable as standing for many explanatory words to convey feelings and truths of a certain message.  For most Christians this symbol of truth is the simple cross.


Why was the cross chosen for the symbol of Christianity?  Because all at once a simple cross can evoke feelings of hope and sacrifice, love and suffering, life and death.  Such was the purpose of Jesus Christ.  He was born to die, as are we all, but He was born to inspire a hope like mankind had never known and undergo a sacrifice that few would willingly endure.  He was born to live in the hearts and minds of humans as a constant reminder of the need for atonement and a need to strive toward living a good life in a sometimes evil environment.  What else could have been chosen to relay all of that hope and love through the very symbol of excruciating suffering and death?


The symbol of the cross also reminds us that our lives are individually important.  While we may choose to gather for various reasons into groups for worship or even for war, we each must bear our own cross for our actions.  That is how we will be judged in the end.  Anyone who thinks he can earn a “free pass” into any kind of eternity – including peace on earth – but especially anything that comes after physical death is simply not being honest with himself.  If you believe in the whole concept of good and evil, then you know that both exist in every group. 


Some claim that there are many paths to salvation.  Some claim to have an exclusive “corner” on that market.  Religious arguments are thrown around like so many bets on a roulette wheel.  No one has real proof for the answer, but many are willing to bet their lives on being “right.”  Is it faith or luck that will decide in the end?  Is it knowledge or human audacity that is more likely to determine how a human lives a good or bad life? 


Hypocrisy is the most dangerous enemy of all organized religions.  It drives free thinking people away from their collective houses of worship in astounding numbers, even as it offers righteous shelter to troubled souls that may find false security within these hypocritical flocks.  Atheists are not born – they are carefully molded by the actions and hypocrisy of believers and fired in the kilns of disturbed disbelievers. 


Church leaders who try to swathe their message in the unquestionable robes of their various holy texts come off trying to sound like gods themselves instead of humble messengers of their “revealed” religions.  They ignore or rationalize anything in those texts that smacks of violence or questionable tenets, but these things exist non-the-less.  These are easy marks for anyone leaning toward atheism.  Some of the good and rational purpose of the texts is lost in the fear and loathing also sparked there.


Unless you have done a good bit of reading of various holy texts, you may not know exactly what I mean, but if you have, the truth cannot be ignored.  Then there is the obvious problem of translation.  How accurate and trustworthy is the language in the modern versions?  The age-old argument in the Christian religion, for example, is whether or not to “take the Bible literally.”  I heard that argument as a child and wondered what it meant.  As an adult, I understand all too well what it means. 


I liken it to the way governments pervert the rule of law.  The laws of right and wrong exist within each human soul, because that is how we are created.  But by the time various all-knowing human textual communicators got done putting it all in writing, the texts ended up looking more like the laws that come out of Congress these days – convoluted, contradictory, awkward language that takes too many words to express immediately questionable rules.  Government is just one more religion after all.


Most atheists had rather take their chances with modern malleable governments of men and science than accept that they may have a Creator to answer to.  It is somehow easier for them to believe that everything just happened than to grasp the concept of faith as just good old common sense.  They want scientific proof of the existence of a “higher power” but they willingly accept theoretical postulations of the fragility of the environment they inhabit – postulations that are products of human brains, which use only a tiny fraction of their capabilities. 


No matter how much one studies or utilizes the human ability to think, a large portion of the human brain goes unused, untapped even, for the entire lifespan on earth.  Why would that be so unless there is a “higher purpose” for those abilities when physical life is done? 


The people who worry about human overpopulation of the earth cannot grasp how empty their own argument is.  Humans could not possibly utilize all the resources the earth has to offer, much less all the space.  It is truly an empty-headed argument.  (The comparison with the utilization of the brain should not be ignored.)


The most difficult social problems to overcome arise when too many people try to operate within conflicting constraints and remain uncommitted to any individual beliefs.  Fence sitting is an uncomfortable existence.  One might even say that it is ultimately unsustainable.  The need to have your feet planted on solid ground coupled with the overall discomfort of trying to remain above it all will eventually lead you to one side of the fence or the other.  Some may even find themselves jumping back and forth across the fence to stand for a while on either side.  (This happens a lot in modern politics.)


This comes from refusing to listen to the sharpest sense that any human has – that part of individual being that dictates right from wrong.  Not the kind influenced by the so-called “consensus” of others, but that simple common sense component that evolves through simply living life – that is our strongest sense.  It is that little piece of the Creator in us all, whether or not we call ourselves religious enough to even believe in such a Creator. 


That is our cross to bear, all by ourselves.  We suffer because of it, and we are hopeful and joyous when we embrace what it tells us.  It can be our salvation or our downfall.  No one can truly touch it, no matter how much they preach or lecture in opposition or agree with our stated positions.  It is our only governor and we can choose to engage it or ignore it for a time.  We can hang ourselves on it or marvel at the simple direction it can point us to.  It has a left side, a right side, an up side and a down side – and the ends are not suddenly jagged in another direction, as in the Nazi cross.  The ends point the way precisely. 


Symbolic?  You bet!  Why the cross?  (After all, some say that Jesus was crucified on a T - not a cross.)  If this were the case, His heard surely would have broken the top plane as He struggled to stay alive, thus forming the top of the cross.  Even more apropos, if you ask me.  The symbol of Christianity is that cross, and it is the only religion that adequately illustrates the ability of human beings to know what is right and the freedom to make personal choices.  I just wish I could hear those chosen ordained “leaders” adequately illustrate that truth.      


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