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Cross Out

When we'd like the Cross to be just for Jesus

Introduction

In August of 2003, the Church of the Holy Cross in New York City was broken into twice. In the first break-in, thieves made away with a metal moneybox that had been resting next to a votive candle rack. Three weeks later, vandals escaped with something much more valuable: they unbolted a 4-foot long, 200-pound plaster Jesus from a meditation area, taking the statue of Christ, but leaving behind his wooden cross on the wall. The church caretaker, David St. James, confessed his bewilderment at this: "They just decided, 'We're going to leave the cross and take Jesus.' We don't know why they took just him. We figure if you want the crucifix, you take the whole crucifix." In other words, David St. James was saying, "If you want Jesus, you take his cross, too."

Leaving the Cross

It's a bit embarrassing to admit this, but I understand the choice of those thieves. I like the figure of Jesus: I like the clever and compassionate way he treated people; I admire the clarity and balance of his ethical teaching; I love his stories. The character of Christ is the ideal of health and wholeness toward which I want to grow more and more. The whole world would be better if more of us lived Christ's way. According to almost every study I read, millions of—even those who hardly ever darken the door of a church or have serious questions about God—are quite attracted to the figure of Jesus. As for his cross—that's a little more complicated. Some of us prefer not to get too close to that. Isn't there already enough violence, blood, and cruelty in this world? Hasn't religion often wrapped itself up in that same kind of horror in the name of God? Who wants to associate Jesus with that sort of thing? I can appreciate that ...

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Dan Meyer is pastor of Christ Church of Oak Brook in Oak Brook, Illinois.

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