Judges, remember: Cross is a Christian symbol

Los Angeles Times Published:

There has been a disturbing willingness on the part of some judges in recent years to treat the Christian cross as a symbol that isn't, well, just Christian. The most high-profile and problematic example of this was Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's suggestion that a large cross that had been erected on public land in the Mojave Desert wasn't really the symbol of one religion, but could be considered a fitting symbol for all Americans honoring the war dead.

That's ridiculous. There is no clearer symbol of Christianity than the cross, as both Christians and non-Christians can agree.

And yet there are times when displaying a cross, or any religious symbol, can be appropriate in a public setting.

A federal appeals court properly remembered that this week when it ruled that a cross known as the "Cross at Ground Zero" could remain on display at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York.

In this case, the cross was not built and pressed on the museum to add a religious aspect to the commemoration of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Rather, it was part of the story of the attack, a found object created when a column was transected by a crossbeam. Workers on the rescue and demolition crews that cleared the rubble saw that it resembled a cross and began going to it to pray and leave notes. The cross is an artifact of the site's history and deserves a place at the museum. It is part of a larger exhibit about how people tried, some through religion and others in different ways, to find meaning after the attack. Also in the exhibit are gifts from foreign nations that include symbols of other religions.

There was some disturbing wording in the ruling by a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, especially the assertion that the cross had become a "symbol of hope and healing for all persons." Crosses are symbols of hope and healing for Christians, not for the Americans who hold other beliefs and make up 23 percent of the U.S. population. It is demeaning to non-Christians for judges to contend that the symbol of the dominant religion is meaningful to all; that's practically the definition of government establishment of one religion over another.

The judges were on firmer ground when they concluded that the presence of the cross would clearly be understood by visitors as a symbol of "how some people used faith to cope with the tragedy," and as one artifact among many to help tell the complete story. Similarly, a cross at the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton appropriately marks the site of the first baptism in California in 1769.

Just as the courts shouldn't allow crosses to dominate public landscapes only because someone wanted to erect one, they should not allow people who are uncomfortable with such symbols to suppress them when they are a valid part of our collective history.

There is no clearer symbol of Christianity than the cross, so why are some judges giving it broader meaning?

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  • From above: Judges, remember: Cross is a Christian symbol

    The cross is a symbol, but is it Christian?

    The Greek word generally translated “cross” is stau·ros′. It basically means “an upright pale or stake.” The Companion Bible points out: “[Stau·ros′] never means two pieces of timber placed across one another at any angle . . . There is nothing in the Greek of the [New Testament] even to imply two pieces of timber.”

    There is no evidence that for the first 300 years after Christ’s death, those claiming to be Christians used the cross in worship. In the fourth century, however, pagan Emperor Constantine became a convert to apostate Christianity and promoted the cross as its symbol. Whatever Constantine’s motives, the cross had nothing to do with Jesus Christ. The cross is, in fact, pagan in origin. The New Catholic Encyclopedia admits: “The cross is found in both pre-Christian and non-Christian cultures.” Various other authorities have linked the cross with nature worship and pagan sex rites.

    According to the book Babylon Mystery Religion, the cross originated among the ancient Babylonians of Chaldea. From there, it spread to ancient China, India, Mexico, parts of Africa and other places, centuries before Christianity was born.

     “Ages ago in Italy, before the people knew anything of the arts of civilization, they believed in the cross as a religious symbol. It was regarded as a protector and was placed upon tombs. In 46 B.C., Roman coins show Jupiter holding a long scepter terminating in a cross. The Vestal Virgins of pagan Rome wore the cross suspended from their necklaces, as the nuns of the Roman Catholic church do now” (p. 51).

    According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, the shape of the cross “had its origin in ancient Chaldea, and was used as the symbol of the god Tammuz (being in the shape of the mystic Tau, the initial of his name) in that country and in adjacent lands, including Egypt.

    “By the middle of the third century A.D. the churches had either departed from, or had travestied, certain doctrines of the Christian faith. In order to increase the prestige of the apostate ecclesiastical system, pagans were received into the churches…and were permitted largely to retain their pagan signs and symbols. Hence, the Tau or T, in its most frequent form, with the cross-piece lowered, was adopted to stand for the cross of Christ” (p. 256).

    Why, then, was this pagan symbol promoted? Apparently, to make it easier for pagans to accept “Christianity.” Nevertheless, devotion to any pagan symbol is clearly condemned by the Bible. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) The Scriptures also forbid all forms of idolatry. (Exodus 20:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 10:14)

    The pagan cross symbol was “Christianized” into mainstream Christianity, just like the pagan holidays of the Saturnallia (Christmas), and Ishtar (Easter).

    Jesus warned the disciples about being decieved, Matthew 24:3-5...And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world (age)? v4..And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.

    Q. If Christ was beheaded by a Roman short sword, would believers wear a little sword around their necks? or if they had guns and they shot him to death, would you wear a symbol of a gun/bullet?