Despising The Old Rugged Cross
In one classic science fiction plot, antagonists attempt to gain control of the future by attempting to alter the past. Though it might not be as exciting as a Dalorian speeding at 88 miles per hour, maniacal forces in our own reality are attempting to accomplish nearly the same thing by drastically reconceptualizing our understanding of history.
Part of the way history is publicly remembered and allowed to exert an influence over the cultural milieu is through the erection of assorted monuments and memorials. This is itself a practice that, in part, traces its origin back through the pages of sacred scripture.
In Joshua 4:5-7, the representatives of the tribes of Israel are instructed as to the following: “Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant…These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
This is not the only incident in Scripture where the believer is admonished to respect assorted physical historical commemorations. In Proverbs 22:28, the child of God is admonished to remove not the ancient landmark.
No doubt one of the reasons thorough going secularists and even their sissified allies among certain branches of the clergy leaning to the left fanatically lobby for the removal of religious symbols and emblems commemorating solemn events in the life of the nation is to no doubt alter our perception of history in the attempt to shift the country’s underlying values and focus. By so doing, it is hoped that Americans will go from the most part being an independently inclined group of individuals who will protect their precious heritage to the point of laying down one’s life should circumstances require it to one where the state is looked to as the first as the source of goodness and truth which it is free to redefine as changing circumstances warrant.
One such perspective lent a voice calling for the removal of Peace Cross (also just as correctly referred to as Victory Cross) in Bladensburg, Maryland. The American Humanist Association is orchestrating the campaign because the monument is erected on public land. In the mind of this agitprop front group, this violates the non-establishment clause of the First Amendment.
However, one area minister in the 9/27/2012 Gazette newspaper of suburban Maryland provided what he considered a number of Christian reasons as to why the memorial cross should be taken down. Rev. Brian Adams of the Mount Rainier Christian Church is aligning himself with the outcome advocated by the American Humanist Association because he does not want the Cross associated with militarism and patriotism as a “general symbol of sacrifice.”
In making his argument, Rev. Adams enunciated a number of questionable assumptions. He insists that the memorial is blaspheming the Cross by honoring violent people with weapons defending a country while they try to kill people from other countries.
No one in their right mind said war was a picnic. But how else will at least a small sliver of goodness otherwise survive in a fallen world? Does Rev. Adams honestly believe that once things have degenerated to the point of physical hostilities that appeals to reason, compassion, and the brotherhood of man alone will be enough to dissuade those bent on utter desolation?
If the way Rev. Adams categorizes the Crucifixion and a number of Biblical imperatives is a true summation of his doctrinal perspective, as a denomination the Disciples of Christ is in serious trouble.
Though it along with the Resurrection is one of the building blocks of the Christian religion and an offence or stumbling block to those hoping to make it to Heaven under the power of their own good works which are as filthy rags, the death of Christ upon that accursed tree was anything but, to use Rev. Adams’ words, “the symbol of the son of God dying peacefully.” History and medical science concur that it was in fact one of the most tortuous forms of execution ever devised.
Because the believer so appreciates the price paid by Jesus at the hill of Golgotha, over the centuries artists and craftsmen inspired by the moving beauty of Christ’s sacrifice on behalf of all sinners have transformed this implement of abject fear and terror visually into a beacon of hope and adoration. However, in the context of what happened that original Good Friday afternoon, the bejeweled sculptures and golden masterpieces are about as accurate as depicting a ride in Old Sparky the electric chair as if it was an overstuffed Lazy Boy recliner wrapped in a plush snuggy.
By referencing a work as readily available as “The Case For Christ” by Lee Stroebel (so much so that many ministries give away free paperback editions), both disciple and skeptic alike approximately 2000 years after this hinge point of history get a better idea of just how peaceful the passing of this Nazarene carpenter and rabbi was from this world. Stroebel in a chapter on the medical evidence lays out these horrors.
First, Jesus would have been secured to the cross by driving 5 inch nails through a portion of the wrist containing a nerve nearly as sensitive as the one in the area of the so-called funny bone. Once secured in this position, the cross would have been hoisted upright with the feet being secured in position in a manner similar to and as painful as that used upon the wrists. Yet, the suffering had only just begun.
The gravity pulling Jesus downward as the cross was thrust upward would have stretched at his arms, causing his shoulders to dislocate. With gravity pulling the individual downward, whatever waning strength remains in the individual is mustered to thrust the body upward in a reflex to merely continue the otherwise simple process of breathing so few of us even give a second thought to. In so doing, splinters would be driven deeper and deeper into the flesh of the back as it slid against a roughly hued pole not crafted with comfort in mind. This struggle would eventually result in suffocation as the victim in agony would grow too exhausted to continue.
Death upon the cross was of such a terrifying overwhelming agony that a new word had to be coined in order to accurately describe its unique variety of suffering. That word was none other than “excruciating”.
So fundamentally wrong about this fundamental of the true Christian faith, it is no wonder Rev. Adams is so profoundly mistaken in regards to other interpretative matters as well. Rev. Adams writes that the cross is the symbol of Jesus “telling his followers to put down their weapons, and dying for the sake of hope, for the forgiveness and salvation of even those who put him to death.” What Rev. Adams has done here has been to take a course of action applied in a particular incident and elevated it to the status of a categorical universal imperative.
Rev. Adams is correct in the sense that in John 10:18 Jesus instructs that no man takes His life but that He gives it willingly. This was demonstrated in Luke 4 when a mob angered at words Christ delivered in the synagogue conspired to hurl Jesus over a cliff. Amidst such homicidal frenzy, Jesus miraculously perambulated on through unnoticed and unscathed.
Yet, later on, the Savior was not as eager to elude His captors. When Peter attempted to rescue Jesus resulting in the severing of the ear of the high priest’s servant, Jesus declares in Matthew 26:53-54, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way (NIV)?” Christ chastised a foremost disciple because His unjust arrest was to unfold so that the greater purpose of His being slain from the foundation of the world might be fulfilled so that all calling upon the name of the Lord might be saved.
Though each of us are valued having been made in the image of God, the way we proceed into Glory will not cause the very cosmos to unhinge if it does not transpire in a precise manner as foretold as a part the public record of religious history. Therefore, though honor is to be bestowed upon those that lose their lives for the sake of the Gospel, one won’t likely be given additional brownie points or a crown in Heaven should one not do everything moral within one’s own power to preserve one’s own life.
In Matthew 5:39, Christ instructs his disciples to turn the other cheek. Often, the application of this passage has encouraged an undue pacifism on the part of certain quietist sects and overly pious theologians. However, what is being addressed here is more akin to individual insults and certainly not the basis around which to build a foreign or defense policy.
The Gospels should not be construed as denying the individual the right of self defense should the individual feel the necessity to protect their life and that of their family. In Luke 22:36, Christ instructs, “…and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.”
Scripture admonishes the believer to be as wise as a serpent but as harmless as a dove. While the Christian is not to go around stirring up undue trouble, neither is the Christian to enter unequipped into situations that will result in overwhelming bodily harm or unnecessary physical death.
Just how literally do those raising the turning of the other cheek to something on the level of the Prime Directive from Star Trek want to take the remainder of the passage? In Matthew 5:41, the text reads, “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” So will those insisting upon the turning of the other cheek as an unmodifiable absolute now teach their child that, instead of refusing to get into a car with a stranger, that you as a parent will punish them severely if they don’t comply with every Sanduskite that slithers out of its sewer pile.
In his concluding paragraph, Rev. Adams declares that using the cross to symbolize the military or to praise the military amounts to a blasphemy equivalent to taking the Lord’s name in vain. It seems that clergy within the Disciples of Christ would only be interested in adhering to the strictures of the divine scriptures when they think these teachings can be used to tear down the pillars upon which this great country rests.
For example, a number within the Disciples of Christ are also pushing for the acceptance of homosexuality and ultimately gay marriage. So where is this denomination’s outrage over violation of the commandments prohibiting carnal relations between anyone other than a married man and woman?
This tendency to view the Bible and the traditional teachings that are extrapolated from it as optional flow from the Disciples of Christ positioning itself as a creedless church. Such a formalized belief is, of course, a creed itself.
According to Wikipedia, there are those within the Disciples of Christ that deny the Incarnation, the Trinity, and even the Atonement. So what’s the point of even bothering with any of the religious racket if Christ as the only Begotten of the Father did not come to die for our sins?
The cross in Bladensburg is not a representation of what the military accomplished through force of arms. Instead, the cross commemorates those from Prince George’s County Maryland that died in the First World War.
John 15:13 reads, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (KJV).” Given the disdain he has expressed for both those that take up arms in defense of the American republic and traditional formulation of Christian doctrine, perhaps Rev. Adams does not view the last full measure of devotion worthy of remembrance and appreciation on the part of the COMMUNITY. It seems those like Rev. Adams only extol this particular concept of social organization when it can be invoked as justification to further curtail those areas of existence remaining under personal purview or to confiscate additional percentages of your property.
Yes, a cross is a distinctively Christian symbol. But this particular cross under consideration goes beyond the implement upon which the Savior suffered and died.
At the base of each side of the memorial cross in Bladensburg is embossed a virtue such as endurance, courage, devotion, and valor. As well as representing those that died in Prince George’s County during this particular conflict, these virtues on each base of the cross remind that it is not man that ranks these character traits among the desirable nobilities to strive for but rather that these have been decreed to be so by God Himself.
To most in the West in general and the United States in particular during the time of the First World War, deity or “the higher power” to categorize the ultimate in a way the fewest possible could object to was understood using Christian or Biblical formulations. So would those such as Rev. Adams and his allies among the cultured despisers of the Almighty have us remove all other historically accurate symbolizations of godhood as well?
Along with the words “In God we trust.” on the back of our currency, does Rev. Adams also intend to agitate to have the eye of Ra remove from particular tenders as well? Does he also want to knock over the blindfolded goddess of justice standing outside many of America’s courthouses? For does she not also represent, in a less than ideally Christian manner we’ll grant you, the idea that justice originates in a metaphysical realm above and distinct from the state no matter what that social organization’s swords or bullets might insist?
The memorial cross in Bladensburg is dedicated to a finite number of individuals, namely those from Prince George’s County that died in World War I. Therefore, historians employed by the county could do something useful for a change, rather than continually stirring the pot about the short end of the stick Blacks have gotten in the past but have more than made up for now, by researching if there are any county records extant as to the religious affiliations of these honored veterans. If it turns out they were all Christian, nothing should be done to the memorial cross; should it turn out that a number were Jewish, instead of abolishing the park altogether, perhaps a plaque could be erected acknowledging the contribution of the patriots of that particular faith. The county certainly doesn’t seem to mind rubbing it in the public’s nose regarding the accomplishments of other minorities.
Psalm 11:3 says, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” The Founding Fathers were correct to warn of the danger of a state so given over to the interests of religion that whether or not one was to enjoy the basic entitlements and privileges of citizenship would be predicated upon formalized membership in an established ecclesiastical organization. However, that said, these thinkers also realized that any human undertaking would be doomed to failure if such an enterprise went out of its way to slap aside the outstretched hand of a beneficent deity.
by Frederick Meekins