Wearing and Bearing
Cardinal Keith O'Brien's Easter message, which got an early airing in news briefings on Saturday, didn't sit easily with me... For those who missed it, he was arguing that Christians should proudly wear the cross as a symbol of their commitment to Christ and his gospel, and that refusal to allow such expressions of faith are an erosion of the place of Christianity in the public square.
Now, I do think that there is a concerted effort to marginalise the church in modern Britain, though I don't think it is as organised as some of the bleating would have you believe, and to be honest, I'm one of those who believe that the church is closer to the faith of the Christ of the cross when it is speaking from the margins, than when it is making pronouncements from a position of power and influence at the heart of so-called Christendom... Jesus was crucified outside the city of Jerusalem by the combined forces of imperial power, civic religion and purveyors of personal piety. Also, I wonder whether those who argue for people to be allowed to wear crosses in every walk of life would always be tolerant of those who wear the symbols of other religions? And why should non-essential symbols of religion be given any preference over any other badge or piece of jewellery? Should everyone be allowed to wear their Socialist Workers or Tufty Club badges on their airport or nurses uniforms?
Of course there should be balance in all of this, and where such badge wearing is not taken to extremes then it should be permitted. Questions should be asked of those who "object" to the wearing of crosses... And I have to say that the civil rights group Liberty and their spokesperson Shami Chakrabarti have taken a line on all of this which is perhaps more balanced than Cardinal O'Brien, the Daily Mail or any of their fellow-travellers would give them credit for (and certainly more balanced than some secularists would want)... but when church leaders and Christians start to protest about their own rights, in a world where so few people have the freedoms that we enjoy, I'm not sure that they are speaking in the spirit of Christ, or even in the spirit of Paul, who was wary even of claiming his rights as an apostle. Our concern should always be, primarily the needs of the powerless and the voiceless, rather than our own rights and position in society.
But as I was pondering these things Richard Hall over on Connexions reposted this blog from my favourite Christian curmudgeon, Kim Fabricius, who, as ever, puts the point so much better than I could in his Good Friday sermon...