Wearing the Cross

In the UK there is some dispute over the admissibility of wearing a cross in public, and the bishops are now getting involved.

They [bishops] have signed a motion condemning the “silencing” of outward displays of Christianity in Britain and a “growing trend” towards the “restriction of religious liberty” which is to be debated at the Church’s national assembly.

One hundred other members of the Synod, including clergy and lay people, have backed the call for the Church to defend Christians against the “overzealous” interpretation of human rights and equality legislation by judges, politicians and employers.

Its backers believe that by passing the motion the Church would make a landmark statement that wearing a cross is an integral part of the Christian faith.

It cites “ludicrous” cases of Christian practices and symbols being forbidden, saying attempts to scrap prayers at council meetings and to ban employees from wearing the cross could ultimately lead to religion being confined to the home.

The Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Rev Donald Allister, said the move would make the point that although Christians are not bound to wear a cross they have a “duty” to be “public” about their faith as well as observing it in private.

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • E.G.

    I’m not into tattoos at all. But if I was in the UK I might consider getting a cross tattoo just so no one could tell me to take it off.

    This entire debate is nuts. People can wear what they want to wear.

    But, being “public” about one’s faith extends so much beyond material outward displays. Sure, they can be part of it. But they are not the meaningful part. Imaging God in our relationships and community is the meaningful part.

  • Larry S

    Wearing a cross at work? Consider this – a probation officer, court prosecutor, judge = wearing a religious symbol.

    I might hope for preferential treatment from such a person by self-identifying myself with that indiviuals religion.

    Some displays of religious material within a work space dealing with the public can lead to miscarriage of justice.

  • Rick

    Considering some of Scot’s posts over the past several days, I think he is wondering about a general trend.

  • Chloe

    I British and wear a cross because it’s good for me to have a (much-needed!) reminder that my words and actions are meant to represent Jesus on Earth. It helps keep me in order if I know people might judge our faith on my actions.

    But if I was in a job where it was impractical or against the rules to wear a cross I wouldn’t wear one. It’s not so important and I’d hope that if I was coming into contact with people every day, there would be other reasons for them to know where my heart lies that a piece of metal.

  • Amos Paul

    Larry,

    Wearing green at work? I might hope for preferantial treatment from a fellow green-clothes wearing individiual.

    Or what about a wedding ring? As a fellow married individual, I might again hope for preferential treatment from them.

    Same goes for folks with gelled hair. As someone else who chooses to utilize gel in styling their hair, I might again hope for preferential treatment.

    Or maybe not. Because all of those are ridiculous. I don’t even know how many of the ladies around my office wear have those trendy little cross necklaces… and I’m not even certain that they’re really Christian :/. It is what it is.

    If an employer *really* feels like displaying religious imagery at work is rationally converse to one’s conducting of that work in public, then sure, that might be legal (for an employer to instruct employees by). Granted, it’s still a bit silly.

    My wedding ring has crosses on it. I’d like to see them try and tell me I wasn’t allowed to wear that at work.

  • Larry S

    Amos

    switch the religious faith from Christian to something else. and consider yourself in a country predominately say: muslim.

    the scenario I sketched isn’t too far fetched.

    I work in Corrections and have a degree of authority over persons bound by Court Orders. at times, individuals try to portray themselves as Christian appparently hoping to get a break of some kind (thytalk about how they go to church, etc. or how law abiding they actually are – except for the one little mistake they’ve made). If i was wearing a cross – I bet I’d hear a great deal more by the way, I never identify my faith to anyone I’m supervising for just these kinds of reasons.

  • Pat Pope

    What’s interesting is that some people who wear crosses are either nominal Christians or people who like the decorativeness of the particular cross they’re wearing. For them, it’s not a reflection of a deeply religious sentiment.

  • Amos Paul

    Larry,

    And there’s nothing stopping them from doing that. I don’t see the problem other than your annoyance.

    Again, if your employer had a stronly relevant reason to think displaying your faith publically would cause issues in your work place, than it may be legal and okay for as you to refrain from it.

    It is, however, not the (any) government’s place. Nor should it be default.

    Nor do I see the relevance of considering a muslim country. Indeed, should muslim women not be allowed to wear their hijabs in public no matter *what* the country? Is that too much of a faith declaration?

    It should be their decision. Much like how you choose to display yourself and how you choose to respond to others attempting to get an ‘in’ because of your faith is your decision.

  • Larry S

    Amos

    I suspect that some of our different perspective may be rooted in cultural differences: I’m a Canadian and I’m guessing you may be an American. Canadian’s tend to be more secular and are somewhat bewildered by our brothers/sisters below the border.

    From my perspective, it is very offensive to see someone parading their religion hoping to gain some kind of advantage. Or someone in a position of authority cutting someone slack due to similarities in their religion.

    Here is a scenario that may help to explain what I mean by the affinity thing: you may remember a book that came out a year or so ago by a secular female reporter went undercover at Jerry Falwell’s church. She was speeding either going to/coming from a midweek bi-study, got stopped, when the cop discovered where she was going/coming from – she got off w/a warning. The reporter wrote that she got out of the ticket because the officer approved of her connection to the church.

    That’s the kind of thing I’m referring to – and I find it very repulsive.

  • http://gcjeffers.wordpress.com Greg Jeffers

    Really? There is a “dispute” about this? Good God! People should be able to wear whatever they want to wear.

  • http://www.dry-bones-valley.blogspot.com Rob Dunbar

    @Larry S: That kind of thing can happen over any kind of affiliation: I’m a Blackhawks fan, the cop and I are both in the same fishing/hunting club . . . . The approach should be: “Rules are rules.” BTW, my friend the former state prison chaplain showed himself greatly skeptical on inmates parading their religiosity. Some fellow believers I know would be even more likely to bring the hammer down: “You’re a Christian. You should know better.”

    @EG: “Imaging God . . . is the meaningful part.” But how to explain the meaning? Deeds and words have to go together. My math teachers didn’t just demonstrate math. They all explained as well. Can wearing a cross help explain or at least indicate why I do what I do?

  • http://glennshores.com Charles Fines

    “. . . the Church would make a landmark statement that wearing a cross is an integral part of the Christian faith.”

    Really? I always thought loving your neighbor was an integral part of the Christian faith. Is this the same Church that Tom Wright was/is bishop in? Do I have to put a fish on the backside of my car too and wear a Christian tee-shirt? Who decides what tee-shirts are acceptable? The Pope? (Presumably no relation to Pat Pope #7) Same for bumper stickers.

    And what if a Hollywood star or a rap artist sports a bigger cross than the Pope, does that give them precedence? I’m not trying to cause trouble here, just want to figure out how to stay out of trouble.

    Sometimes I find it not only informative but comforting to see my waitress sporting a discreet cross pendant, emphasis on discreet. But suppose she was an Evangelical? How would I deal with that? How do you tell?

    Methinks this is a can of worms and those Brits have pried the lid off. The next thing you know people are going to be going around flashing tattoos of Satan or that goat guy. Oh, wait, they already are doing that.

  • Amos Paul

    My last post was supposed to have a sentence saying legal and okay for them to ask you to refrain from it…

    I typed it on iPod. I apologize. It sometimes does crazy things to my posts.

  • Ben Thorp

    I think the big problem is that what is happening here (in the UK) is that what is being labeled “tolerance” is becoming increasingly intolerant of Christian beliefs. For instance, some companies won’t allow you to wear a cross (because that’s an “intolerant” display of religion) but won’t (in fact, can’t) stop Muslim women wearing their headscarves (because, you know, that would be “intolerant”).

    It increasingly feels like you have to “tolerate” every other religion except for Christianity.

  • phil_style

    There’s a great big red cross on the English flag…..

  • Jeremy

    I don’t think anyone involved really believes that wearing a cross is in itself integral. It’s the public aspect of our faith that’s integral and is actually becoming increasingly endangered by moves to force religious belief into a purely private context. Culturally, we’re already there in both Europe and North America – It’s ok to believe whatever you want as long as you keep it to yourself. That’s fine for your favorite flavor of ice cream, but not so much for matters of life and death; and unless you’re a universalist, this is very much a matter of life and death.


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