WE ARE ONE

Lasha Morningstar

April 2, 2012

Easter, and Christian eyes rest on the crucifixion. Hearts and souls traverse through Christ's anguish in Gethsemane, the Last Supper knowing Judas would betray him, Peter deny him.

Torment is shared as Roman soldiers impale him on the wooden cross between two accused thieves, he suffers through mortal pain, calling out "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

At the foot of the cross Mother Mary and his followers weep.

How many artists have created their dramatic interpretation of what happened that fateful day, sharing their perceptions, evoking profound emotions in those who gaze at their artworks?

The image of the cross stays constant throughout the centuries.

Many wear it on a chain around their necks. Some - athletes and wrestlers too - pay to have it tattooed forever on their body.

Those wearing it on a chain often consider it as an ornament. Indeed, many jewelry stores list the cross as a charm. Tiffany offers an 18 carat gold cross charm for $550. How many times do we see a cross - sometimes encrusted with diamonds or other jewels - strung around celebrities' and movie stars' necks and wonder about their faith or whether it just "looks good"?

Right now I feel a verbal thump on the head from Rabbi Jacob. A marvelous teacher who presided over Mishna classes (study of the oral Torah), he could always stop someone's criticism of another's religious practice with the admonition, "Never, ever judge where someone is on their spiritual path."

He is right.

CROSS AT WORK

So what right does the British government have to bar workers from wearing a cross to work? That apparently is the plan.

On hearing this bit of prejudice - Sikhs are allowed to wear their turbans, Muslims the hijab - Archbishop Rowan Williams dubbed it "dim-witted prejudice."

He is quoted in the British press as explaining, "What I think slightly shadows the whole thing is this sense that there are an awful lot of people now of a certain generation who don't really know how religion works, let alone Christianity in particular, and that leads to confusions, sensitivities in the wrong areas - 'Does wearing a cross offend people who have no faith or non-Christians?' Well I don't think it does."

Two women who have worn their crosses without comment or condemnation for decades plan to plead their case based on Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights which states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance."

NOT A REQUIREMENT

Whispers from within Britain's Conservative-led government say it plans to argue employers' right to ban the visible wearing of crosses at work because "displaying the symbol is not a recognized requirement of the Christian faith."

Quite a stretch and one wonders just where this invasive intrusion into people's personal lives actually originates. If it attacks Christians, will they stop our Jewish brothers and sisters from wearing the star of David or the kippah (scull cap)?

And what are they going to do with our priests, nuns and brothers whose crosses are always in full display "at their work?"

If it is happening in Britain, what is the risk of its leaping across the pond?

So many questions. But it does pose the question back to the individual - "Why do you wear a cross?"

SYMBOL OR NECKLACE?

Some wear it because they received it as a gift and wear it happily as a symbol of their faith. Others wear it just as a necklace.

Most buy it for themselves. Crosses come in a multitude of materials, a variety of designs, so one can choose the one that fits their faith, their needs.

I lost my cross in one of my many moves. But I know what it meant when it was there. In a dispute? Fraught with fear? Trying to make a decision? Deep in prayer? Invariably I would find my fingers stroking the cross as I wondered and pondered.

The cross is our link, a symbol of our relationship with Jesus. In a society bombarded by images, we must, for the sake of our faith, display the cross when and where we want.

Jesus died for us on it. No greater love . . .

(Lasha Morningstar lasha@wcr.ab.ca)