From a Puppet to Pieces of Wood
(From Something Positive. Click on the thumbnail for a full sized look at the puppet monstrosity.)
(Alright, so Eric Burns-White I’m not. When he was updating, he was, by far, the best in webcomic commentary. I doubt the following will do more than pale in comparison. However, I felt the need to comment on this strip, and I am a firm believer in
stealing learning from those I consider experts.)
If we ignore the last couple of posts, I haven’t blogged seriously in over two weeks. I’m sorry if you’ve felt neglected. The last part of the year at the plant can get kind of hectic, but I’m happy to say that I’m in the throes of my holiday vacation. Which is fortunate, because during those last few days I started to develop a horrible case of job specific rectal glaucoma.
That’s right, I could no longer see my ass at work.
It’s a tragic condition that affects millions of employees every year. Won’t you please help? For only pennies a day…
Sorry. Anyway, I meant to write this shortly after the 30 Day challenge was over, while the comic was still pretty fresh. As I’ve written in a previous post, Randy Milholland’s Something Positive delivers for me pretty much every time that it updates. This comic linked above is a good example of why that is. Between Donna’s comment on the true nature of parenthood, Rory innocently and enthusiastically presenting us with the sheer horror of his creation, and that sharp exchange in the final panel, there is a lot to love.
It’s hard to pick just one of them to comment on here. I could write about how, in my experience, good parents learn quickly to be ready and willing to disappoint their children, because they know that the end goal is transforming that child into a functional, healthy adult. Then again, I could write about that puppet. It reminds me of how over-enthusiastic evangelism (and other, much uglier behavior that those who call themselves Christians engage in) can turn the loving face of Jesus into that of an intolerable monster, which is a huge problem for the Church today. Either would be interesting topics to explore, but that final exchange is what really struck me.
See, I’ve grown up in and attended churches for most of my life, and I’ve found that too many church people have an unhealthy fixation on the symbol of the cross. I’ve witnessed it manifest as a church’s attempt to modernize resulted in complaint after complaint when that particular wall decor was temporarily covered. I’ve encountered more than one giant wooden icon affixed centrally in worship halls, and often shiny little plaques are close at hand with the names of the families to be remembered for them. Heaven forbid if it isn’t well lit during service. In a church, how we treat the cross is a big hairy deal.
And, quite honestly, I’m sick of it.
I need to be clear here. I’m not rejecting the redemptive power of Jesus’ death on the cross. Eventually, anyone finding their way back to God has to deal with Jesus, that act, and what it represents. The presence of a physical cross can at times be used in powerful ways, inspiring us to acknowledge and turn from sin. So, no, the sacrifice isn’t the issue. What I reject is the rampant practice of using it in church architecture and decor, and thereby draining the symbol of it’s value. It’s unnecessary.
Some people say it isn’t really a church if the cross isn’t prominently displayed. I’m sorry, but that’s not true. The first century followers of Christ never used it as an ornamental symbol. It didn’t become accepted until after anyone who had actually seen one used had long been dead.
Today, in places around the world where Christians are being actively persecuted and their churches have been forced underground, using that symbol openly could equal death. Is anyone going to claim that those believers are not really worshiping as a church because they lack a couple pieces of wood tacked together? Who would be that arrogant?
In the strip Donna says, “We decorate our places of worship with the thing he died on and pictures of him bleeding. We love his suffering.” What’s implied is, for far too many Christians, that’s all they love about Jesus. They rejoice in the death, but they forget his life. Worse yet, they forget his commission. That cross hanging on the wall reminds them of their salvation and that provides them with comfort. Eternity is secure.
Following Christ should mean so much more. Our perspective on eternity isn’t the only change a Christian should experience. We’re supposed to go out and be Christ to the world. We should live his life, not just rest easy in his death. Where does our actual comfort come from? The Son of God, or his cross?
In fairness, I don’t go running from church buildings that have a cross prominently on display. I certainly don’t think that having one is a sin. Bad decor, sure, but not a sin. I do, however, think that requiring one might mean that your worship is misplaced, and that could be a sign that you’ve made the cross into an idol. I know that sounds absurd, even harsh, but I encourage you to consider it seriously. Things that become idols don’t often start out bad. (e.g. Work is good. Being a workaholic isn’t.) Nothing should be allowed to get between you and God, not even the cross.
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