Gag me on a milk chocolate cross
It was a milk chocolate cross. A more incongruous object I would have trouble imagining.
I'm reminded of a poem the Wittenburg Door ran a few years ago, which went thus:
On a desk close at hand
Stands a new plastic cross
So lov'ly and popular and nice,
And so easy to hold,
For it promises gold,
And a life that's without sacrifice...
The cross is about suffering. The cross is about God turning the tables on evil by becoming its victim. And the cross is about the pain and sorrow and suffering that God allows to come into our life in order to help us grow, and for our long-term good.
In the public context, it's about bearing the shame of the cross- the shame Jesus bore for us- right along with Him.
It is not optional. It comes with the territory. It's a living, glowing rebuke to the Joel Osteens of this world, the embodiments of the spirit of post-Constantinian Christianity (and especially the American variety) that expects "victory" and jolliness from the symbol of the shame and death and disgrace which is the only path to those things, just as Good Friday was the only way for Christ to get to Easter.
It with the sign of the cross, not the Hershey's logo, that we are signed at our baptisms. It lets us know right from the start what we're getting into.
And so I agree with Robert P. George that the rise of ill-informed and shallow atheism and the general emergent libertarian distain for religion are things to be welcomed, not at which to be frightened.
They remind us what the cross is, and what it's for, and what it stands for. Despite the temptation of the Church Growth Movement to sell it out in order to fill the pews (some Church Growth guides even discourage the use of the cross in decorating the "worship" space on the perceptive but revealing ground that it's a "bummer" and a "buzz-kill), and despite the aberrational but addictive comfort we Americans have known for far to long with an increasingly secular culture which has been more than willing to patronize and thus domesticate us, we are finally being brought home to confront- and to be confronted by- the cross.
So no more theology of glory. Please. Now is the time, not of smiley-face Christianity or easy cultural dominance, but of unpopularity and abuse and ridicule.
Now is the time of the cross.
Instead of songs about how warm and fuzzy Jesus makes us feel, let's try this one:
Onward, therefore, pilgrim brothers!
Onward, with the cross our aid!
Bear its shame and fight its battle
Till we rest beneath its shade.
Soon shall come the great awaking,
Soon the rending of the tomb,
Then the scattering of all shadows,
And the end of toil and gloom.