Follow me on Twitter @revbrock

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Cross Will Not Stand in Brandon: A Follow-Up to a Previous Post

On September 8th the congregation of FBC Brandon, MS decided to cancel their proposal to build a 110-foot cross on their property adjacent to Interstate 20. The church had originally petitioned the City of Brandon for an exception to city ordinances preventing the construction of so large a structure, but removed that petition after the issue became so divisive.

I wrote about this example of Baptist iconography in a previous post. Please read it.

I am personally glad that FBC Brandon had the spiritual maturity to back away from the table before this issue went to court. Had the aldermen not approved the petition, the church would have been forced to sue the city for permission to erect a Christian symbol on their own property. I can only imagine how ugly that fight would have been.

This development in my example case on how Baptists have used the cross as a symbol beyond its real meaning further illustrates my point. Just in case I wasn’t clear on that point in my previous post, here it is in a nutshell: The cross of Jesus Christ is not as important as the crucifixion that happened upon it; Christians are to be the crucifixion and the resurrection in their lives and should have no need for ostentatious displays of their Christian symbols.

Here is a quote from FBC Brandon Pastor Scott Thomas on the decision to not challenge the city:

"The Mayor and I met and prayed together and have committed to seek ways that the body of Christ can reflect the Cross instead of Erect the Cross at Brandon. We are committed to sharing the love of Christ and joining hearts to change this community."[1]

YES! YES! YES! That is exactly the sentiment I’d hope a Baptist church would express, regardless of its desire to build a monument to Christ’s execution. The followers of Jesus are called to imitate him and to walk with him in the Spirit of God, i.e. “reflect” the cross. We are commissioned to live cruciform lives that tend toward sacrifice rather than symbolic social statements. As I have told my congregation many times, if we are following Jesus in discipleship we must recognize that we are following him to death. The implicit Christian triumphalism demonstrated in the construction of such megacrosses is just the opposite of that call - it is a sign of social power rather than sacrificial conviction.

For a moment I was so, so proud of my brother Scott. He had pushed back from the table; he had not demanded his way and had not challenged his neighbors in the courts. The church had recognized that their plans were becoming divisive even among the believers in Brandon, and thus should be abandoned. This was truly a good decision and the right thing to do, and according to the abovementioned quote, it was done for the right reasons.

But then, as preachers have a habit of doing, Brother Thomas kept on talking. He said, “Those that have received Christ as their savior are passionate for the cross. Those who have rejected Christ are... Many of them are as passionate against the cross…”[2]

I may, at some level, agree that I am passionate about the cross because I have received Christ as my Lord and Savior. I am indeed passionate about learning to live a cross-shaped life that will bear witness to the world of God’s great love for us expressed through the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of his Son. I am indeed passionate about the cross as the event that brings reconciliation and atonement between humanity and God after being estranged by sin. I am indeed passionate about the Son of God accomplishing on Calvary’s Cross what could not be accomplished through the sacrificial system or the Law.

But I am not passionate about a 110-foot hunk of metal and concrete dominating the skyline of Brandon, Mississippi because of my faith. I cannot speak for those who have “rejected Christ,” but I assume that many of them are against the domineering, culture-warrior mentality that is the foundation of such a construction project. That may indeed be the source of the “passions” that are on display around this issue.

We have certainly come very far from the days when Baptists rejected the presence of the Cross in worship and in architecture. Even in this case, though, once can see the reality of the Baptist position: we are simultaneously people convicted of our calling to reflect the cruciform life of Jesus and to be a witness to the broader society of our conviction the Jesus is the savior of the world.


No comments:

Post a Comment