10/12/2009--Last Thursday, Steve Waldman, the well-known author and Editor-in-Chief of the popular religion blog Beliefnet, posted a blog entry on an exchange between Justice Scalia and Peter J. Eliasberg, the attorney for the ACLUin the oral argument in Buono v. Salazar (Secularizing the Cross) Buono is the case about the cross that was declared a national monument honoring the dead of WWI. Waldman's point was a warning to Christians pressing for such religious symbols in the public square to beware of the spiritual danger of reducing the cross to a secular symbol of the dead in war.
I have published a response to Waldman on Religion Dispatches (Secularizing the Cross Response) As readers of this blog well know, I think that all religious symbols have combined religious and secular meaning. Not only is this not a danger, it is appropriate since religion is supposed to have this-worldly effects. That is part of the reason that religion can never be relegated to the private sphere.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Steve Waldman Doesn't Get the Cross
Posted by Bruce Ledewitz at 6:54 PM
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I'm curious as to how you got the authority to tell religious people what their symbols mean.ReplyDelete
I think there is a significant difference between claiming the right to dictate what a symbol means, and claiming that a symbol can have multiple meanings. In this case, the cross clearly has religious meaning. The question is whether or not that meaning has evolved to include secular meanings as well.ReplyDelete
Clearly, symbols evolve. And in a culture that is inundated with Christian symbolism used in specifically non-religious ways, it is no question as to whether the cross has multiple meanings. Crosses function for Christians as a reminder of Jesus; for others, they are merely ornamentation, jewelry, and fashion. And, I think the point here is that another potential meaning for crosses, which has developed through the close association of crosses with war-time casualties, is that crosses can mean "military sacrifice."
Bruce is not dictating what crosses mean. He is merely suggesting that they can (and do) have more than one meaning--one specifically religious, and one non-religious. The claim by some Christians that to allow the cross to be seen as a secular symbol is a unacceptable failure has come too late in the game. The cross has already been used as a secular symbol for decades. It is a cultural, aesthetic, and secular symbol in America, as well as a specifically religious one. There is just no clear legislature yet specifically validating this usage.
Regardless of what new legislature may suggest, the cross will mean various things to various groups. No one group dictates for the others what it may mean. It is simply that Christians want the sole right to define what the cross means (despite the fact that they took the cross from Rome and redefined its meaning in the first place).
"The claim by some Christians that to allow the cross to be seen as a secular symbol is a unacceptable failure has come too late in the game."ReplyDelete
So you admit that at some point in the past this would have been a violation of Church and State?
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