There. I thought that would get your attention. But before you hawl me out to burn me at the stake, let me say that I am all in favour of crucifixes in classrooms – and just about everywhere and anywhere else too, public or private. My disagreement is concerns what the crucifix is and stands for.
The story to which this opening gambit relates is this from Zenit:
Vatican “Regrets” European Court Ruling on Crucifix: Spokesman Defends Symbol of Italian Culture, Identity.
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 3, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican expressed “astonishment” and “regret” at Tuesday’s decision from the European Court of Human Rights that crucifixes in public school classrooms are a violation of freedom. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, gave a brief statement today to Vatican Radio in response to the decision.
“The crucifix has always been a sign of God’s offer of love, of union and of welcome for the whole of humanity,” the spokesman said. “It is to be regretted that it has come to be considered as a sign of division, of exclusion and of limitation of liberty. It is not this, and it is not so in the common feeling of our people.”
The Italian government protested the ruling, having contended that crucifixes — often hung in Italian public schools — are national symbol of culture and history. Father Lombardi echoed this idea. He called particularly grave “the desire to set aside from the educational world a fundamental sign of the importance of religious values in Italian history and culture.”
…”It is astonishing then that a European court should intervene weightily in a matter profoundly linked to the historical, cultural and spiritual identity of the Italian people,” the Vatican spokesman stated.
I stand four-square with Fr Lombardi, the Vatican the Italian government and anyone else who wishes to display a crucifix in a public place of education. They could add a stone plaque of the Ten Commandments while they are at it. The European Union is obviously dead set intent upon removing all religious symbols from the public square. This intention should be opposed for all it is worth – even to the point of civil disobedience.
So what is my disagreement? I disagree with the Vatican taking the Italian Government’s stance that the Crucifix is “a national symbol of culture and history”. If we allow the crucifix to become this, we are treating it no differently than the person who asks for a “cross with the little man on it” at a jeweller’s shop.
St Paul said that the Crucified Christ is a “scandal” and “foolishness” to those who are not believers and the “power and wisdom of God” to those who are (1 Cor 1:23-24). Of course the image of the Crucifix is “a sign of God’s offer of love, of union and of welcome for the whole of humanity,” but not to those who hate it and hate Christ. To them, a Crucifix is about as in-your-face as you can get. It is no surprise they want it banned.
We should not sugar-coat the shocking reality of the depth to which Jesus was willing to be humiliated for our salvation (cf. Phil 2). Nor should we ever argue that the Crucifix is “just” a cultural symbol, even as a tactic to keep it legal to display it publically. It is the price paid for our salvation. We love it, because we believe it and have experienced God’s wisdom and power through it. But to them it is foolishness and a scandal.
We can “regret” the decision of the EU court, but we should not be “astonished”.