Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Sign of Contradiction

Thomas Merton spoke decades ago of the arrogance ("flippancy") of some Christians which make the sign of the Cross a sign of exclusiveness and damnation, which contradicts everything that the Gospels tell us of the true nature and intention of Christ.  This is especially apparent in many parts of contemporary, fundamentalist, "conservative" Christian groups which are having a huge impact on some areas of today's politcal world in this country.  Merton wrote in Raids on the Unspeakable:

"The Cross is the sign of contradiction . . . but the magicians keep turning the Cross to their own purposes.  Yes, it is for them, too, a sign of contradiction: the awful blasphemy of the religious magician who makes the Cross contradict mercy!  This, of course, is the ultimate temptation of Christianity!  To say that Christ has locked all the doors, given one answer, settled everything and departed, leaving all life enclosed in the frightful consistency of a system outside of which there is seriousness and damnation, inside of which there is the intolerable flippancy of the saved--while nowhere is there any place left for the mystery of the freedom of divine mercy, which alone is truly serious and worthy of being taken seriously."

I am convinced that the sign of the Cross is a direct contradiction of the self-righteous smugness and exclusiveness of some who claim to be Christian.  For me, the Cross is the sign of God's all inclusive love and forgiveness -- the sign under which we can choose to live as a worshipping community of those who seek to live in the awareness of God's love for all of us, where there are no outcasts. 

The sign and symbol of the Cross should point to our willingness to let God be at the heart of our life together, forming all of our actions, our decisions, the use of our resources, how we vote, and our care, not only for one another and those we like, but even our enemies, not allowing evil or revengefulness to rule our hearts, but to conquer evil with mercy and kindness.

Those who live under the sign of the Cross are those who are together called to be a people of radical hospitality and inclusive love and mercy -- a sacred community where all are welcome and invited to enter and find God.

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