About two weeks ago, I was passing through Dundas Square in downtown Toronto while a concert was going on. There were a lot of people there and I could hear the loud punk- rock music, the cries of the crowd, and whatnot. But what really struck me was that, elevated high above the stage overlooking the square, was the image of a cross with a line through it, crossing it out.
I don’t really know much about the band “Bad Religion” and just how much the theme of anti-religion is involved in their lyrics or identity. Nor do I care. It struck me, though, that if the symbol were anything other than a cross, be it the star of David, the crescent moon, the Buddha, or a pride rainbow or any other symbol of secular culture/ political identification, people would be up in arms.
What does this say, that we are so willing to deride the deeply loved symbol of one group, but not many others? Is it because so many Christians are willing to use the cross to try to intimidate others into their worldview? Perhaps, but there’s no question that secular symbols and PC language are also used to intimidate and silence people through social pressure.
In a way, I wonder if we’re not so willing to deride the Cross precisely because there is some residue of Christian identity left within our culture. It suggests, in a certain sense, our comfort with the image of the Cross- the extent of its internalization in the Western psyche. We do not feel these other symbols, those of Islam or Buddhism, are really ours to claim and use. The cross, we feel, somehow belongs to us, even if it is there for us to abuse and deride as a statement of political or social rebellion. In a culture that was truly not Christian, that truly had forgotten it’s cultural roots in Christianity, the crossing out of a Cross would not have much of an effect at all. It wouldn’t strike us as subversive. It couldn’t possibly be hip and show up at the centre of a rock and roll identity. When one religion replaces another, the symbol of the new religion is a positive object, not merely the negation of the former.
Of course, I understand that any use of a symbol is very complex and has a variety of explanations. I am only thinking that perhaps there is just a little bit of “the lady doth protest too much” here. To define yourself as the negation of an idea is to permit the continued power of said idea over you.