I knew when I decided to use the photograph of the 19 story, Groom Texas Cross, for the column on faith, that it would be a controversial choice. The cross is one of the largest crosses in North America, and it sits on private land, off of Interstate 40. It was built by Steve Thomas, who was looking for a response to the many billboards along the interstate which advertised pornography.
A couple of years ago, while driving through Texas, in the middle of the night, I noticed the cross, knowing nothing about it. We had driven Interstate 40 more than a few times, but I had not seen the cross before. We pulled over, and from the road took the picture now posted on these pages.
I am a Christian, but that is not why I decided to use this picture. I chose this photograph for the same reasons that I have used every other picture on this site. I happen to like the photograph and I found it appropriate for the words it was attached to.
To say that I was shocked, by the response to this picture would be a true understatement. The most surprising reaction came the other night, from a person whom I consider a dear friend, while they sat looking at the new site, for the first time. The first comment was, oh is this now a Christian magazine? (I did want to say that in my opinion an inanimate object can not be a Christian, but held my sarcasm.) Instead, I asked what they meant. They responded, well that cross. I explained it was a column on faith. The person started to read the column, but could not get through it; and instead said that you know that one should never discuss politics or religion. (Personally, I love discussing both. I have never felt threatened or intimidated by people with opposing views. I also find I learn the most when I am challenged to question what I believe.) Then they said that they thought the picture was offensive and limited, that I should be representing all three faiths. (Again, it must have been the Irish in me, but I wanted to remind this highly literate person, with advanced degrees, who has traveled the world, that there were more than three religions in the world. I also wanted to point out that the Groom Cross would most likely be considered a Protestant cross, that the Orthodox have a different cross, and the Catholics usually display a cross with Christ still present – we should also not forget the Coptic cross, well there is a long list of crosses. So, I wondered, would I be expected to display all of the various crosses, in order to be inclusive and not offensive?) I did not want to be argumentative, as I believe that is pointless; but I did wonder about art. I for one have gone to countless museums which display the works of the “Masters” and found galleries upon galleries of art that displays Christ and religious themes. I do not take offense at seeing Christ on the cross, even though as Protestants we are taught that the representation of Christ, still on the cross, somehow limits our belief of Him as risen from the dead. This is also a person who loves art, who I know has been in every major museum in the world; and with whom we saw Handle’s Messiah, without a complaint – and rose to sing the Hallelujah Chorus – though they are not a Christian.
Are our beliefs really so delicate that we cannot embrace diversity? Yes, diversity is not only about being inclusive, it is also about accepting and being able to appreciate the differences which makes us more interesting than say, goldfish in a bowl. My beliefs, including my faith are strong enough that I can joyfully wish you well, as you celebrate religious occasions that matter to you, even if I do not share your belief. I do not feel threatened or offended by people who do not share my beliefs – there is no reason for you to order your steak medium rare, or for that matter to eat steak period, just because I appreciate a nice New York strip steak.
My desire is not to offend; but I refuse to be muted. I believe myself to be a tolerant person, and would never publish anything that was intentionally hurtful or insulting. I am sorry for those of you who have been offended by our cross; however, I am not removing the cross. The cross does not make me a religious bigot, in fact, I believe that it makes me a more understanding and loving person. Christ actually did preach love and tolerance – He did hang out with prostitutes and thieves and did challenge the self righteous to cast the first stone.
I am grateful for a life of diversity. That is all for now.