The Offense of the Cross in Italy

I got this article today from my father. As someone who loves Italy and the Gospel it was saddening. It was posted in Crosswalk.com but originally from Break Point Ministry. Please pray for Italy today. I was reading the book of Romans today and my heart is burdened for the church of Rome.
The Offense of the Cross in Italy
Chuck Colson
Last month, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Italian public schools have the right to display crucifixes.
The case has been widely viewed as a crucial one. As Roger Kiska of the Alliance Defense Fund put it, “A loss in this case would have meant, in essence, that it would be illegal under the European Convention on Human Rights to have religious symbols in any institution anywhere in Europe.”
Before you start celebrating, though, you ought to know that this may be a very mixed blessing. When you take a close look at the court’s reasoning, it becomes clear that there are some disturbing implications to this ruling.
In the New York Times, Professor Stanley Fish, a liberal relativist, writes that the court based its decision largely on the idea that “the crucifix is really not a religious symbol.” Fish justifiably asks, “Who knew?”
Who, indeed?
It seems the court decided that the crucifix is now an “identity-linked,” “historical and cultural” symbol — a symbol that stands for “the liberty and freedom of every person, the declaration of the right of man, and ultimately the modern secular state.”
In other words, it stands for pretty much anything but the death of Christ for the redemption of fallen mankind.
For the Christian, that poses a real dilema: If the crucifix is to be stripped of its meaning like this, is it worth displaying in schools, or anywhere at all?
If “the offense of the cross,” as Paul put it, is gone, what’s the point?
And that’s not all. The court went on to state, “In Christianity even the faith in an omniscient god is secondary in relation to charity,” which makes the cross an inclusive symbol.
Even Stanley Fish, who’s writing from a liberal, secular perspective, is driven to wonder about all this. “What we have here,” he says, “is a union of bad argument and bad theology. As a Christian virtue, charity presupposes the God it is said by the majority [of the court] to transcend…Generous though it may be in many respects, Christianity is hard-edged at its doctrinal center and that center is what the crucifix speaks.”
Fish may not be a Christian, but I think he’s pretty much nailed it. Ironically, I think he might just understand it better than many in Italy, where the practice of the Christian faith has been steadily eroding for many years.
Christians believe that everyone is welcome at the foot of the cross — but we also believe with German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer that “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
That’s why Stanley Fish is right in saying that a crucifix can never be what the court called “an essentially passive symbol.”
On that point, I wholeheartedly agree with him. Religious symbols matter because they convey meaning, and that’s why we Christians support the right to display them. Without that meaning, without Christ’s death and resurrection, the cross doesn’t matter — and neither does our faith.
This is the liberal cause: strip all sacred symbols and words of their meaning.
The real lesson here is that before we take up the fight for the cross, we had better be sure we understand what it is we’re fighting for.
This article published on April 20, 2011.

Made it to Florence

Quick update. We made it to Florence. This place is amazing. Even cooler than Rome. The Dwomo, a huge intricate Renaissance church, took our breath away. It was so huge and full of color. Tabitha actually stopped walking when she saw it.

We are in the Uffuzi museum right now about half way through but nned to take a break. Saw some Da Vinci’s and a ton of Michelangelo’s. We have been using Rick Steves’ audio tours courtesy of iTunes. It’s an amazing free resourse. We will see the David later on today at the Academia museum. Our hotel hooked us up with reservations. Another Rick Steves tip. If you want to know the best tool for this journey it was buying Rick’s book.

We are both a bit tired. We got up at 5:15 to grab a train to Florence. The Eurostar is so fast. The only problem we had was that all the train departure signs glitched out. So we wandered around the train station for 30 nerve wracking minutes until we found the right train. This has been such an adventure to figure things out as we go.

I will try to post pictures later if our hotel has wifi.

1st day in Italy!

We hit the ground running our first day here. It was an adventure from the start. With no guide, no local contacts and no clue about how to speak Italian. My wife and I are having the adventure of a lifetime. We left Nashville with only a pair of backpacks, a camera and our mad survival skills. This is a rambling, running account of our adventure from my iPhone. I just hope I don’t get a cramp in it thumb. So I apologize for spelling errors on the front end.

When we got here we were surprised at be crazy lines to get through emmigration. There was no markings. Just a snarl of 1000 peope hoping they were in a line. Twice we thought we were in line only to find out cruelly 20 minutes later that we were not.

We had an adventure getting to the hotel. We are staying bear the Vatican so being savvy travelers we saved 40 dollars by taking the train to the train station from the airport and then hopping the metro. Getting around Rome is pretty easy apparently. The only funny thing was the one we had with some strangers that were hogging 3 extra seats by placing their luggage on them,on the train. They were upset when we asked to sit with them. So we opted to stand instead. No wonder we Americans get a bad rap.

The rest of the day has been on the go. We went to the Vatican museum and saw the Sistene Chapel. Truly amazing. I cannot fathom Michelangelo’s talent. Saint Peter’s Basilica was unbelievable too. I have never seen anything that huge or that beautiful. I am grateful it started the reformation. What a way to start out reform with a bang.
We will have pic’s and video up later. Didn’t take any with the phone. Sorry. Gonna crash now. We got about 3 hours sleep on the plane. Tab is out like a light. Hopefully we will check out the Spanish steps tonight! Peace!

Piazza Novonna

I am blogging from a cafe 20 feet from the fountain in the Piazza Novona. The fountain the guy almost gets drowned in during ‘Angels and Demons’. The pizza here was amazing. Tab and I have had an amazing day. We went on a bus tour of Rome that allowed us to hop on and off at will. The bus was a red double decker with an open top. So touristy but awesome. With our Roma pass we had a big discount.

So we stopped and toured the Trevi fountain, the Colosseum, and the Pamtheon. We walked by the Palatine and the Roman forum but were too tired to spend and hour running around inside the complex.

The highlight so far was hanging out in the Colosseum. That was amazing. I love the Patheon too. That building is indescribable. It’s 2200 years old and huge.

Hopefully we will hit the Spanish steps again tonight. We went there for pizza last night and that was so fun. It’s a huge hangout. If you have any ideas of cool places to go let me know. Also if you want to say hi while we are here go ahead and leave us a comment.

Here are some pics I took with my phone. Better ones from the camera are forthcoming.