This week the FFRF, a small non-profit dedicated to promoting the separation of church and state and nontheism, told my home town to remove the cross on top of our water tower under threat of litigation. They have successfully challenged many little municipalities, using fear of large legal fees to convince towns to abandon similar practices all over the country. (See their revealing 2014 annual report HERE.)
I'd like to begin a conversation by suggesting how I hope we can respond to the FFRF as a Christian community living under the light of the true Cross.
In The Open Secret, Leslie Newbigin talks about the Cross as the great equalizer of humanity, suggesting that the Cross reveals every one of us as both the enemy of God and beloved by God.
It's natural in my frustration with the FFRF to take the easy but irrevocable step of seeing them solely as the enemy of God and myself solely as the beloved of God. But if I do that my anger will blind me from seeing them as also being beloved by God and myself as a fellow enemy of God.
Rather, because the Cross is the great equalizer and uniter, I can meet the FFRF at the foot of the Cross and see that I stand together with them as brothers and sisters, beloved by the very God we have all warred against.
I don't believe this shift in attitude is possible without the work of the Holy Spirit. But if the Holy Spirit will do this work in my heart and in my community the following things might happen:
First, we would recognize that the true Cross that shines over our community is immune from litigation. Therefore, whether we win or lose the litigation will be ultimately immaterial. What will be of utmost importance will be the character with which we fight. And that character must be one of genuine love.
Second, we can approach this battle primarily as a call to pray--for them. Jesus himself told us to pray for those who persecute us. It is paramount that we pray not in ways that divide us from them ("Lord, help them to repent...show them the folly of their ways...") as the Pharisee did. Instead, we must pray for them with the same compassion with which we would pray for our own brothers and sisters: "Lord, bless their marriages and their children, hear their concerns, send them your peace, have mercy on them..." Imagine what effect the prayers of the (global) Wilmore community might have on these 17 employees, board of directors, and state representatives.
Third, while we may disagree with the tactics of the FFRF, we might need to honestly ask if there is any validity to their claim. Are there members of our community who feel threatened or marginalized by the cross?
Finally, in the midst of this trial, we might grow in our concern for our fellow Christian brothers and sisters who are suffering great persecution throughout the world, even losing their lives for the sake of our shared faith.
Perhaps the water tower will become such a gathering place--where we as a community pray for those who are persecuted and for those who persecute. Perhaps God will hear our prayer, soften our hearts, and tear down all the walls that divide us.
John says that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overtaken it. We as Christians living in Wilmore are blessed to have a cross that illumines our night sky. My prayer for us is that, through this trial, we may experience anew the transforming and life-giving power of Christ's Cross.
In the comments, share your hopes for how a Christian community would respond.