There is a controversy taking place about what some people call the “miracle cross” exhumed from the wreckage of the twin towers. An atheist group objects to having the “cross” displayed in the 9/11 museum. I have a couple of thoughts to share.
I am not an atheist but neither am I a Christian. I am Jewish. A cross has no particular significance to me. As to this cross in particular, I see nothing spiritual or religiously significant for myself though I certainly understand why both are important to American Christians. In the wreckage of 2 of the largest buildings in the world, it does not seem to me a surprise that one might find 2 perpendicular pieces of metal fastened together. Still, I believe that the “miracle cross” should, indeed must, be on prominent display at the 9/11 museum.
That may seem an odd position for an “almost rational” Jew but I don’t think it is. To me, the “miracle cross” is not a religious symbol, it is a cultural one. I take no issue with the religious Christians among us who take solace and comfort from what to me are two girders but what for them is a risen cross. That is not reason enough to put it in a museum, though. For me, the reason the cross must be on display in the museum is that, irrespective of my personal beliefs, the folklore that has arisen around the cross is a quintessential part of the American cultural response to 9/11. Part of how our nation responded to the horror, is the response that Christians had to the cross. I respect that and, even if I didn’t, it is still a part of the story of 21st century American culture.
NOW, I’ll tell you what DOES make me really angry. Many of the Christians who have responded to the Atheist position are clearly showing off their own belief in the singular truth of their dogma. Here is one example that I simply can’t get out of my head:
In an online conversation about the cross, one woman commented: “The cross is only offensive to those who don’t understand salvation. Sad.” What this really means is “The cross is offensive to only those people who don’t share Christianity’s belief system. They are offended because they don’t understand why Christians are right and everyone else is wrong“.
The cross does not offend me. The Atheists don’t offend me. American Christianity doesn’t offend. Only one thing offends me:
Treating me and my belief system, not as an alternative, but as patently wrong is highly offensive. If I felt that exhibiting the cross in the museum had only religious, not cultural and historical, significance I would not support it. For cultural reasons I absolutely do. But, please, please, please don’t use 2 perpendicular pieces of metal as a proof point that only you are right. Men and women of many religions and ethnicities died on the tragic day of 9/11/2001. Please don’t dishonor them by using this controversy to demean we who have chosen non-Christian paths.