For as long as I can remember, there have been giant crosses made from the lights on two buildings in downtown Oklahoma City during December.
And for as long as I can remember, those giant crosses have confused me.
Even as a kid, I knew the cross was the wrong symbol for the season. It’s Christmas, not Good Friday. The cross was the instrument of Jesus’ death. A manger would be more appropriate.
Yes, I know that whoever insists on putting them up wants to remind us of “the reason for the season,” and the cross is definitely the most recognizable symbol of Jesus and Christianity. There is no mistaking the person or religion it represents. But just how effective is trimming the city with Christmas light crosses?
While using a skyscraper to display multiple crosses may seem absurd to out-of-towners (or insensitive to the significant number of Oklahomans who practice a different religion or none at all), the cross as decoration is standard around here. I wonder how many Oklahoma Christians even notice them anymore?
They have become part of the landscape, like the 163-foot monstrosity on the side of I-35 that declares the piety of Christians in Edmond.
Oklahoma’s Christians also use the cross as personal adornment; not just as necklaces, but splashed on boots and outlined in golden thread on the back pockets of jeans. Craft stores offer wall and tabletop crosses in every style imaginable: rustic, glossy pink and polka dot. The BeDazzler is the perfect tool for sprucing up an otherwise plain and boring cross, wouldn’t you say?
Nothing says “Jesus Loves You” quite like a cross adorned with rhinestones.
‘Scant proof’ of Christianity based on our acts
All of this is enough to make one wonder if the crosses outlined on our buildings, decorating our living rooms and hanging around our necks are masking a sad reality: Our lives offer scant proof that we really do follow an itinerant peasant preacher who was crucified for teaching radical hospitality, grace and love.
If it weren’t for the obnoxiously large crosses lighting up the skyline, how would anyone know that an overwhelming number of Oklahomans practice Christianity? To be fair, in a state with the second-highest incarceration rate, it really is difficult to believe that most of us are people who follow a man who claimed his mission was to set the captives free.
But maybe I’ve been thinking about these crosses all wrong. Christianity in Oklahoma is in distress. It needs help. Maybe, just maybe, in a state where Jesus and his parents would have been turned away by “Christian” lawmakers for being Middle Eastern refugees, a gigantic glowing cross in the heart of our capital city might be exactly what we need — a Bat-Signal, if you will. Instead of merely decorative trimming, those crosses should be a call for those who claim that Jesus is Lord to stop dressing up like Christians and start acting like Christians.
A short list of sins that Christians should consider
The Gospel of Matthew, which tells us of Jesus’ birth (remember: the reason for the season), includes this part: “She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” This Christmas, Oklahoma Christians could stand to be reminded of the sins from which we need to be saved.
For starters, consider the sin of refusing to welcome the stranger, which Christians should be hypersensitive to since the Holy Family had to flee to another country in fear for their lives. Oklahoma has taken in only a handful of Syrian refugees despite more than 22,000 refugees resettling in the United States.
There’s also the sin of capital punishment, which should be particularly offensive to those who claim to follow someone who was murdered by the government. And let’s not forget the sin of greed, manifested in tax cuts for the wealthiest while one out of six Oklahomans lives below poverty level. Keep in mind that Jesus said of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and caring for the sick, “Just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it for me.”
If it means rescuing one of the most important symbols of Christianity from the home décor aisle and saving our state from becoming one of the most inhospitable places on earth, this pastor is all for increasing the wattage on those giant crosses.
Break out the Bat-Signal for Christians. We could use some real-life superheroes this Christmas.
I’ll be the first in line to buy more lights.