9/11 has become a national marker of identity. How we read that identity, and how the 9/11 story fits into that identity depends on who you are, what you believe, etc.
After the attacks, a cross was found in the rubble that fast became among the emergency response workers an emblem of hope and meaning. Recently, the American Atheists organization filed a lawsuit to exclude the steel beam Ground Zero cross from the 9/11 memorial, suggesting a giant atom sculpture instead.
In any event, thinking about this 9/11 Cross made me think of how powerful the cross is as a lens of meaning in the midst of tragedy. It also prompted me to recall a class lecture at FSU that I attended on Good Friday in 1988. The professor, who was not speaking from a faith vantage, began class by musing on what an ‘odd’ symbol the cross is in our culture. ‘When people wear the cross as a pendant around their neck, what do they think it really means? Isn’t it like wearing as guillotine, or other device of capital punishment? It’s an odd symbol,’ he continued, ‘not in the sense that it is meaningless or silly, but in the sense that those who have come to consider it a normalized symbol of Christian faith fail to appreciate that in its original context it was the prime symbol of Roman power, cruelty and torture, and and of the cheapness of human flesh.’
That’s precisely why St. Paul, writing to contemporaries of Roman crucifixions, naturally referred to the cross of Jesus as folly, as a sort of raucous upturning of the natural world of logic and meaning among Greeks and Jews.
With that paradox in mind, if you get some time please watch this 5 minute video about the meaning(s) invested in the Cross at Ground Zero by the interviewees, and see what you think as you allow the meaning of the Cross to inhabit your own thought-world and faith: