Thought You'd Never Ask

Just mouthing off -- because I can.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Our offensive and embarrassing symbols of Christianity?

Tell me, does the sight of the Christian cross in a Christian chapel give you the willies?

Mike Adams
has just kicked the can farther down the road in the Wren Chapel peekaboo-I-see-you cross removal story (via Power Line). You can sign the petition to protest the policy if you feel so moved.

I first became aware of this story about the administration removing the Christian cross from historic Wren Chapel on the campus of the College of William and Mary near Williamsburg, Virginia via this blog entry last October by Michelle Malkin ("Let's Play 'Hide the Cross'"):

The College of William and Mary has decided to make its famous campus chapel less "faith specific" and more "welcoming" by getting rid of the cross on its altar.

Administrators huff that they're not tossing the cross aside--just putting it away when necessary to prevent students from being offended...

How about leaving the cross where it stands and telling students to grow up and demonstrate real tolerance?

This article explained the situation in a nutshell: "College Removes Cross--from Chapel!"

At that time I sent a protesting letter to the administration:
I must state to you my distress with this policy decided upon by William and Mary. To remove the Christian cross from this historic chapel is hypocrisy and revisionism at its worst. What exactly is William and Mary trying to hide by doing this? How is being hypocritical about the chapel's nature and history being more "welcoming" to others who are not Christian? What kind of people would visit a Christian chapel and be offended by the sight of a cross--and why would you therefore remove the cross instead of revoke their right to gather in Wren Chapel without respect?

Rather, it seems William and Mary is pandering to those who would not respect its own history or tolerate a diversity of faith. This seems to me to demonstrate William and Mary's own embarrassment about its Christian beginnings, and its unwillingness to associate itself with its Christian community on the present campus. How craven. And why?

One commenter has said:

"This is a shameful repudiation of our religion and history. We should not have to hide what we are. Those who come into our chapel should tolerate our beliefs. I would no more expect a mosque to remove the symbols of their religion than they should expect us to remove ours. The sad thing is that we are denying our own religious symbolism and history at a time when we should be standing proud for who we are."

I agree with this wholeheartedly. There is nothing wrong with displaying the Christian cross in a Christian chapel in America. Exactly what does William and Mary think is wrong with it, and why?

I was not surprised by the fact that I received no response.

On November 20, 2006, William and Mary's president, Gene R. Nichol, issued this statement justifying his actions in maintaining the policy of taking down the cross in Wren Chapel:
It is precisely because the Wren Chapel touches the best in us—the brightened lamp, the extended hand, the opened door, the call of character, the charge of faith, the test of courage—that it is essential it belong to everyone. There is no alternate Wren Chapel, no analogous venue, no substitute space. Nor could there be. The Wren is no mere museum or artifact. It touches every student who enrolls at the College. It defines us. And it must define us all.

I make no pretense that all will agree with these sentiments. The emotions and values touched by this dispute are deeply felt. But difficult issues are the grist of great universities. Amidst the turmoil, the cross continues to be displayed on a frequent basis. I have been pleased to learn that students of disparate religions have reported using the Chapel for worship and contemplation for the first time. In the College’s family there should be no outsiders. All belong.

On that same date an editorial appeared in the Richmond, Virginia Times Dispatch, written by
The Rev. David Hindman, the United Methodist campus minister at The Wesley Foundation at William and Mary, and headlined "Chapel Now Can Truly Be a Place for All People" which totally flabberghasted me. As I wrote to a friend in the wake of these two statements:
I must say I'm not surprised to hear the College president spout such appeasement propaganda (it is a conventional stance for college presidents these days, after all), but as a Methodist, I am appalled to discover a minister of my own faith deliberately misrepresenting the nature and teaching of Jesus when he argues:

"More compelling reasons than historical accuracy support the new policy, including theological ones. Wren is used for worship and personal prayer by a broad range of persons, not all of them Christian. True, a majority of students identify themselves as Christians. But Christ sought out those on the margins of his society, raised up scorned outsiders as models of righteous behavior, (prostitutes, Gentiles, and Samaritans, for example), and welcomed to the table those excluded by others. What would Jesus do if someone truly seeking God finds the chapel's cross an impediment? (Jesus' fellow Jews whose families perished at the hands of Christians come to mind, as do Muslims with ancient memories of Crusader atrocities.) Jesus' spirit of submissive service in God's name suggests he would do all he could to support the quest and not hinder it for anyone."

Although I do not have the training of a minister, it is clear to me Jesus did not generally hide the true nature of who he was, what he was doing, or what his message was just to make his potential audience feel "welcome." He did not "hide his light under a bushel," nor compromise his teachings in order to make his listeners feel good about their own views. Nor do I think he ever disavowed his faith beliefs so as to show "respect" toward those who did not initially agree with him.

I also wonder what more compelling reasons there can ever be than historical accuracy--historical accuracy meaning the truth. How is it being respectful of others to hide the fact that Wren Chapel is (or, historically, at least, was) a Christian chapel? How is it more welcoming to pretend that it is not?

A Christian chapel is by definition welcoming of and respectful of all others, as Jesus was. Those who choose not to feel the welcome of Christianity or of Jesus are free to feel as they do, but that is their decision--they are not being excluded by Christianity, nor by William and Mary College, evidently. They are not being forced to convert to Christianity or to bow down at the door. There is perhaps no more welcoming religion for all people than Christianity, but this does not mean Christianity must hide its very nature in order to be what it is: welcoming and offering respect and even love for each individual, and beyond that, God's grace and salvation to all who would choose it.

Rev. Hindman asks: "What would Jesus do if someone truly seeking God finds the chapel's cross an impediment?" I would say that any such person sincerely seeking God would have to do some soul-searching if the sight of the cross is an "impediment." And why should a minister of the Christian faith respond to such a sincerely seeking person by HIDING the cross? Such a sincerely seeking person needs to learn more, not less--needs to find out more about the cross, not be deprived of the opportunity to confront the cross and the nature of that "hindrance," such as it is, and find out what it truly means.

But unlike Rev. Hindman and the administrators of William and Mary who seem to be focused most strongly on those few "excluded" "outsiders" plunged into emotional turmoil at the sight of the cross, I happen to believe most people of variant faiths would tend to think themselves capable of being tolerant and respectful of Wren Chapel's cross and its Christian nature and history. It is people like Nichols and Hindman who seem to assume that most "outsiders" are so victimized and disrespectful of other faiths that they must have all others denying their own faith in order to make them feel "comfortable and welcome." Rather I say it is these disrespectful and/or emotionally unsettled and/or fragile people who should be challenged and helped to re-examine their own premises--rather than that the Christian character and history of Wren Chapel should be denied.

The Rev. Hindman spouts a lot of multicultural nonsense about white males, privilege, favor, and diversity, so I guess I should not be surprised that his politically-correct, leftist multiculturalist worldview has overtaken his grasp of the imperative of Christianity to take its message to all nations: "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." (Matthew 24:14). Rev. Hindman has admirably remembered to stand up for the poor, the needy, the excluded, the outsiders, but he has forgotten his most important charge as a minister of the Gospel: to stand up for his Lord.

Why doesn't William and Mary College (perhaps with the assistance of Rev. Hindman) just deconsecrate Wren Chapel, turn it into a multipurpose room, and then there would be no further argument? Clearly, if President Nichol is any indication, William and Mary College is no longer interested in being known as a Christian community, not even historically--and its Christian chapel is a "hindrance" to its present-day mission to be the "alma mater to the nation." If this is true, then the College should jettison any ties to Christianity and stop offending Christians who in this instance see their symbol disrespected and their faith maligned and misrepresented.

On the other hand, if President Nichol misrepresents the views and wishes of the William and Mary College community, he should revise his policy or step down.


There is a larger picture here, too. There is indeed (as President Nichol said) a certain population to which the sight of the Christian cross is incendiary (and I am not talking about the Jews). No; this population evidently does not give more than lip-service respect to the cross, if that. I am speaking of Muslims of the sort who are happy to see the Christian cross disappear, as demonstrated in the current attempted Islamification of Europe's cathedrals (via Instapundit):
Spanish Muslims are determined to pray in the Córdoba Cathedral, which was an important mosque during the 500 year Muslim rule of Spain beginning in 711. Luckily for Spain, the Roman Catholic Church isn’t prepared to give in to Muslim demands, as it recently revealed when it rejected a petition to the Pope from Spain’s Islamic Board for the right to share the Cathedral with Catholics....

So-called moderate Muslims are oftentimes more effective than extremists in gaining concessions because of their attempts to portray Western democracies as intolerant if those countries don’t cede to certain demands. This technique has been used repeatedly in the case of the Córdoba Cathedral....

The rejection by Córdoba’s Bishop Juan José Asenjo of the aforementioned plea to the Pope by Spain’s Islamic Council was another example of such cultural fortitude. Asenjo opposes the plans for an “ecumenical temple” because “it would not contribute to the pacific coexistence of the different creeds.” He added that “such shared use can circumstantially have sense in an airport or an Olympic villa, since is not properly about temples but places of oration, but not in the case of a cathedral.”

Some of Belgium's churches, in contrast, have been already given away by their Catholic clergymen:
"Church occupations" by illegal immigrants have been going on for a number of years in Belgium. They are not really "occupations" because the Bishops condone the actions and actively support them. Chris Gillibrand visited a number of Brussels churches to take these pictures.

The squatters live in tents in the churches. The tents are being provided by Catholic relief organisations. They have also been offered radios, television sets and computers.


Maybe President Nichol and Rev. Hindman could start providing tents and television sets to help visitors feel welcome in Wren Chapel, too.


Additional reading: Don't give it away.

And one more P.S.--

The Rev. Hindman contends in his editorial that Muslims have "ancient memories of Crusader atrocities" spurring their distaste for the sight of the cross. I would point out that no living Muslims are old enough to have those memories. Muslims have historical teachings of Crusader atrocities, just as Christians have historical teachings of Muslim atrocities. In fact, Captain John Smith (of "Pocahontas" fame) had been a slave held captive by Muslims in Central Europe before escaping and ending up as one of our nation's forefathers at Jamestown in the Virginia colony, not far from William and Mary College. Not only did some early Americans, but today's living ones do in fact have quite vivid memories of Muslim atrocities, including the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, United 93, the beheadings of Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg, to mention just a few. One wonders what the good Reverend means in not acknowledging any of this "historical accuracy" when talking only of the grievances of "outsiders" as justification for cloaking the cross.


UPDATE: This article discusses how what well-intentioned but uniformed Christian ministers and indeed, probably most average Americans, feel about interfaith sharing might not be what the Muslim participants are feeling, or aiming for:

"Interfaith is perhaps the most disingenuous of all Islamist tactics, relying on non-Muslim's almost complete ignorance of the tenets of the religion. Most basic is that to Muslims 'faith sharing' is a one way proposition, a means of recruiting converts - jihad through da'wa...."

The program outlined above is shockingly typical; motivated primarily by a sense of feel-goodism, Jewish and Christian groups are actually furthering the spread of Islamism because they are not exercising even a modicum of judgment before engaging in such phony interfaith exercises....

At some point the Judeo-Christian community must take personal responsibility for the enabling of its mortal enemies.

Calling Muslims "mortal enemies" is shocking language to your average American. But it is in fact true that most of the Christians involved in "interfaith dialogue" have a muddled or non-existent understanding of the tenets of Islam, and the Muslims involved in such exercises have no incentive to reveal all prior to the hoped-for conversion of their new co-religionists. I would recommend spending half an hour reading Dhimmi Watch and another half an hour reading Jihad Watch as a good introductory crash course for anyone interested in engaging in truly meaningful "interfaith dialogue." And then, go to it!

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