Evangelicals! Take Up Thy Cross

“Crosses. Please take home with you these small, white crosses that I made in my garage. Plant them in your front lawn and show America that they can’t take away our religious freedom.”

The forced removal of a cross on a bridge in a small Michigan town angered local Christians, who in protest, planted crosses in their yards. And now a man in my evangelical church in California last Sunday morning was standing on the platform presumably attempting to ignite a national movement.

“There comes a time,” agreed our pastor, “when you have to just stand up. Be sure to get one in the lobby as you leave.”

I am not a rah-rah patriot, and am probably the world’s worst Christian, so now I’m getting upset about the whole thing. I couldn’t even enjoy “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” sung by the church’s All-Stroke Choir, fifteen thin men of stroke age, their thin unsteady voices raised in worship. And now I’m expected to take a cross home and plant it in my front yard. I just landscaped.

Periodically our pastor devotes the first five minutes of the service to commercials of this sort. One Sunday it was a local mayor who had written a book about the right to bear arms. Another, a lesbian, through prayer and the help of a Baptist wardrobe consultant, turned straight. Today, it was crosses. “You can even paint it red, white, and blue,” added the natty man, who would be sorry to know that he looked like the natty Truman. “Get yours today.”

The Cross wrapped in the Flag. An apt metaphor becomes literal, right before my eyes. But I miss this because I’m too upset: I go to church and suddenly have to watch a cheesey infomercial, more appropriate to late-night cable insomniacs.

The subtext is the growing persecution of Christianity by liberals using federal, state, and local governments, backed by the judiciary. This conservative evangelicals ardently believe. It is one of those fire-in-the-gut beliefs that inspire my brethren to vote, to home school, and to hate the New York Times.

Persecution of Christianity in America is a non-issue issue.

50 million Americans are without health care. Now that is a real moral issue, concrete, not some baseless abstraction. And my pastor has devoted not one second to a subject of such magnitude. But five minutes are given to a man peddling white crosses. I’m not asking my pastor to support “Obamacare,” as it is so pejoratively labeled, or any other specific plan or program. I would just like him once to say from the pulpit, in his State-of-America lament, that to have this number of Americans without health care is a sin. It is clear that the things my pastor cares about coincide oh so neatly with what conservative evangelicals care about. Persecution of Christianity is on the list, health care is not.

After the service I walked through the lobby, not upset anymore, but wary, uneasy, just wanting to get home. Stacks of white crosses bordered the exit. A long line had formed, but the line was breaking into a mob. Many had already taken up the cross. Enthused, excited, crisscrossing the lobby and the parking lot, this way and that, holding aloft crosses, evangelicals seemed ready to garden.

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