All Symbols Matter

See the source imageI saw this bit on NCRep from the CNS on crucifixes in public classrooms. It’s Italy, not the US. But it brings to mind another occasional conservative vector that often makes me wonder, “Do we really want to go there?”

If a Christian symbol can be democratically elected to go on a wall, why not other non-Christian or non-religious symbols as well? From journalist Carol Glatz on the Italian judiciary ruling:

(A)ll religious symbols can also be “welcomed” as long as it is decided in a democratic, civil and “gentle” manner by students and faculty together.

That means, it said, all decisions regarding their presence must never be imposed and must seek “reasonable accommodation” between the different positions or convictions of people in the school community that includes respecting a person’s freedom of and from religion; in essence, decisions cannot come by a “tyranny” of the majority or the veto-power of one individual.

When I was in small-town Iowa, the issue of prayer with high school athletes arose amongst some parishioners. We Catholics were one of eleven churches in a town of four-thousand. I asked if coach- or chaplain-led prayers were really something to encourage. My question mystified some people. What if, I mused, one of our Catholic students wanted to lead the rosary, or even just a simple Our Father-Hail Mary-Glory-Be? One woman asked why would they want to do that? I kept further counsel to myself, knowing that my evangelical friends would likely be promoting (as I saw them lead prayer in our ecumenical conference) the closed-eye, head-bowed, off-the cuff, in Jesus’ name style. Not that this is bad. And it’s not completely unknown to Catholics, by experience or actual leadership. 

But I was moderately concerned: would I want our teen parishioners influenced mostly by evangelical Christianity? Our parish had a fine youth group, so I wasn’t seriously bothered. 

In other places, Satan or spaghetti monster faith have lobbied for symbols in the public square. When they are in the clear majority, as in white rural Iowa, Christians are happy for religious symbols. Suppose in a few decades the nones have washed in. Suppose in some city neighborhoods, Islam becomes the majority faith. Will other symbols be welcome? Do they all matter? 

My view is that our symbols are better off on the property of buildings for worship, and out of public places. Sure: let’s wear our jewelry, clothing, baseball caps, and such as we wish. We have that freedom. Otherwise, are desirous of saying that all symbols matter?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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