The Cross and the Christmas Tree. Be Careful What You Wish For.


The above photo shows the controversial removal of the cross from atop a Christmas tree on a public square in Knightstown, Indiana this week.

The controversy swirling around the tree and that cross is just the latest in a long series of such events involving religious symbols on public property…nothing new to see here, but I feel compelled to speak on this one because it hits pretty close to home. I have a lot of friends and family in that area since my wife grew up there. Consequently, I have been seeing a lot of news about this popping up on my social media feeds. Many people are outraged that the complaints of one citizen and the threat of a lawsuit has forced the town council to remove the cross from atop the tree. There is anger and disbelief that one person can “ruin” things for all the others. 

Before I go a sentence further, let me issue this disclaimer. I understand the upset feelings. It doesn’t “feel” right on the surface. I understand that there have been displays such as this on the very same spot for years without incident. To a Christian, the sight of the cross coming down feels like a betrayal. I get all that. But I am here to point out what many don’t seem to be getting.

Our Constitution is designed specifically and intentionally to protect that one lone dissenting voice. Our Constitution protects the rights of the few, or even the one, against the will of the many. 

When it comes to religious symbols in public squares in a mostly Christian small town in Indiana, that becomes very unpopular. But that’s ok. That’s America. 

The tree itself is not actually a religious symbol (in fact, it originated as a pagan tradition and was later adopted by Christians) therefore, Christmas tree displays on public property are not really the source of much controversy. However, there can be no mistaking the uniquely Christian symbolism of the cross. When the lone dissenting voice protested the cross atop the tree, he was standing on firm legal footing and the town council knew it. They had no choice but to remove the cross and they did the right thing, even if it offends you, or me. The Constitution does not protect us from being offended. 

Here is where it comes down to the nitty gritty. If you strongly believe the cross should be allowed to be displayed on public property and you also support the 1st Amendment, then you have to be ok with other displays as well. 

If the cross is allowed to stay atop that tree, then you must be alright with this menora being displayed on the square for Hanukkah…

 

And you must be ok with this Islamic symbol being displayed on the courthouse lawn during Ramadan…


And if the Church of the Flying Spagehtti Monster (yes, it is a real thing) feels like slapping this lovely display up next to your Christmas tree on the town square, then you must allow it. 

But this is a Christian nation, you say! I say, you are partly right. It is a Christian nation…and a Jewish nation, and an Islamic nation, and a Hindu nation, and an atheist nation…you get the point. It is all right there in the very first part of our beloved Bill of Rights. 

Many in Knightstown have “taken up the cross”, as it were, to show support for their cause by displaying crosses all over town on private property. To them, I say bravo! That is totally within your rights and a very appropriate and American response to this situation. You have, in the process, spread your message much more effectively than a single cross on a single tree on a public square ever did. 

I just hope that this situation also spreads more understanding about what the 1st Amendment really means. 

This land is your land, this land is my land…this land is his land and her land and yes, even that guy’s. 

Merry Christmas. 

2 thoughts on “The Cross and the Christmas Tree. Be Careful What You Wish For.

  1. We live in Indianapolis and have been following this story. I agree with you. What concerns me most in all of this is the attitudes of some of the believers towards that one man. He’s received threats; people have protested outside his home (carrying crosses, if I read it correctly). That just should not be. Yes, it’s frustrating that one person can change a long-standing tradition, but as you said, that’s how the law is set up. Personally, I would rather people display the cross in their own windows or yards or whatever than see Islamic symbols being displayed publicly during Muslim holy days. It’s one or the other. It’s an unfortunate slippery slope we’re going down, but it’s part of the freedoms we enjoy. I just wish the Knightstown Jesus followers would be demonstrating the love of Jesus (it is Christmas after all) rather than tormenting this guy for taking advantage of the laws of the land.

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  2. I could speak volumes on this, but I’ll just make it short ‘n’ sweet for now by saying that we have gotten too lawsuit-happy and politically-correct for our own good — that it, PART of the time. The OTHER part of the time, freedom-of-speech is used to protect the rights of people to be publicly-offensive.

    The very name of the holiday defines it as the celebration of the birth of a special baby whose given name was actually probably something along the lines of Yeshua ben Joseph.

    That is, Jesus the man was Mr. ben Joseph and NOT Mr. Christ.

    We have a very special man in our community (the writer of this blog knows him, too) whose first name is Larry, and the story of his life is that, as a teen, he no longer felt safe at home due to his dad’s temper. so he ended up being homeless and finding ways to survive. One thing he did was to collect pop cans and get money for recycling them.

    Even after he was no longer homeless and had become part of the regular workforce, he continued to do this for both the extra pin money and just because it was fun for him.

    In 2003, he was told about how Ronald McDonald House of Indiana used recycled tabs to raise part of the money needed to provide an affordable home-away-from-home to the families of children who were long-term patients at near-by Riley Children’s Hospital. A challenge was put to him to collect a million tabs for the cause. He had thought that it would take him at least 2 or 3 years to do this but ended up only taking a year — and he’s about to count his 13,000,000th tab any day now!

    He has gotten a nickname of The CanMan. However, his name is Larry Van Ness and not Larry The CanMan.

    Still, if people say The CanMan around here, we think of Lsrry.

    Christ was — and still is — an identifier for Jesus. It means anointed one or Messiah.

    Christmas means a celebration of the birth of Jesus (as in being thankful that Jesus was born and walked among us).

    No matter how it came to be (whether or not December 25 was His actual birthday), this was still proclaimed as a time to celebrate the beginning of His earthly life.

    The reason why it came to be was actually an act of compassion, as some of the new Christians had, at one time, celebrated a Pagan holiday at that time with part of it being a time of feasting and exchanging gifts.

    The new Christians — and, especially, their kids who didn’t understand why they could no longer do this — missed having a fun holiday to celebrate at that time, so some of the religious leaders came up with Christmas as a replacement holiday.

    Some people might disagree, but I believe that Jesus approved of this and saw it as being good to kids and inclusiveness instead of watering down what He stood for.

    Anyway — all political-correctness & separation of church and state issues aside — government institutions such as courts have been closed to celebrate Christmas. Yes!!! CHRISTmas and NOT SPAGHETTImas, ELVISmas, BEATLEmas, or even LARRYmas. With a handful of exceptions, so do most post offices and banks.

    There are some people who believe that Jesus wasn’t divine but just a good man — and that would also describe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The 88th anniversary of his birth was yesterday, and (as with Christmas), celebrating this event has resulted in government institutions closing for the day.

    There are some people out there who take offense to there even being an official holiday dedicated to how he lived his dash. But there are more people who are in favor of this holiday.

    There are actually people celebrating Christmas in different parts of the world who might not have even heard of Martin Luther King — or, they might have heard of him but he’s just somebody who has no personal meaning to them.

    Anyway, nobody is forcing anybody to celebrate either Christmas or Martin Luther King Day, but both of those holidays are still important enough for most government institutions, schools, banks, etc. to close and for many businesses to either close completely or keep shorter hours (the latter being more true with Christmas than Martin Luther King Day).

    As for being forced to remove the cross from the top of the Christmas tree…that would be like being told not to mention that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 or somebody might be offended.

    I don’t approve of the kind of Christianity that would bully the person who demanded the removal of the cross any more than I approve of his demands even less so, because it goes against the message of love that Jesus taught.

    We have it great in our country, because we don’t have some dictator telling us how to worship or not worship. Some people who share our planet aren’t so fortunate.

    That was what the framers of our Constitution were striving for when they included what some people misinterpret as not allowing anything remotely Judeo-Christian to be displayed/practiced on government property.

    Believe it or not, there are even people of other faiths (or no faith at all) who enjoy the Christmas season, and this country would seem much more dreary without all of those wonderful things associated with Christmas.

    There’s so much more that I could say, but I’m going to stop for now except to say that, if some trial lawyers were as dedicated to cases where there really ARE grounds for lawsuits instead of these trivial complaints of people being offended by a Christmas tree decoration symbolizing the ultimate act of unconditional love, the world would be a kinder place…

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