That Thing Around My Neck

Blue Cross 3I got a new cross for my birthday this year. We found it in Jamaica, on our usual shopping trip to First Choice for Blue Mountain coffee and beautiful jewelry. I was delighted to find a cross with such an unusual design.

I’m particularly happy because while some birthday jewelry rarely makes it out of the jewelry box, this piece will get lots of wear. Not just on Sundays or religious occasions. I wear a cross almost daily, into that staunchly secular space called my office.

Wearing a cross seemed impossibly brave at first. But over the years, as gay colleagues have come out of the closet, Hindi colleagues have invited us to join their celebration of the Diwali Festival of Lights, and Jewish colleagues have become open about taking time off for their highest holy days, being openly Christian wasn’t so scary anymore.

The cross is a complicated icon, and a symbol to many of a “my way or the highway” fundamentalist Christian doctrine. But Episcopalian Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has a different view:

When we look at some of the lives of holy people who follow other religious traditions, what do we see? Mahatma Gandhi and the Dali Lama both exemplify Christ-like lives. Would we assume that there is no grace present in lives like these? A conclusion of that sort seems to verge on the only unforgivable sin, against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:30-32).

If I believe that God is more than I can imagine, then I must be willing to acknowledge that God may act in ways that are beyond my ken, including in people who do not follow the Judeo-Christian tradition.

So if I’m not out to convert office heathen to Christianity, why would I wear a cross? It’s simple:

  • I’d like to dispel the cynical view that faith and intellect are mutually exclusive. I work among a lot of very bright people, and the fiercely secular environment of the office seems fertile ground for Karl Marx’ idea about religion.
  • Work isn’t always fun, or easy. On the more difficult days, the cross serves as a talisman, a tangible touchstone for the strength to persevere, to stand my ground, in times of trial.
  • When challenging situations deteriorate into infuriating, the cross around my neck also reminds me to Love My Neighbor, and squelch the expletives that want to escape and poison the atmosphere.

    There are lots of pretty pendants in my jewelry box. I do have other choices. But in the workplace, odds are high that the thing around my neck will be a cross.

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    1 Response to That Thing Around My Neck

    1. Pingback: The Thank You Note | Jars of Water

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