Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Iconic Cross

The American Atheists group has filed suit in New York state court demanding the removal of the crossbeam "Cross" that was left standing at the WTC after the 9/11 attack, demanding that these beams be permanently removed from the Memorial site as "an impermissible mingling of church and state", according to CNN. The cross was moved back to the Memorial from a nearby church, was blessed by the priest who ministered to rescue workers during the recovery period, and has become an iconic part of the site itself.

It is said that this cross was not constructed after the attack but was actually a small part of the structure that did not fall with the rest of the building. There were literally thousands of these crossbeams all up and down the WTC but at the ground level, this is one portion of the building that remained. Because it is in the shape of a cross, or perhaps because it was blessed by a priest, the American Atheists insist it must not be a part of the Memorial because of what the "Cross" (and not this particular crossbeam) represents.

To remove religion from this discussion is probably necessary though not likely because of the unique shape of this particular portion of the structure that did not fall. That it happens to be in the shape of the iconic "Cross" may or may not be a divine miracle, but it still stands for something profound. It still stands for a people who cannot be destroyed. It stands for a remnant of faith that humanity will persevere in spite of humanity's centuries-long attempts to annihilate the human race - or at least those with whom we disagree or just don't like.

One should not expect the American Atheists to let go of this court fight because atheism in and of itself is not real. They are not benign. By what is posted on their website they claim an allegiance to the US Constitution, but the tone is clearly anti-religious. There is a profound lack of respect for persons of faith (maybe even Christians specifically) even as they demand respect. The arguments made for the removal of the cross (beams) are clearly anti-God (one must read the comments very carefully) even though they insist it is only a constitutional matter of separation of Church and state.

Is it only the shape itself that is so maddening to the American Atheists? Would they insist, then, that another method of construction be employed to ensure there are no "cross" beams included in the construction of government buildings? What is their fight about? By the words of the Constitution itself, the inclusion of this crossbeam at the Memorial is not a government "endorsement" of religion but is rather a "respect" for what already exists: the remnant of a building that was not "totally" brought down by those who attacked us. A building that was destroyed but standing for a people who were not annihilated.

The more profound meaning of the steel beams for all Americans is not "The Cross" that stood in spite of humanity's best effort at destruction. Rather it is the crossbeam and remnant representing a people who will not be annihilated, fortitude in the endurance of the American ideal, and the hope that is always before us even in the midst of smoke, ashes, and death. It represents a determination that our enemies may strike and strike hard, but they will ultimately never be able to finish a fight they clearly brought upon themselves. The American Atheists would do well to heed the same warning.


Anonymous said...

Why do people forget that we have freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion. To my knowledge, the WTC site is not a government site.

Michael said...

I think that's the gist of the Atheists' argument; that they ARE free "from" religion. I'm not sure who owns the site the Memorial stands on.

Thank you for your thoughts!