I wouldn’t dream of putting a cross on my lawn. And if I did, I might think twice about setting it alight.
But I’m clearly not a Christian, so what do I know?
As part of a grassroots initiative people are calling both Faith Over Fear and Faith Not Fear, lit-up crosses are appearing in front yards from Kentucky to Louisiana to Ohio. Local Facebook groups have sprung up in communities around the country for people to post photos of their crosses, with well over 20,000 members between them.
The movement sparked when Susan Polhill of Louisville, Georgia, decided to set up a cross at her home after hearing about families that set up Christmas lights to spread cheer in the neighborhood.
Polhill, who is giving away crosses made of bamboo and zip ties and encouraging people around the country to make their own crosses with whatever materials they have, said her project offers an alternative to Easter egg hunts, which may not take place this year due to stay-at-home orders.
And she’s taking the opportunity to tell people that only prayer can contain the pandemic.
“We want anyone and everyone to join in,” Polhill told the Augusta Chronicle. “Through prayer, we come together as a community in faith, asking the Lord to heal our lands and give our leaders and medical people the knowledge they need. Dear Lord, hear our cries!”
Of course, not everyone sees it that way.
The lit crosses have also drawn comparisons to the Klu Klux Klan’s [sic] burning crosses. “The response I am getting from a lot of African Americans is, ‘How did they not see this looks like a burning cross?’” said Anthea Butler, associate professor of religious and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
Butler mused that people who erected the crosses and lit them may have meant no harm, but she challenged them to imagine how vile the novel lawn ornaments might look to black people.
It’s a lesson for white evangelicals, she said, about how other people see them in today’s divided America, especially at a time when many people are reexamining the ties that white Christians and white churches have had to racism.
In a piece for Religion News Service, historian Jemar Tisby suggests that maybe white evangelicals can just light their cross with a small spotlight, rather than dressing it up with Christmas lights in a way that almost makes it appear to be ablaze.
“The most charitable reading of the act is that people want to put their faith on display as a sign of hope right now,” he said. “That being said, we all need to pay attention to the context. And a lit up cross on the lawn would for sure bring the idea of the KKK to mind for some.”
While there is nothing wrong with a public display of a cross, Tisby said, the project is indicative of the “hyper-individualism” of white American evangelicalism.
Some conservative Christians have turned
fiery smoking mad irate over that kind of criticism.
After conservative commentator Erick Erickson posted a photo of a lighted cross in his yard on social media, he dismissed viral pushback comparing the image to ones of KKK members lighting crosses on fire. Some critics had also suggested the image was particularly insensitive because it was posted on the date of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death.
“Thinking of adding more lights to the cross just to spite the trolls,” Erickson tweeted, later adding, “Wait till the people upset by my Christmas lights on the Easter cross find out what we Christians think will happen to them if they don’t accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.”
Such an attractive faith, isn’t it?
(Bottom image via Facebook)