Friday, November 24, 2006


The row over whether British Airways (BA) staff can wear religious costume jewellery trivialises the real issues highlighted by the Cross – turning it into a club badge rather than a symbol of liberation, claims a leading Christian commentator today. Giles Fraser – who is vicar of Putney, an Oxford philosophy lecturer and founder of Inclusive Church – said on BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day slot this morning that “many Christians like me remain deeply uneasy that the way the cross is being defended by some is transforming it into a symbol of cultural identity.” Continued.

And this from a media statement: "It would be good if we could accept a diversity of symbolism in a plural society, but using political power to enforce the display of the Cross spectacularly misses what it is really about", says Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow, who with Jonathan Bartley has co-edited a book about the subject called Consuming Passion.

Consuming Passion says that the Cross is an expression of non-coercive sacrifice confronting imperial religion – and that its misinterpretation in popular Christian thought is very relevant to issues of violence, oppression and social justice.

"Questions of free expression should not be discounted in this area either", says Ekklesia – which recently landed in hot water for suggesting that churches should make white poppies available as well as red ones to symbolise peaceful resemblance. But the think tank adds that "tactics which look too much like bullying for comfort" are no way for Christians to behave in such matters.

"In a culture which is now plural, Christians perhaps need to learn to get less cross", commented Jonathan Bartley."

"At the same time, we all have to learn that there are cultural anxieties in a changing society – and find ways of talking about them," adds Simon Barrow.

Comment on this post: FaithInSociety


Anonymous said...

It is right for that airline worker to take a stand, and shameful that alleged Christians would reproach her for it.

Rather than approach the issue from the standpoint of Jesus' 'meekness' in the face of authority, think of it in terms of the Apostles' refusal to stop preaching the gospel even when forbidden by the state. For if we can't even wear a cross, then we certainly won't be allowed to say anything about Christ or the gospel.

Simon Barrow said...

I take a different view, anonymous. And it is sad that you feel the need to characterise those you disagree with as "alleged' Christians. See: with

In this case, it was Christians who tried to use the state, and financial bullying, against a private company. The issue of freedom of religion was not involved in any significant way. I respect the convictions of the person concerned, and those who backed her, but I think they are misguided, misplaced and counter-productive. Far from witnessing to the generous love of the gospel, I fear that this episode merely led many to feel that Christians are people who wish to impose themselves on others unreasonably. The Apostles were responding to a state seeking to usurp religion for imperial purposes, they were not worrying about costume jewellery. And Jesus' refusal to repay wrong with wrong should not be by-passed so lightly. The promise of the gospel is that the meek will inherit the earth, not the self-assertive.