Ever since I was a kid, way back around 40 years ago, I have worn a cross around my neck as a symbol of my Christian faith. Over time, the nature of that cross and its meaning to me changed dramatically. In the 80s, the simple wooden cross reflected the simplicity of my faith. The many and varied crosses of the 90’s followed the pattern of a faith rapidly evolving with my own growth and social influence. There were long stretches where I wore no cross- not as a conscious choice but rather as an indication of how often I forgot to put one on.
It was not until well into the ’00s that I landed on what would become a very personal and consistent commitment to the discipline of putting on a cross. As I started researching the life of St. Francis of Assisi for a new book I was writing, I was inspired by his devotion to the marginalized, the liberty of simplicity he embraced, and his willingness to step into a faith rooted in radical mutuality with others (and creation). And so I began to wear a Tau cross- the symbol of the Franciscan order. For years, I did not miss a single day. Until last year. One morning I woke, got dressed and picked up the simple wooden Tau, hung on an unremarkable bit of thick string. I looked at it with genuine affection and familiarity, sitting there in the quiet while a storm raged inside. And then, in an instant, I opened my bedside drawer and gently placed the cross inside. I shut the drawer, knowing I would never wear it again and felt truly at peace.
A few months later, I ordered a dozen (knowing I would inevitably lose them on the regular) high-quality lapel pins of the Progressive Pride Flag. And now my daily ritual includes putting the pin onto my shirt or jacket with the same care and intentionality that I once reserved for the cross. It was an important decision for me, one that I feel absolutely no regret over.
It would be easy, in reading the above, to assume that I have put away the trappings of religion in exchange for a symbol of political ideology. For some, that will be seen as the brave move of a rational mind. For others, it will be seen as a betrayal of the sacred for the slippery-slope-prone profanity of “the left”. And both would be entirely wrong in their assessment. So why did I exchange the Cross for a Pride flag?