In a 20-year saga that never ends, earlier this month opponents of the cross atop Mount Soledad urged a U.S. appeals court yesterday to overturn a federal judge’s ruling in July that said the controversial La Jolla landmark could remain. Instead of rehashing the constitutional pros and cons, I would like to reflect a moment on my view of the meaning of Christianity.
I imagine Jesus returning to Earth with his first stop in San Diego. People flock to Him as he walks around. Some say to Him, “Lord let us show you what we have done for you!” Jesus replies that He wishes to look around. As He walks, he notices one of our homeless sleeping in a doorway. The people respond saying, “Yes, we know; but we can’t do everything. Just wait until you see what we have done for you!”
Unfazed Jesus walks on. He comes upon a child wheezing from asthma, to children playing in the streets for lack of decent supervised recreational facilities, to dilapidated schools, public housing, always with the same refrain from the crowd, “Yes, we know; but we can’t do everything. “Just wait until you see what we have done for you!” Finally, Jesus is driven to Mount Soledad where the crowd proudly shows him the Cross. Jesus looks, shakes His head in disgust and walks away.
The New Testament is permeated with messages of love, compassion, and charity. In Matthew, when Jesus calls on us to give food, clothing, shelter, and medical care to those in need, I believe He intentionally included caring for the prisoner to remind us not to judge, not to decide who is deserving or undeserving. Nowhere in the New Testament are we called to build monuments. The greatest cathedrals, crosses on every hilltop fail to demonstrate the Christianity of a community. The only true monument to Christ is each and every person becoming the living Christ, not at Christmas time or other special occasions, but in our everyday lives.
Move the cross a few hundred feet away to a nearby church or, even better, start with building single-occupancy hotels for our homeless veterans and place it on top of one of them. And then devote your time, energy, passion, and money to making sure that everyone has decent shelter, food, education, and medical care. That will be the true monument to Christianity.
by Joel A. HarrisonJoel A. Harrison, Ph.D., MPH, a native San Diegan, is a semi-retired epidemiologist with a long time interest in social causes.