Atlantic columnist Wendy Kaminer discusses American Atheists’ suit to prevent the “World Trade Center cross,” an original cross-beam from one of the two towers that was recently moved from a lower Manhattan church to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. The move, American Atheists charge, identifies the United States with Christianity and excludes nonbelievers from the ranks of the aggrieved.
Posts Tagged ‘the cross’
Rural Vermont is a place known for its natural beauty—trees, rolling hills, and open green space. Recently, a Catholic couple who live on a hilltop in Vermont constructed a cross alongside a chapel on their land. So far, fine. Constitutional guarantees of freedom of religious expression give them the right to do this. However, this is no small cross. It is huge, and its owners want to light it up at night, believing that they have been divinely instructed to do so. Many of their neighbors are unhappy and want it to come down.
Ruthie, Grace and David here, reporting live from the IWM International Summer School in Philosophy and Politics in Cortona, Italy. We are here with forty graduate students and post-docs and an inspiring group of faculty from over 20 countries to explore a range of issues related to religion in public life. And over the next two weeks, we look forward to sharing some of our discussions with the readers of The Immanent Frame. Today we would like to talk about an issue we discussed in the first session of our course on “The Role of Faith in Public Discourse,” taught by Nilüfer Göle and Michael Sandel.
In her essay on Salazar v. Buono, Winni Sullivan ponders why crosses present such a difficulty for the modern, secular nation-state, and she questions the degree to which religious myths and symbols have been supplanted by those of nationalism. “Has secularization failed?” she asks. Sullivan posits that religious symbols’ ability to connect the universal and the particular is at the root of their success. Yet the ambiguity of both the Mojave cross and the commentaries made by various judges in evaluating the case point to the layered religious and secular meanings of the symbol at that particular site and in U.S. society more generally. Perhaps a more expansive definition of civil religion can trace how the same symbol moves across “religious” and “secular” contexts, depending on the site, event, or time in which it is deployed. In Poland, for example, the cross is and is not religious, although it is always sacred. Indeed, this ambiguity, the ability to pivot in different directions, may help account for the cross’s social force.