The Cross and the Machine Gun
On our way back from a family lunch, we were stopped in traffic at a light behind a dark pickup. The truck was ordained with several interesting stickers, but the two that caught my eye were a cross and a machine gun, the former directly above the latter. This is interesting to me because:
- Both kill people, and are wielded by the empire. The cross was the Roman instrument of execution for insurrection. The assault rifle/machine gun is the tool of the combat soldier, occasionally of certain police forces.
- The cross was a deliberately inefficient method for bringing death and destruction, the machine gun... not so much.
- The cross has become the symbol of Jesus/Christianity, and this involved turning the symbol of torture and tyranny on its head as Christians confess Jesus as Lord. The machine gun continues rather than interrupts the cycles of violence that tear societies apart or wield the will of one regime over another.
In dying on the cross, Jesus was a victim of the political and religious establishment.
Jesus died on the cross because he was guilty of insurrection, he claimed to be king of the Jews.
Jesus didn't wield weapons, and warned his followers that those who live by the sword will die by the sword.
Jesus shamed the powers by his innocent death.
The revolution Jesus started didn't require weapons, it was founded on love.
The cross was meant to be a symbol that kept people in their place, kept them in fear. Because of Jesus, the cross is a symbol that invites people out of their fear and into a life of love. Loving both oppressed and oppressor, but not simply keeping the status quo.
The cross used to be a symbol of the fear of death, and the machine gun still is. But now, the cross is a symbol of new life, of hope, of resurrection.
I don't know the person who had these stickers on their car, though I would love to talk to them. In one sense, the cross and the machine gun are nearly identical. Tools for death, destruction, preservation of someone's status quo. In another sense, the cross and machine gun are polar opposites. Seeing the cross as a symbol of Jesus, the machine gun and the cross couldn't be more different. One represents a way of life that involves dying to self, loving enemies, and ultimately dying at the hands of the political and religious elite. The other, a weapon of choice for that same status quo. I don't know the intent behind these stickers. I do know that it seems to be the least irenic choice, and possibly, the most ironic choice of car stickers.
Thank you, unknown driver of the black truck with interesting stickers, for that wonderful food for thought. If you read this, shoot (haha!) me an email and let's get some coffee.