The Common Good

Video: Colbert on the 'Desert Cross' Church-State Controversy

091016-stephen-colbertI had invited one of our regular bloggers to comment on the "desert cross" controversy--a Supreme Court case deciding the appropriateness of a cross erected on Mojave National Preserve to honor World War I dead. I haven't heard back yet, but I thought that a Christian from a nonviolence perspective might have some unique insights as to whether or not a cross is an appropriate symbol for a public monument to those killed in battle. I suggested that we might find some common ground with Southern Baptist leader Al Mohler, who takes issue with Justice Antonin Scalia's assertion that the cross is merely a generic secular symbol for honoring the dead. Says Mohler:

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Christians should reject any argument that presents the cross as a secular symbol. There is nothing remotely secular about the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To that I say, "amen." And not merely because the cross of Christ is anything but a secular symbol, but because the kind of death it signifies is not merely one sacrificing one's life for others--which our Just War friends may affirm as a valid parallel to the death of a soldier. I would assert instead that the cross of Christ represents the precise opposite way of giving one's life for others--to be willing to die, but not to kill.

But before I lay down any more oh-so-serious theology of nonviolence, I'll let another big-name theologian take a crack at this controversy. In his Tuesday night "The Word" segment, Stephen Colbert makes some strong arguments of his own regarding the true meaning of the cross--including a near-complete recitation of the Nicene Creed. When was the last time you heard that on TV?

Ryan Rodrick Beiler is the Web Editor for Sojourners and a photographer whose work can be seen at

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