14 July 2014

The Way of the Cross

I drove to Nashville this weekend and was struck by how many crosses I saw. Searching for images to accompany this post, I found the image above on the website of an artist who collects and creates crosses. His name is Theodore Prescott and the pages at his site devoted to crosses are worth a look.

I didn't pull over and take pictures but I've found some online examples of some of what I saw driving MS 7-N to TN 18-N to SR 70E to I-40 E. (Note, far fewer crosses spotted after hitting the Interstate.)
I saw trios of crosses -- sometimes painted white; sometimes rough hewn wood; sometimes all the same height and sometimes with the center cross taller than the two flanking it.

I saw crosses on front lawns and church lawns and business lawns. Crosses atop churches and barns. Crosses painted on the sides of barns and businesses; and posters bearing crosses in the front windows of shops and gas stations.

There were crosses three times my height and tiny little crosses covered with flowers at the edge of the road.

I saw crosses made of wood, plastic, iron, plaster, concrete, stained glass and scrap metal.

I saw crosses with inscriptions. And crosses draped in white, red, blue, burlap and pale green fabric. Hanging from one cross, in front of a real estate office, were two banners that looked like family crests -- one bearing the silhouette of a lion standing on hind legs and the other with a somewhat angry-looking eagle with wings spread wide. There was a tiny "JESUS" sign at the foot of it, white letters on a green background. 

The large glass cross that was the front window for a Missionary Baptist church was noteworthy for its unusual proportions (see this site -- or one of the several others -- for the "correct" proportions):  the top of the vertical piece was less than a third as long as the bottom.

Not surprisingly, once I started noticing crosses, they were everywhere:  hanging from chains around people's necks and rear view mirrors, adorning the corners of stickers on bathroom walls, sitting on dashboards and pasted to bumpers.

Sunday night I remembered that the cross was also the centerpiece for Ku Klux Klan campaigns. I didn't see any burning crosses on this trip.

The only other symbol I can think of at present that rivals the ubiquitous character of the cross is the heart. The two are also alike in that they mean so many different things that they are almost meaningless. How does this relate to their popularity:  are they popular symbols because they can mean everything/nothing or have they lost their specific meanings through overuse?