The cross over Franco’s tomb provoked for me a serious question as we went there to pray in the Spring of last year. My question was whether if one uses the cross in a wrong way does it tap into the power of the cross and release that power, but release it negatively – a little like electricity (as a ‘good’ power) lights and heats a house, but if wired wrongly it does not serve well but is actually destructive. Some of that did not fit well with me as the power of the cross is not some sort of abstract power source. God’s rule is kenotic, is self-emptying love, not some sort of sovereign crushing power. But why the cross?
I am considering that we have two crosses which, dependent on which cross is chosen, of course will reflect back somewhere into the nature of the Gospel. There is the Constantinian cross (‘in this sign you will conquer’) that can be placed on the banners and it results in yielding evidence of its power by vanquishing all foes. As such it is aligned to an imperial power, and fits well with Christendom and all forms of getting the right person(s) in power. It was that kind of cross that manifested in the Civil War with Franco being a ‘son of Spain and a servant of God’. His conquering of the land was for the uniting of Spain and the uniting of it under God – a repeat of the ‘Reconquista’ that saw the Muslim rule in Spain end. A ‘Christian’ conquest that fitted with the wider context of the Crusades to rightly align Jerusalem to God. That cross gives us a right of power over and we are vindicated by it when we use force to establish righteousness, as that cross itself is a symbol of power.
The second cross represents a power of a different kind. It does speak of imperial power, but only when used against us. It is carried as an instrument that can be used by others – it is the same spirit as when Jesus sent out the disciples as ‘lambs among wolves’ (guess the favourite meat in the restaurants that wolves frequent?). There is no protection… unless heaven itself is involved. It takes faith to suggest that in the process of living for God that ‘no-one can take our lives from us’ but that the course we are on means we will ‘lay down our lives’ for others. It takes a whole load of faith to believe that such death is not the end, and in that death there is an undoing of imperial power.
The second cross is not the conventional sign of strength. Yet it is through that cross we are aligned to the God of heaven who give us a strength of courage that does not insist on one’s own will.
This (might) have implications for both the Gospel (good news) that we believe in and how we present it. Sovereignty will demand being appeased (Anselm: God’s honour to be restored; Reformers: an eternal debt to be paid). God will have to be bought off somehow. If we respond we will then be on the right side, all others on the wrong side. The cross as satisfying the wrath of God, that wrath being understood in personal terms. If the cross however fully satisfies the love of God, it becoming the symbol and act (when aligned to the resurrection) that fully shows us who our God is, then the work of the cross is to do a deep healing in us, to re-humanise us, to remove the scapegoating of the ‘other’, and to release us as reconcilers for the sake of others. This view of the cross will work more (note the word ‘more’) with alienation, shame and sickness than with ‘guilt’. It will see the necessity of Jesus’ true humanity being for our sake rather than for God’s sake.
The cross is to re-humanise us. The work that has to be undone is that of de-humanisation. The latter we all need to be delivered from. I don’t think the imperial cross can help at any level to re-humanise us and align us with the re-humanising God. Somewhere on the spectrum of the two crosses one seems to me to be a parody of the real one.