Christians just get a little cross

In response to radical Islamist violence against Christians in Syria, Iraq and other countries in the Middle East and also the near decapitation of father Jaques Hamel in his church Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, France, a Facebook-group, ”Mitt kors”1 (My cross), was started by the group “Kristen opinion”2 (Christian opinion) lead by three women who also happen to be ordained priests in the Swedish Church. There is also a Twitter hash tag #mittkors3.

The Facebook group wants Christians to take either selfies of themselves wearing the Christian cross, or just their cross or perhaps other images with something Christian in it.

This group has raised ire in some people high up in the former state church of Sweden!

Head of communication, Gunnar Sjöberg, calls the group and it’s purpose “seditious” and “unchristian” on his private Facebook page. He also complained that “the tone of several Christian bloggers and ecclesial commentators is stale.”

He writes on his public blog4:

That we should renounce terrorism in the name of religion is obvious. However, I have asked myself the question if the #mittkors campaign, which started as a result of the terrible murder of a French priest Jacques Hamel, [means that] the cross of Jesus [is] likely to be used as symbol AGAINST another group of confessors and not only as a sign FOR vulnerable Christians. I am concerned that the cross becomes a distancing marker which divides us into them and us and not the sign of hope that I mean Jesus stands for.

Since the group was founded on July 27th 2016, a veritable siege has been laid. The group, and the founders and participants, have been criticized primarily by the leadership of the Swedish Church and that includes its leader, archbishop Antje Jackelén. The group has also received support from, for instance, David Lindén, Expressen debate August 9th5, and Margit Richert, Svenska Dagbladet chronicles August 8th6.

So what is to terrible about exposing the Christian cross? Who may take exception?

The fear (is it?) is that Muslims will take umbrage! Why?

For every, initially suspected, Daesh deed we’re told that a) it’s done by a lone wolf – and it invariably turns out it’s not – and b) it has nothing at all to do with Islam.

If the near decapitation of father Jaques performed by two youths, who had apparently pledged allegiance to Daesh before the deed, has nothing at all to do with Islam, as we’re told again and again, then why should Muslims be upset by the mere sight of a Christian cross in support of one of many slain fellow Christians?

Many Muslims claim that Daesh aren’t true Muslims if at all Muslims, that their interpretation of Islam is faulty and that there is no room for any interpretation that allows them to perform these atrocities. Shouldn’t they, instead, support the cross? They certainly don’t have to do it actively like wearing one themselves!

Oh, but that’s a thought! “Feminist” and “intellectual” women started the Hijab “uprising” here, a few years ago, after what turned out to be a fake attack on a Muslim woman! All in support of a fellow sister, some prominent women donned the hijab!

If we believe what we’re told, really believe, that Daesh has nothing at all to do with Islam, then for Christian men and women exposing their crosses can’t possibly be against Islam and Muslims, can it? I mean, if we know it and the Muslims know it… What is then the problem?

Mohammad Omar, a write/blogger and former Muslim, writes7 on “Det goda samhället” (the good Community) about an experience he once had:

I remember when I was a Muslim. We were a few who had gathered in the Mission Church in Uppsala. I think it was in some dialogue context. When it was time to pray, we were offered a room in the Church. On the wall hung a crucifix. One of the Muslims covered it with his jacket. Covered the offensive.

It would not have been possible to pray in the room with the crucifix hanging there. It is considered so objectionable that the Angels can not enter such a room. Partly because it may not depict any living being, least of all a prophet like Jesus, and partly because the cross is a symbol of the Incarnation, God’s incarnation, which is the most blasphemous imaginable in the Islamic tradition.

Today, August 9th 2016, the op-ed in8 Dagens Nyhter carries the following headline: “Fateful meeting terrorist threats with call for cultural struggle”.

Behind the op-ed are Antje Jackelén, archbishop, Anders Arborelius, Catholic bishop of Stockholm, Mahmoud Khalfi, chairman – Swedish council of Imams, Nadia Marhri Lodin, vice chairperson – the Swedish Muslim Council, and Ute Steyer, rabbi – Stockholm Jewish community.

They write:

The reasons behind terror are complex, but it is typical for all terror to draw support from sacred texts and / or political and ideological doctrines. Acts of terror done in the name of Islam discredits religion. The causes of terrorism are more extensive and depends on everything from geopolitical factors in the past and present, such as colonialism and the arms trade, the conflicting values, growing social inequalities and mental illness.

Therefore, it is in these times important to recall that generalizations and polarizations are bad helpers when it comes to understanding and combating fundamentalism and extremism. To respond to terrorist threats with appeals to cultural struggle would be fatal. There can not be peace in the world if not the world religions is peace among themselves.

Dire words indeed! “To respond to terrorist threats with appeals to cultural struggle would be fatal. There can not be peace in the world if not the world religions is peace among themselves.

Why does an evil paraphrase of Star Trek’s Borgs suddenly come to mind?

We are the Muslims. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will [not] be added to our own. Resistance is futile.

And this comes after enumerating all the other, apparently most important(?), motivators behind terrorism: geopolitical factors in the past and present, such as colonialism and the arms trade, the conflicting values, growing social inequalities and mental illness.

My, my! They even managed to empty an entire looney-bin right in the lap of terror, in this particular instance embodied by Daesh! All but one thing! They first took out the one single important card!

The reasons behind terror are complex, but it is typical for all terror to draw support from sacred texts and / or political and ideological doctrines.” So, Islam has nothing at all to do with it after all! Do we believe that? I mean, really?

What they did was pull the far right-extremist foundation from under the feet of Anders Behring Breivik9 who committed the absolute atrocity of slaughtering young social democrats in droves at Utöya July 22nd 2011 after having set of a car bomb under a Norwegian government building in Oslo.

What they did was take Communism and millions of dead out of Mao Zedong’s cultural revolution and Stalin’s murdering and deportations and I bet they even managed to do away with Nazism from the mindless slaughter, in and out of concentration camps, during WW II. Well, well, well! Fancy that!

Aftonbladet’s Ingvar Persson backs up10 the people behind the Dagens Nyheter op-ed.

Fear of other religions in general and Muslims in particular, is, today, a fundamental base note in European policy, and also in Sweden there are forces who sees life as a struggle between cultures.

Then even an innocent act, like wearing a piece of jewelry in the shape of a cross, can be made into a choice between sides. And one way to confirm terrorist narratives.

Gunnar Sjöberg, head of communications for the Swedish church says he doesn’t want people to take off their crosses. He just don’t want them to flaunt them, wear them (too?) visibly, he says.

Just a few weeks ago I passed by some boys around the age of 12 playing soccer. I noticed one of the boys because he wore something rarely seen here in Stockholm, Sweden. He wore a kippah! I’ve seen two or three adult men with kippahs, but never a boy.

A week or so later I came across a very unlikely pair. Something I’ve never seen before, either. An orthodox Jewish man strolling with his young daughter of about five or six.

This morning the man driving my bus wore a turban! He’s a Sikh, probably the only one, and works for the metro transport services here.

There was a spat of trouble when he started working. I remember that. He was only allowed to wear the regulation hat or cap but couldn’t, of course, take of his turban. How allow this man to drive a bus? Easy! He put the metro transport emblem at the front of his turban. Case closed!

I’m starting to wonder, woebegone atheist that I am, if maybe showing a little cross isn’t so bad after all. Because the more we hide, the further we may have to retreat.

Corrections: Anders Arborelius is the Catholic bishop. I didn’t spell that out. 2016-08-13. Also spelled the name of Mahmoud Khalfi wrong.

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