The Letters to the Editor column was crackling with commentary. Opinions were mixed. Some called it a “hate crime” and demanded the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigate it as such. For many it’s hard to imagine that the placing of two railroad ties in the shape of a cross would be considered a hate crime. Yet in today’s world of political correctness and tolerance, such was the recent hot topic in a Colorado Springs newspaper.
The central issue to all of this verbal sparring centered on the Air Force Academy’s building an area for pagans, wiccans and other groups to practice their particular forms of worship. Much debate centered on whether such an area should be officially recognized by the Air Force Academy leadership.
The service academy isn’t new to religious debate. A few years earlier much had been made over an active duty general and the head football coach’s public proclamations of their faith. An investigation ensued and a lengthy report was published critical of the religious climate of the Air Force Academy. With several major ministry world headquarters located in Colorado Springs, it had become a favorite place of Christians in the Air Force to be stationed. Due to this, there were many Christians stationed at the Air Force Academy on faculty staff who were involved in active witnessing of their faith.
The irony of the whole debate centers on the term “dominion Christianity”. Opponents of the gospel of Christ maintain that Christians should keep their faith to themselves and be tolerant of those with opposing views. However, Christians are taught from their earliest days of Sunday School that there is a responsibility that comes with being a Christ follower. Jesus Christ himself mandated that disciples “go and make disciples of all nations.” The senior chaplain for the Air Force, MGen (Chaplain) Cecil Richardson, captured the responsibility of every Christian well when he said that in spite of the findings of the investigation from the Air Force Academy, we “reserve the right to evangelize the unchurched”.
Throughout the centuries since Jesus Christ was crucified, Christians have practiced “civil disobedience”. In China, Christians meet in homes despite the laws forbidding it. In Saudi Arabia, there is an underground Christian movement with churches meeting illegally. And, these Christians certainly share the gospel with others. And, presumably at night a Christian at the Air Force Academy felt led to practice civil disobedience and place the sign of the cross at the Wiccan/pagan worship site.
Hate crime? Hardly! Our job as Christians is to introduce a hostile world to the Creator that made them. Certainly we need to be respectful as we share the good news of Jesus Christ. But, at times it may be necessary to take a couple of railroad ties and lay them across each other to communicate the message of the cross. Whoever had the courage to do so at the Air Force Academy, committed a “love crime”. By using two sticks of wood, that person communicated the message of redemption.
For those who discovered the railroad ties at the Wiccan/pagan worship site, I pray that the image of the cross will stay in their minds indelibly. I look forward to hearing their testimony years from now of how they came to faith in Christ because someone practiced civil disobedience. When I introduce someone to Jesus Christ whether by words or by a visible sign, I have certainly not committed a hate crime. I have followed the command of my Lord and Savior. At worst, I may have committed a love crime.