Two days ago, a cross with the mocking sign “ROFL” affixed was placed on Cross Campus. Yesterday, Jordon Walker ’13 published a much-commented-on article condemning the insulting prank and the lack of response (“An insulting prank and hypocritical response,” April 20). Today is Good Friday.
I agree that the prank was insulting and hurtful. I agree that the lack of response reveals a double standard between how we treat Christianity and how we treat other religions and viewpoints on campus. And I am not sure whether this double standard is justified by Christianity’s unique standing in our society.
But today is Good Friday.
How should we react to this insulting symbol during Holy Week? How should we understand the ROFL cross? Consider first what ROFL is replacing. According to the Christian tradition, when Pontius Pilate had Jesus crucified, he placed a sign above his head that sarcastically hailed him “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Pilate had a vicious wit. Christians assimilated the Latin acronym of this sign — INRI — into their tradition, and have kept it on the top of crosses ever since. But it was always a mockery.
Does ROFL belong on a Christian cross? Perhaps we should ask instead: Does the Christian cross belong on a Christian? Christians have worn the symbol on their chests and emblazoned it on their banners for two millennia. But the cross is nothing more than an instrument of torture used to kill criminals, traitors and a Jew named Jesus. Why would a Christian display a cross with pride? The cross is an insult. The cross is the thing that humiliated and killed God.
Really, the cross does not belong on the Christian; the Christian belongs on the cross. For the Christian believes that, but for the grace of God and the sacrifice of Christ, he or she would bear the penalty that Christ bore instead. The suffering and death belonged by right to the Christian, not to Christ — and yet, the Christian believes, Christ took them upon himself. This is why the Christian holds up the cross; and the cross is meaningless if it is no longer a reminder of this painful, mocking fact. This is why the Christian remembers Christ’s suffering and death and calls it Good Friday.
And today is Good Friday.
And really, it is when Christianity has forgotten this fact that the faith has been at its worst. It is because Christians forgot what the cross meant that they were able to paint it on their shields and march to the crusades. That they were able to paint it on their seals and hold empires, that they were able to paint it on their robes and hold an Inquisition. Who could torture heretics while remembering that the cross they wear is the cross upon which their beloved God was tortured? Who could kill and conquer under the cross if they understood that it was a symbol of their Lord’s mockery and death? Who could march to the crusades with ROFL painted on their shields?
Christianity is a strange and paradoxical creed, and the cross is at the center of it. Its glory is precisely in its King’s shame and defeat; it honors its humiliation, lives by its death, loves its enemies. It is nonsensical and beautiful. If Christianity forgets this, it forgets itself.
Today is Good Friday. Good. For those among us who are Christian, it is good to remember Jesus’ suffering and death today. Good to remember him being beaten and mocked and killed. Good to remember that he was beaten and mocked and killed so that you didn’t have to be — because you deserved it, because that was your punishment that he bore. So if you are hurt by the ROFL cross, if you are mocked by it, then you should be glad. It means you understand Good Friday. Take up the ROFL cross, because it is the cross of Christ; carry it with pride and humiliation, as you have carried the INRI cross, because on it, your King was mocked, killed and victorious.
And on Easter Sunday, roll on the floor laughing. Because people then, as now, went to such lengths to humiliate Jesus, to mock Jesus, and ultimately to kill Jesus.
And it didn’t work. ROFL.
Garrett Fiddler is a senior in Berkeley College.