Wearing a cross is just a “religious decoration” for many people and not an essential part of Christianity, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said. He said it had become something “which religious people make and hang on to” as a substitute for true faith.

"The cross itself has become a religious decoration.”

He made his comments on the day it emerged that the Government is to argue in the European Court that Christians do not have the “right” to wear a cross as a visible manifestation of faith.

I am sure there are many non-Christians who wear a cross purely for secular decorative purposes but that can never be the case for a believer. Once you are aware of the symbolism involved in an object the wearing of it becomes a public statement concerning that symbolism.

I rarely wear anything that sets me apart as a Christian anymore. But when I was a priest in the Church of England I used to wear my clerical shirt with dog collar whenever I was on work time. I was insulted in the street because of this but I was also approached in the street by people actively looking for God and my dog collar made the statement that I was willing to help them and that I was not ashamed to be identified as a Christian.

Back when I was at senior school I used to wear a badge declaring my love of God. No way was that a fashion statement because my school was not the sort of place that you advertised the fact that you were a Christian if you didn't want to be bullied and excluded. I was making the statement that I would rather be thumped than deny my faith.

This belittling by the Archbishop of Canterbury of ordinary, working class Christians who live and work in the real world and not behind the protecting walls of Lambeth Palace, is yet another example of how distant he is from the people he is supposed to serve. If he had spent a bit more time walking round the streets of a parish talking to people instead of hiding in stuffy libraries and diocesan offices all his priestly life, Rowan Williams would have a better understanding of what working people actually think about stuff and he wouldn't be so patronising and plain wrong.



  1. It’s of a muchness with his treatment of women and gays. He bends over backwards to accomodate and never stands up for anything. He takes some “PC” issues to a ridiculous extent and completely ignores issues of justice.

    I have no objection to a Christian wearing a cross (my wife does so frequently), or a Jew a star of David, etc etc. It’s a personal statement, and we don’t scrub ourselves free of every identifier in the public space and shouldn’t have to.

    I don’t think that crosses should be hung in secular public spaces with the imprimatur of the state, but that’s a completely different issue.

  2. I think what he says is true for many though. The symbol ifs more important than the relationship with God.

    But it did make me think about the fish some Christians wear on cars. (Wear?) I would never put a fish on my car just in case I did something unchristian while driving …

  3. Maybe, Liz. But he has no idea who and it’s none of his business anyway. He should worry about why he parades around in liturgical garb rather than why ordinary Christians wear what they do. The telling thing is that he would probably lay down his own life to protect a sikh’s right to wear a turban.

  4. He should worry about why he parades around in liturgical garb rather than why ordinary Christians wear what they do.

    That’s a good point.

    I’m ambivalent about this issue. I wear crosses/crucifixes, but at the same time, it seems like Christians who demand the RIGHT to wear them, are also those who, say, believe it’s their right (on the job) to tell people they’ll go to hell if they don’t [“give up their lifestyle choice” “let their unborn child live” “accept Jesus as their Personal Savior”].

    I don’t believe in wearing a cross/crucifix to make a statement to others—but only as a reminder to one’s self to live out the Gospel of the One represented on their jewelry. [One of my personal faves is a crucifix ring I have—which is mainly noticeable only to Yours Truly]

  5. The problem is that in the face of persecution it is the fervent fundie types who keep fighting. Our lot tend to roll over and die at the first sign of opposition. If more of us were militant about our faith and less ashamed of it in public then not only would we feel better about ourselves we would also give Joe Public the opportunity to see another, kinder form of Christianity. At the moment all they get to hear is the voices of the manic right wing of our religion.