If I asked you to picture two lines that intersect what would it look like? More than likely, you picture an ‘X; or plus sign. I however, was raised by 2 very Catholic parents. Like, uber Catholic. And when I think of two intersecting lines, I picture a cross. It is a powerful symbol. And, between the crucifixes in the church, rosary beads and crosses around my home, seeing crosses were a pretty normal sight. And I understand it’s power. It is well known that the cross, is the symbol of Christianity used around the world. And often times crosses are often worn as an indication of commitment to the Christian faith. But when I was facilitating a meeting in California recently, it took on a whole new meaning.
The Power of a Cross
There is a video we were showing as part of a training I was facilitating. It is a video of two employees talking about the company. But on this day, someone noticed something in the video I have never considered. One of the women in the video is wearing a cross.
Now mind you, we have shown this video in locations around the globe and no one has commented on this cross. In fact, until it was pointed out to me, I didn’t even notice she was wearing it. The person who asked wondered if it was okay for the woman to be wearing a cross and identifying herself as Christian. They questioned whether she was being inclusive by wearing it.
If you have spent any time with me at all, you know that I am an advocate of inclusion. So much that I have made it my life’s work. Nothing brings me more joy than members of the “out” group feeling like they belong. I ask folks in the “in” group to be accepting of, and allies to, those who they consider different.
But I was a bit stumped because this was a cross, and Christians are accepted and accepting today, right? Well . . .
In the moment when the question was asked, something struck me. We will never be able to have real inclusion if this continues. We do not get to decide that some groups should be accepted, some not accepted, and others just tolerated. Isn’t asking if it’s okay for someone to wear a cross the same as asking if it’s okay for them to wear a hijab, a #blacklivesmatter t-shirt, or a rainbow pin? All of these things should be okay. We should be allowed to be our whole selves without fear.
The woman in the video is not an extremist. We are talking about your every day, run of the mill Christian going about her business recording a video for her company while wearing a cross around her neck. Period.
Real inclusion can only occur when we can celebrate the differences of people who enrich our lives. Understanding, listening, accepting and actually including makes all the difference.
Shift of Power
Now I know the folks reading are going to push me on this. That’s why I love you all! There will always be exceptions to the rule of allowing folks to show who they are through clothing and symbols tied to their belief. But there are rules that should never be broken. If the goal is to create environments where all feel welcome, symbols that promote hate or intolerance have no place here. There is beauty in the fact that we have different views and perspectives. Rather than look for an opportunity to criticize those who may be different, create a culture that welcomes and respects people’s differences.
Yes, I learned growing up that there is power in a cross. But I now know there is even more power in inclusion and making people feel like they belong. If we can all focus on that, we will all grow.