Kelly Ripa has one. Taylor Jacobson, Rachel Zoe’s assistant has one. Jessica Biel wears it too. Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Jennifer Lopez, Kourtney Kardashian, Jillian Michaels…all sport one. (And if you know who those people are, more power to you.) It has been described as “wildly popular”, “the hottest trend,” “totally cute”, and the “in fashion.” What is it? The sideways cross necklace.
Any time there is innovation related to anything in Christianity, we perk up. Our first question should be “What does it mean?” Why do we ask this first? We must be reverent–
“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,” (Hebrews 12:28)
“And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.” (Revelation 19:5).
Fads are nothing new. They affect Christianity just as they affect the world. Most often, fads are related to doctrine, movements, or worldwide phenomena in the ecclesiology department, affecting preaching. As Phil Johnson says of fads,
“In the past two decades we have seen a relentless parade of phony miraculous phenomena, and literally millions of Christians have jumped on this bandwagon, running from one charismatic fad to another, desperately trying to get in on the latest display of divine power.”
But there are Christian merchandising fads, too. Love Dare diaries from Fireproof, Courageous Decree, WWJD bracelets, prayer blankets… fads, fads, fads. As Phil Johnson asked in 2005 of the merchandising fads, “Shall we sell our birthright for a mess of faddage?“
“So why has the recent culture of American evangelicalism—a movement supposedly based on a commitment to timeless truths—been so susceptible to fads? Why are evangelical churches so keen to jump on every bandwagon? Why do our people so eagerly rush to buy the latest book, CD, or cheap bit of knockoff merchandise concocted by the marketing geniuses who have taken over the Christian publishing industry?”
Some of the beginner-level fads have seemed harmless enough—evangelical kitsch like Kinkade paintings, Precious Moments® collectibles, singing songbooks, moralizing vegetables, bumper stickers, Naugahyde® Bible covers, and whatnot. Such fads themselves, taken individually, may not seem worth complaining about at all. But collectively, they have created an appetite for “the ugly and the superficial.” They have spawned more and more fads. Somewhere along the line, evangelicals got the notion that all the fads were good, because the relentless parade of bandwagons gave the illusion that evangelicals were gaining significant influence and visibility. No bandwagon was too weird to get in the parade. And the bigger, the better.
Johnson goes on to say that somewhere along the line bandwagons become Trojan horses. I recommend Pastor Johnson’s essay in its entirety. He sure can write. (His retirement from blogging left a huge hole! Wah!)
Is it bad to wear a sideways necklace? I’d written a few days ago about hair, clothes and jewelry, here: “Adorned in Christ, how should we dress for Holy Week?” In that essay I’d mentioned, ” 1 Timothy 2:9 says “likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,” and went through the historical reasons for that admonition and the one in 1 Peter 3:3.
So we ask again, is it bad or wrong to wear a sideways cross necklace? is it respectable apparel?
I looked for a definitive interpretation of the horizontal cross, and though a definitive one was lacking, I found the following in most places I looked:
One interpretation holds that wearing the cross sideways means that “humanity is positioned right in the middle of heaven and hell. This makes it a neutral symbol.”
This seems like an innocuous and even a pleasant notion. But, no, there is no neutrality. There is no middle road. In fact this is an insidious teaching that is contrary to what the bible teaches. Either you believe and you’re saved as a son of God, or you do not believe and you are condemned already as a child of hell. (John 3:18, Matthew 23:15, Hebrews 3:19). Humanity is already in either heaven or hell.
Another interpretation holds that: “Because of this meaning, some people say that wearing a sideways cross necklace means that you are aware of your place in this existence; And that you are grounded here on earth.”
Again this is contrary to what the bible teaches. Christians who believe by faith in the Gospel have a home in heaven. This earth is not our home. (Hebrews 13:14). We are not to love the world or anything in the world. (1 John 2:15). If you are a Christian wearing a sideways necklace to show you are grounded here on earth, either you have a flawed idea of what Christianity is or you have no clue about the glory that awaits.
“There are also people who believe that the sideways orientation of a necklace symbolizes Jesus Christ carrying the cross, this is one of my favorite interpretations.”
But He is not still carrying the cross. He died and rose again from an upright cross, declaring that it is finished. (John 19:30). That trumps the Savior’s carrying of it.
“It has also been based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The horizontal orientation of the necklace connotes that Jesus Christ has actually risen and that the cross has already been laid down to signify that humanity has been saved.”
This is also a false notion. It sounds Christian-y but it is actually untrue. First, He didn’t lay down the cross. And nether are we commanded to lay it down, we are to take it up (Mark 8:34).
Secondly, humanity has not been saved, only those who are in Christ are saved. For the unsaved billions, a sideways cross would be a futile symbol. What about them?
No, more to the point, if you’re going to symbolize things, ‘Lay down your arms” means it is being dispensed with. It is over. Done. Fighting is stopped. You accede, acquiesce, quit, surrender.
Yet Christians are called to pick up our cross, not lay it down. (Luke 9:23). We are called to arm ourselves and fight, taking up the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:13). Wearing a sideways, laying down cross seems antithetical to what we are called to do in scripture.
And how many times are we called to stand? We are not standing in our own strength, either, but stand in Jesus. (Romans 14:4). His cross is still standing! Why would we ever signal that we are laying down our Christianity?
If you are not all that into symbolical interpretations of these things, and just want to wear a horizontal cross without all the hoo-haa, then before wearing sideways cross jewelry, ask yourself these questions:
Does it make you, the wearer, consumed with how the jewelry makes you look? (1 Peter 3:3).
It’s trendy, but should we join hands with the world and monkey with the 2000 year old symbol of our faith just to be “in”?
Would you be offended if your church laid the cross at the church altar on its side?
Is it a silent statement against Christianity, a jewelry wearer’s rebellion?
Is it making a commodity out of the Gospel by monkeying with its traditionality for the sake of fashion and money? Remember, Nadab and Abihu innovated a sacrificial service, and were killed for it. (Leviticus 10:1-2). Not that I am saying you will be killed by God if you wear a sideways cross, certainly, but is innovation proper? God gave us our faith, the holy bible, and its symbols. The most important one is the cross. God didn’t have Jesus die on a guillotine, or by the sword. He died on a cross, and that was for a specific, holy, perfect reason. Do you really want to innovate that, when God set it forth in perfection in the first place?
If there is this much confusion about its meaning, can it be good?
Does it exalt Jesus? Or bring confusion to the symbol and its universally understood meaning for the past 2000 years?
Are you succumbing to a merchandising fad? “That is the culture the evangelical movement deliberately created when it accepted the notion that religion is something to be peddled and sold to consumers like a commodity. That was a major philosophical shift that created an environment where unspiritual and unscrupulous men could easily make merchandise of the gospel.” ~Phil Johnson
The bible says that there will be fads and they come on the backs of greedy teachers bringing false words- “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” (2 Peter 2:3).
Here is the most compelling reason not to wear a sideways cross!