Every year, Mississippi State hosts a holiday bazaar in the main gym of its Sanderson Center. I happened to be there on one of the days of the event, walking the track, which is elevated above the gym and surrounds it. As I walked I looked for flared_smallmy friend Whitney Avritt, who, among other things artistic, designs and sells her own pottery. No Whitney, but plenty of other vendors selling everything from purses to pomegranate this and that, from Christmas ornaments to crosses.

It was the latter that captured my attention. We collect metal crosses, painted crosses, ceramic crosses, buying them on vacation in the Southwest or the mountains, valuing them much more than the T-shirts we used to get. So, I wondered as I walked if any of the booths had something I might take home. Nope. In fact, just the opposite. Most of what was offered was pretty tacky, and one in particular: a flared cross (the shape at right, in a pendant) done in a zebra print.

Zebra print! Now the cross was no more than a flashy, trendy fashion accessory done in the same faux animal skin that you can have on your carry-all purse or your one-size-fits-all blanket with sleeves sold on TV and now in stores everywhere. Yeah, yeah, I know the cross has been made into jewelry of all sorts, including those pectoral crosses that clergy like me wear to adorn themselves when leading worship. But at least those items are tasteful. This horror was cheesy and cheap-looking.

On the scale of offensiveness, a zebra cross is not anywhere near as awful of one emblazoned on the shield of soldiers sent off to kill Muslims in the Crusades or one burning in the yard of a black family. But the cross done in a trendy print also does dishonor to the act of the One who died on a Roman instrument of torture. I have to wonder if we even know what the cross means anymore.

The cross is beautiful as the ultimate act of human and divine love, but not as the ultimate fashion accessory.

© 2009 Tom Cheatham