The “Old Rugged Cross” is not the hero of the story

10 May

In honor of my Mom, I stood close-mouthed, if not tight-lipped, during the singing of “The Old Rugged Cross.” It was a favorite of the old folks in our church, but she couldn’t, I’m sure still can’t, stand it. Why? Sentimentality disguised as devotion? Air of martyr complex?

I try to be careful with my words, if I am serious and intend to mean them. So I don’t sing all the hymns and songs in church, and I don’t always sing every word of the songs I sing. Sometimes I even change the words to reflect better what I want to say to my creator. I don’t often have to resort to any of these things, as I’m normally pretty happy with the worship team’s selections. But, like Mom, I draw the line at “The Old Rugged Cross,” which I find confusing at best, sentimental for sure, and idolatrous at worst.

I agree that the cross was “the emblem of suffering and shame.” But I don’t therefore “love that old cross, which was used to slay “the dearest and best, for a world of lost sinners.” I do not “cherish, and do not wish to “cling to,” feel “a wondrous attraction for… the old rugged cross.” I see it as a sad reminder of an unjust and cruel punishment. The fact that on it, “the dear Lamb of God left his glory above to bear it to dark Calvary,” and “stained it with blood so divine,…suffered and died” does not make the cross something beautiful to cuddle up to. It is not “to that old rugged cross I will ever be true.” I shudder to “bear…its shame and reproach,” though I hope to be worthy of a share in Christ’s sufferings, as he makes me ready.

And, finally, I don’t believe heaven will be a “home far away,” since he promises there will be a “new heaven and a new earth” and that all will be restored, as described so beautifully in the Psalms and other passages. I hope to be restored to my proper self as well, sharing God’s glory as a true reflection unveiled, with all the saints, on this gorgeous, amazing earth under heaven, which will then be truly home.

Next up, comments on another non-hymn, “The Church in the Wildwood.”


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