Emmanuel Charles McCarthy (Priest & Theologian)
The cross is the instrument of homicide on which Jesus was murdered after refusing the protection of violence—’Put up your sword; for the one who lives by the sword perishes by the sword.’ It is also the device of death on which Jesus was killed by His lethal enemies as He loved them unto His last suffocating breath—’Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’
The sword is the cross turned upside down. The cross is the historical reality and symbol of Jesus’ love for each human being and for all humanity. The sword is the historical reality and symbol of the blood drenched minds and hands of the economic and political power elites who over the millennia and throughout the world have tricked or forced ordinary working people into the mad bedlam and slaughter of war.
The Way of cross of Christ is from heaven; the way of the sword of Caesar is from hell. How dare the Christians and most especially Christian leaders—bishops, priests, ministers, pastors—permit the state or any Church to equate the nonviolent self-sacrifice of love for all, including lethal enemies, of Jesus on the cross with the savage, hateful, murderous sacrifice of others that the sword represents.
The removal of the sword from cross at the war memorial at Toowong, Australia, should mark the beginning of the removal of all equivocal and deceitful cross and sword symbols from state and Church property worldwide. The murderous evil that presently is and has been for centuries the result of this double-dealing blasphemy requires nothing short of this.
The way I look at this witness is that it is an important challenge to the church about coexisting with violence. The church needs to get out of its torpor and be unequivocal about violence – it is not of the Gospel and not of Christ. Here, when there is a symbolic conflation of Christ and Caesar, it a great spiritual work of mercy (actually a couple of them) remove the sword from the cross and turn it into a farm-tool. The Lenten context of this action appeals to me, and reminds me of our Pershing Plowshares action of Easter/Passover/Earth Day on April 22, 1984. It reiterates too the plowshares action of recent years in the US, first the Disarm Now Plowshares in Washington state and the follow on Transform Now Plowshares of July 2012 on which I worked support for several years and which resulted in the first legal victory ever in the US for Plowshares activists, and their sabotage conviction was overturned and the three were released from prison. In our war-weary world we must disarm and transform ourselves and our martial habits and institutions in order to “walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2) Peace is indeed holy, it is a sacred word and it is the word given us by Jesus the Rebel as our word to a violent world.