The Old Rugged Cross and the ‘N’ Word

A large wooden cross set against a brilliant blue sky with colorful distant mountains stands as a testament to faith.

The Old Rugged Cross

What is sacred to you? What is offensive? And does it matter who says it or how it is said? These are questions designed to examine values about race and what constitutes insulting behavior. Let’s start with The Old Rugged Cross.

I played the piano at my Sunday school. We frequently sang a song called The Old Rugged Cross. The lyrics I want to focus on were:

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
And I love that old cross…

Why would anyone love an emblem of suffering and shame?

The cross and crucifixion were considered very shameful in ancient times. Roman citizens were not crucified. In the Roman world, crucifixion was a punishment handed out to the lowest, most reviled criminals. Only slaves, foreign captives and those non Romans convicted of crimes against the state (as in the case of Jesus) suffered crucifixion as a capital punishment.

jesus-fishI was taught (in Bible study) that, generally, Christianity first adopted the cross (and/or the fish) as a way of recognizing friends and like minded believers. Christianity also adopted the cross as an emblem of defiance. And finally Christianity adopted the cross as a reminder of the nature of sacrifice (there’s a lot more to it but let’s leave it there for now).

Now I ask you, “Have you ever heard of someone who follows The Old Rugged Cross feeling insulted by being called a Christian?” I suppose if it was said with enough venom and vitriol it could be an insult, “You sanctimonious Christians!” Perhaps it isn’t the word itself but how you say it and how you mean it that makes it an insult.

[Warning: This next section contains actual, unedited and uncensored quotes of children and may be offensive to some readers.
Please proceed with caution and an open mind.]

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The Heartache of the Impossible Child

9.22.14 Screaming Child iStock_000008551025SmallThe reality and heartache of the impossible child.

Most of my kids were really great. They just needed the right opportunity to get their acts together. We adults provided those opportunities and we all got along. But, let’s face reality, I have to admit that I did encounter some kids who seemed impossible to reach. At least, that’s how it seemed.

One day early in the semester in which I began my sojourn at our CDS school a student walked into class and said, “Oh man! I should have stayed in.” So I asked him, “In where?” He replied, “In jail!”

I run a tight, goal oriented class but it’s not that hard, yet he preferred jail to school. Obviously there are some serious issues here that go way beyond the scope of this essay. I include it only to show how stubborn a child can be.

I must issue a mea culpa. The following story is about a child so difficult her classmates wanted her suspended from school. It has a sort of positive resolution but I feel I just got lucky in coming up with it. Thank God for Two Choices Technique.

The Student Progress Meeting

In an effort to improve instruction and our relationships with the kids, after each grading period all of us teachers would meet during and after lunch as a group (we were a small school). Then we would call in each student one at a time and review their progress. Some students were given high praise and told to keep up the good work. Most received a mixed bag of praise and questions about the subjects they were having trouble with. “You’re doing fine in Mr. D’s math class. Why do you think you’re failing Language Arts? How can we help you?” That sort of thing.

And then there were the hard cases, those students who could not or would not get with the program. They were unable or unwilling to help us fit the program to their needs. Each was their own version of the impossible child. No offer of compromise, no promise of reward or threat of punishment would get them to cooperate in their own success. Nadine was the most impossible of the bunch.

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