Wednesday, September 7, 2011

When is a spade not a spade?

Somewhere in my boxes of stuff, I have a pretty realistic plastic skull.  One of those plastic Halloween decorations.  He's been beat up quite a bit over the years, the lower jaw is gone, and so are the teeth from the upper jaw, and the cap doesn't stay on either, so he's pretty much just a pair of empty eye sockets staring out at the world.  Being an old metalhead, skulls are nothing new to me.  Album covers, tshirts, and jewelery frequently place the bones that protect our brains in great prominence.  Most of the time, the reason for this is that the skull is commonly viewed as a symbol of death.  Our traditional poison markers are skulls, the age old jolly roger flag often meant death for those on the boats it chased down, even the hill Jesus was crucified on was named Golgotha, place of the skull, for its use as an execution site.  However, anymore when I come across my little plastic skull, I find myself fascinated by the intricacies of it's design.  Just what can be seen in this facsimile is really amazing when one thinks about it.  The eyes both placed forward, to allow for depth perception.  The large area to contain a significant amount of brain matter.  Although the teeth on mine are all gone, the layout of biting, tearing and grinding teeth so that we are not limited to a single type of food for nourishment. 
Many people try and tell me that all these are the result of random chance, a happenstance of time and proteins converging in just the right way.  It really seems to me that the poor, demonized skull could easily be changed from a symbol of death to a symbol of intentional design.  Symbols change constantly, correct?  Their meaning is based on perception, not necessarily intent, right?
We can certainly see that in people's perception of the church and it's symbols.  As time has gone on, for reasons deserved and undeserved, the church and the cross and all the other signs of God's people have come to mean very different things then they were intended to.  For some a church steeple is a symbol of a place they were rejected from for their choices in life.  To others a cross is a sign of bigotry and hate.  I'd like to say those impressions are all lies spread by various evil camps, but the sad fact is some people who lay claim to be Christian have had a heavy hand in enforcing those definitions of our symbols. 
Would I go so far as to say we need to replace the time honored signs of faith with new ones, like the lowly skull?  No, my suggestion would be that we all do our own part to reclaim those symbols.  Let the necklaces and tshirts be motivators, not just to others around us, but to ourselves.

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