The importance of religious symbolism iconography
Most people in Australia would work in a place in which discussion of religion, at least at a deep spiritual level, is rare or even discouraged. Working at a university I find this especially true, where secularism and atheism is a cultural norm, and any type of moral or social judgement is discouraged at an institutional level.
Indeed, having an unpopular, or especially politically incorrect, opinion may be severely detrimental to one's career and status. These combinations of factors can make it very difficult to express the importance of our faith in our lives. Yet other religions do much better at this than Christianity through the use of doctrinally or culturally proscribed symbols and iconography.
Whether it is turbans (dastar) for Sikhs, the hijab or burqa for Muslim women, the skullcaps for male Jews (kippah) or Muslims (taqiyah), these items are capable of expressing the importance of faith in one's life.
Whilst some forms of expression may be perceived as exclusionary, I believe Christians should also avail themselves of important Christian symbolism.
The cross as a symbol of bondage to Christ
A wedding ring is an important almost universally recognised symbol of commitment, love and an exclusionary relationship. It is for this reason that I rarely remove my wedding ring – it is a powerful symbol that communicates these ideas so effectively.
I want the world to know that I am committed to my wife – so I have worn it every day since I was married. For similar reasons I have worn another symbol – a cross.
For about 15 years I have worn a cross or crucifix as a symbol to my commitment to Christ. Like my wedding ring, my cross is one of the most precious gifts I have ever received from my wife, and for the same reasons it is continually on me.
Wearing a cross is not only a reminder to myself, but is a clear communication to others about where my commitment lies. I am dedicated to Christ, and the exclusions that this implies. As an even more permanent use of symbolism, I now have a tattoo of a cross on my arm.
These symbols I believe are ways of expressing my faith.
Symbolism as evangelism
Part of the power of symbolism is how it informs impressions. Symbolism need not be confrontational, but may reveal relational truths. Compare a married person wearing a wedding ring who is unfaithful versus someone who rebuts flirtation and tells others about how much they value their marriage.
Bearing a cross for me means that each action I do, for good or bad, will reflect my commitment and faith in the eyes of others. In this way with the use of symbolism everyday life can be a form of evangelism without a single word being said.
Choosing your mark
My "marks" are integral to my identity – they communicate who I am to anybody who meets or sees me. I believe that Christians should represent their faith openly through symbols.
It doesn't need to be a cross, a fish symbol, or a portrait of Jesus – but something both privately important and externally meaningful.
Through expressing ourselves this way we can be ambassadors for Christ simply through living our lives in a manner consistent with our faith.
Nathanael Yates is a Neuroscience Researcher from Perth, Western Australia. He is constantly inspired by his astonishingly wise and beautiful wife and his adorable daughter.
Nathanael Yates' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/nathanael-yates.html