In Texas if you are killed while riding a motorcycle (or donor cycle, as EMT’s call them) your family can have a memorial in your honor erected at the site of your crash. It will cost them $350 and will include a large cross. The cross will be part of the display, regardless of your religious affiliation or lack thereof, because, according to Texas officials, “a cross is not a religious symbol.”

Seriously. In Texas, the buckle of the Bible belt, or at least one of the holes in the Bible belt, crosses are not considered religious symbols. They are merely “non-sectarian symbols of death.”

I would suspect that the officials of the Lone Star State are simply displaying their lack of cultural sensitivity in not considering that a Muslim, Jewish, or, for that matter, Satanist family would not want a cross at the spot that represents deep personal tragedy, but to the larger point, are they right? Has the instrument of torture on which Christ gave his life for the sins of the world devolved in our culture into nothing more than a non-sectarian symbol of death?

Maybe so.

Given the timidity with which many Christians share their faith, there are people today who have only the vaguest understanding of how the death of Jesus relates to the way we believe it bridges the gap between sinful human beings and a holy God.

Given our willingness to allow the death of Christ to absolve us of our sins without our being willing to take up our own crosses, it is easy to see how the cross has become nothing more than an icon for the end we all face, rather than the willful choice to follow Christ — even unto death.

Given the pervasive presence of crosses throughout the landscape of our nation without any evidence that we practice the precepts of the one who died on a cross, it could be interpreted as “non-sectarian,” if that means “doesn’t really apply to anyone’s actual faith.”

Given that, in some cases, crosses (along with fish symbols) have been co-opted by enterprising business owners in their advertising in the hopes that people will use their services or buy their products, it might be better if consumers only saw them as generic symbols of death.

I’ve never cared much for wearing crosses. If you do, fine, but I’ve always figured that, if people couldn’t tell I was a Christian by the way I lived, a piece of jewelry wasn’t going to do the trick. It may be time, however, if the State of Texas is any indication, that we Christians reclaim the foremost symbol of our faith. We can do it not by any outward display but by the way we live. Truly dying to our old selves and allowing Christ to live through us is what it means to bear one’s cross. I don’t want to have to die literally on a Texas highway for people to associate me with Calvary.