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The Problem with Thin Skin

Recently I received notice from our church’s bank that they were allowing businesses to put their logo on their business debit card. While this was not a need, I thought that it would be nice to add the personalized touch to our card.

The bank provided a link to which I could import our design. I glanced over the restrictions and submitted our logo. I had little doubt that I would promptly receive an e-mail stating that our design was approved and that the card was on its way. However, to my surprise, our logo was not approved; our logo had not met the criteria stated on their webpage.

If you visit our churches website, you will see our logo prominently displayed – a simple cross surrounded by a crown of thorns. The reason for our logo’s rejection was not copyright or trademark problems (a local artist created it for us), it was rejected because of the cross. When I called asking for an explanation, I was told that it was the bank’s policy to not promote any organization or logo that might offend consumers. In reading the restrictions on the website, they list eleven bulleted items they believe fit these criteria.

About half of these included copyrighted materials for which the business did not own the rights. This included images of celebrities, musicians, athletes, entertainers, public figures, cartoon characters, national flags or currency images. The other half of the list was primarily vulgar, lewd or socially unacceptable images. It is likely that nearly all would agree with the bank that such images would all be inappropriate and even offensive.

However, the eighth item surprised me: political or religious imagery. I understand the old joke warning against talking about religion or politics in social settings, but I was surprised to learn that a donkey, an elephant, or even a cross would be put in the same offensive category as vulgar and illegal images.

My surprise reveals my naivety of the depth of influence that political correctness has had so that all images of “God and Country” are no longer socially acceptable. Should I be surprised that while our bank is glad to have us as a customer that they are less desirous to be publically associated with us? Maybe not surprising, but certainly disappointing.

Paul warns the church in Corinth about a similar problem saying, “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18, 22-24)

I should not have been surprised that our logo was rejected because of the cross for Paul warns us that the cross is offensive to those who are perishing. But why? Because it reminds us of our sin and the debt we owe, “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) The cross is offensive to some because it testifies of the death sentence they deserve because of their sin. And, for those that trust in Christ’s atoning work completed for them on the cross, the cross is then a symbol of hope. Therefore, to those trusting in something else, the cross is a vulgar image.

So both are at work in those who look at the cross – the unbeliever is offended because it reminds them of their sin and the believer is joyful because they know that Christ paid their debt on the cross. While the political tides of our culture strive to marginalize the voice of Christians in the name of tolerance, we can have hope knowing that we are not the first to have fought these battles. Today, my bank will not allow me to put a cross on my debit card but in other parts of the world believers are being imprisoned and martyred for their faith.

I understand how bankers may be thin-skinned, fearful of what others might think. However, may we look to the pioneer of our faith by, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

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