At some point in her tender young life, every sincere and pious girl discovers religious jewelry. Perhaps she gets a necklace with a small and tasteful cross on it for her confirmation, or she finds little earrings with doves on them and thinks happily of the Holy Spirit. She is Serious About Her Faith, and she wants the world to know it.
I was one of those sincere and pious girls. I had the crosses and the earrings and was delighted to display my religion. My favorite was a gold Slovak cross found the year I lived abroad—it had two bars at the top instead of one—and it never crossed my consciousness that I was wearing it more for ethnic pride than Christian witness. But who would ever object to a girl wearing a cross? It's a charming sign of devotion.
Then I grew up, and some years into my early adulthood I read Virtual Faith by Tom Beaudoin. The book frankly made no impression on me, except for this one little bit about Baby Boomers and Generation X:
Wearing the crucifix as fashion … makes an ironic statement about those in our culture who continue to wear it out of (pre-Xer) piety. By turning it into an accessory, Xers highlight the extent to which those who pretend to wear it as a symbol of piety are also wearing it as a fashion statement—they are presenting their religious self-image to others. Xers … show that there is nothing so sacred about a religious symbol that it cannot be turned into a fashion accessory.
That sent me into a tailspin. Why was I wearing a cross? Was it to advertise my Christianity? Was it the only way anyone would know me as a Christian? Could my faith not mark me as strongly as a piece of pretty metal? And on and on—the inner vortex of a self-conscious Christian can be as sinfully ignorant ...1