"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


a wide, wide river

My mother's hometown has the somewhat dubious distinction of being the home of what used to be the tallest cross in the Western Hemisphere. (It was the tallest until some guy in Illinois decided he wanted to make one that is 8 feet taller.) It's 190 feet tall (because 200 feet makes you subject to FAA regulation, and the builder wanted the government to stay out of his cross. That's a principle I can stand behind.) and was built by a guy from Pampa who wanted to build a billboard for Jesus that would counteract all the publicity for various triple-X establishments that lines Interstate 40. Since Pampa is apparently too far off the highway for even God's billboards to be seen, he had to find some land. And my mother's hometown - home of one Catholic family that obeyed the Magisterium's commands concerning fruitful multiplication over the course of several generations - is where he found it. Being as the land up there is flat, flat, flat, you can see the thing for miles.

Rather than finding the cross to be a devotional exercise in piety (as, apparently, many, many people driving along I-40 do), we tend to see it more as a tacky thing put up by some Catholic who's not even from here. Yes, it's a cross, but it's also 190 feet of corrugated steel, for goodness sakes. The big cross is surrounded by smaller statues depicting the Stations of the Cross, and we're not really sure how we feel about that. (Actually, daddy is quite certain as to how we feel about the named characters who aren't even in the Bible. But that's another discussion.) And then there are various and sundry other monuments, including this one:

It's a gravestone dedicated to the Sanctity of Life, which is Christian code language for talking about abortion. I show it not to make a point about that (because goodness knows I know better than to start an abortion debate here or anywhere else), but because I'm so mad that they took away the disturbing part of this particular monument before I got a picture of it. No one has believed me in the past when I told them that the grave featured carved hands reaching out from the tomb and cradling an aborted fetus. And, leaving the cross last Sunday, I feared that no one ever will.

Luckily, other people have evidence of this, and if you watch this video and pay very close attention, you'll get a glimpse. To learn more about this particular phenomenon of American cultural Christianity, listen to the fantastic episode of This American Life that featured a story on the cross.


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