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Memorial cross can be viewed as both wrong and right

The furious controversy that now rages around a crucifix in Workington pitches some troubling questions into our midst – none of which yet have satisfactory answers.

Peter Nelson photo
Peter Nelson at the memorial

Grieving widower Peter Nelson has erected a cross in memory of his late wife Angela, who died in March. A simple tribute of love and faith, you may think. But in fact his memorial has turned out to be anything but simple. It has prompted a divisive storm of angry disagreement. And now Peter has been told by the county council to take it down.

The council’s problem is that he put up the cross without planning consent – and rules are rules. Others have more fundamental objections, as posts to the News & Star’s website shows. There are some who are offended by open expression of Christian faith.

“Take it down and keep religion at home and out of sight please,” says one.

“Why should I be forced to look at a Christian symbol everyday? I don't wave my beliefs in front of everybody all the time why should he?” posts another.

Some who are genuinely concerned the cross will upset those of other faiths – and those with none.

Of all those who, while sympathising with Mr Nelson’s grief, insist the cross should go, the council’s stance is possibly the most understandable.

Officers there worry that should this tribute be allowed to remain without prior permission, umpteen more could appear just about anywhere without warning – in tribute to lost pets, relegated football teams, dying soap opera characters, broken romances.

They have a point. The urge to lay flowers, cards and toys at the locations of road accidents – once unheard of – seems now to be irresistible to point of being compulsory.

Crosses and floral tributes appear mysteriously at roadsides, a painted bicycle was strapped to Carlisle railings in memoriam; where awful things have happened, the impulse of strangers to visit with gifts – appropriate or otherwise – is instant and unstoppable.

There’s a curious appetite for public shows of grief – or what passes for it. Media outlets have been blamed for depicting them in their news pages and broadcasts, thus encouraging growth.

Perhaps that’s right – who could know?

There has to be control of what can and cannot be built or left by any individual on land that is not their own.

That, inevitably, sets up councils as the bad guys. They are the controllers.

What’s more puzzling though is the strength of feeling expressed by people determinedly opposed to any unabashed display of faith.

A cross – the Christian symbol of lasting love – should surely not be giving rise to angry insult.

Not in the 21st century, when every possible lesson on the consequences of bitter religious intolerance has been taught so many times over.

Taught but not learned, it would seem.

Now, in a strange – almost mystical – twist to the tale of Peter Nelson’s cross, the faithful gift to his wife has become a point of pilgrimage for people who have loved and lost. Hundreds visit it daily, take comfort from it, want it to stay.

The cross has taken on a power of its own to disturb and upset, inspire and console, provoke and give peace. Much like the original.

So what will be the answer to the questions surrounding this powerful, provocative expression of love?

None that will satisfy everyone, that’s for sure. Nothing logical can be expected.

Because faith and love have no logic. They just are.

Have your say

seen it while aproaching workington on the maryport bus standing on the slag looked perfect for its thing workingtons had for years.

Posted by andrew & george on 23 September 2014 at 11:37

I'm sorry, but I agree it should be taken down. Why not apply to the Council for permission to have a bench with a plaque to remember , like many others do, up & down the Country.

It would be lovely to sit & think with lovely views.

Posted by D on 19 September 2014 at 14:08

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