The Cross in the Desert

When the doughboys climbed out of the muddy, rat-infested trenches of World War I after the Germans hoisted surrender flags in 1918, their dreams of going home became something more. A few years earlier, they had sung with gusto about going “Over There,” telling the world, “We won’t come back till it’s over, over there.” The dream that sent them off to fight the “war to end all wars” became the nightmare that left nearly 54,000 young Americans dead and more than 204,000 others wounded.

Some felt a need for a place to regroup physically and emotionally and sought refuge from the reverberating echoes of guns in the quiet wastes of the Mojave Desert, 32 million acres that extend into California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. But they couldn’t blot out the memories of their friends whose remains rested beneath neat rows of white crosses in the far-off fields of Europe.

Finally, in 1934, the Veterans of Foreign Wars decided to pay tribute to the memory of the fallen. They erected a simple white cross atop a large outcropping of rock in the California desert, and for more than 75 years that cross kept a silent vigil as a reminder of those who laid down their lives for freedom.

The U.S. Congress supported the project and officially designated the site a “war memorial.” For years thereafter, the area was a gathering site for Easter sunrise services.

It Only Takes One
The wooden Mojave cross weathered many attacks by vandals over the years before being replaced by one made of sturdy, welded pipes. Now vandals of a more formidable nature threaten it.

By court order, the top of the cross has been covered by a large plywood box, courtesy of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of a lone, retired park employee who feels the cross violates the separation of church and state because, in 1994, the land on which it stands became federal land.

The ACLU located a judge who agreed with the plaintiff and ordered the “offending” symbol removed. A 2004 appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yielded the same result, and the cross was ordered covered until the Supreme Court renders a decision.

Peter Eliasberg, managing attorney for the ACLU of Southern California, said the 9th Circuit Court “said this case is really quite simple. Using a sectarian religious symbol is not permissible on federal land. Sometimes you just have to hit them over the head three, four or five times.”1

The ACLU scoffed at the government’s argument that the site is a war memorial because, in its view, it doesn’t honor veterans of other faiths or those with no faith at all. Furthermore, Eliasberg claimed, “If we want a war memorial on federal land, the government certainly knows how to do that without using a divisive sectarian religious symbol.”2

Define ‘Sectarian Religious Symbol’
The definition of sectarian religious symbol is much more than a casual piece of legal jargon. It represents a deeply antagonistic prejudice toward one faith: Christianity. There are far too many examples of bigoted, secularist militancy to begin rehashing them here. But the egregiousness of this particular expedition into anti-Christian barbarianism deserves a response.

The Mojave Desert cross is an honorable memorial, affixing in the United States a symbol of the thousands of white crosses marking the overseas graves of soldiers who willingly died to save our nation—including the public lands upon which the disputed cross stands. In Belgium’s Flanders Field American Cemetery alone, hundreds of crosses mark the graves of Americans who died in World War I.

This is not an issue of a few radical, politically correct, left-wing judges dispensing a loathsome deci-sion to satisfy one disgruntled citizen’s complaint. At issue is the deliberate desecration of a memorial to those who, for love of country, crossed an ocean to leave their innocence and blood on the battlefields of foreign lands. They were patriots—something often scorned these days. None would have ever believed that some 70 years later, the very courts these Americans died to preserve would be conspiring to make a mockery of their sacrifice.

As the current down-with-God revolution sweeps the Western world, it is important to recognize what’s going on. There is a conspiracy to tear the Judeo-Christian foundations of the republic from beneath our feet. This case is merely one example of the process.

It reminds me of 1966 when France’s president, the sullen Charles de Gaulle, pulled France out of the military branch of NATO and demanded all American soldiers get out of his country. An angry U.S. secretary of state, Dean Rusk, asked de Gaulle, “Does that include the dead Americans in military cemeteries as well?” Thousands of Americans died to liberate France from the Nazis in the second great “war to end all wars.” In fact, nearly 300,000 G.I.s paid the supreme sacrifice, while 671,000 more were wounded.

What’s a Nation to Do?
As the ACLU and its bedfellows campaign (with obvious success) for a country with no discernable religious, spiritual, or moral identity, we can predict with certainty the ultimate outcome.

What about all of the crosses embedded in public lands? Should all of the crosses and Stars of David be chiseled off the headstones at Arlington National Cemetery? Should the long rows of crosses standing as sentinels over the miles of burial grounds in Europe be uprooted and replaced by nondescript markers signifying nothing and crafted to offend no one—particularly the enemies of Jesus Christ?

The truth is, the overwhelming majority of these now-silent patriots were not atheists. So why should their faith be expunged from their memorials in favor of slabs designed not to honor the dead, but rather, not to offend some errant atheist who happens by?

If the courts of America decide that one cross violates the Constitution, then all crosses will be in violation and subject to removal. And so the greatest country ever created will pass into the slums of paganism and abject spiritual deprivation.

This change of heart isn’t restricted to federal property. Think back to when a newly elected President Barack Obama visited Georgetown University in April. In advance of his appearance to speak on the economy, the White House asked the Catholic university to cover its IHS monogram symbolizing the name of Jesus Christ. Julie Green Bataille, associate vice president for communications at Georgetown, told the White House asked the university to “cover all of the Georgetown University signage and symbols.” So the school tried to “fully cover the IHS and cross above the GU seal and it seemed most respectful to have them covered so as not to be seen out of context,” she said.3

To consider the cross and Christ as “out of context” says a great deal about the direction in which some American leaders would like to see the nation turn.

There’s a great rumble abroad today questioning the validity of any Christian voice, particularly that of a serious evangelical. Also suspect are all conservative opponents of the “yes we can” plunge into neo-nihilism. Nihilism (as defined by Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary) is “a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded;…a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths.”

Today feckless politicians claim that, because America is becoming an international dumping ground for millions of immigrants (legal and otherwise), we must now project ourselves as a faceless conglomerate tolerating every form of religion with the exception of the faith upon which the nation was founded. In other words, “any old god will suffice,” so long as it isn’t the One represented by the crosses in Flanders and Arlington. This is a cop-out that is beyond obscene.

But reality can neither be scorned nor wished away. Believers number in the millions in America and the Western democracies. And though the silence of many is lamentable, there is a stirring in the land that holds the key to change—genuine change that can be positive and, contrary to the opposition, truly progressive. Some suggestions:

  • Pray. Prayer will always be a force the anti-God legions cannot control. Scripture calls us to pray for our land and leaders, whether or not they acknowledge its worth. The fervent prayers of righteous people have brought nations to their knees.
  • Understand the times from a biblical perspective. Such discernment can be an irrepressible source of encouragement. We are headed in a direction plotted by God, and we are not forgotten.
  • Remember that you’re not alone. The vast majority of Americans are not on the down-with-America bandwagon, even though few have spoken up. The merchants of repression who want to deny us our sacred freedoms are in for a surprise that will come either through voices at the grassroots level or at God’s hand when the cup of His long-suffering is filled.
  • Share the gospel. Karl Marx coined a phrase adopted by the supreme communist, Vladimir Lenin: “Religion…is the opium of the people.” Both were mistaken. Their brand of atheism produced a vodka-soaked empire of disillusionment and failure. The antidote is not to refine their system, take another run at it, and end up making the same mistakes. No, it is the gospel and its liberating message that make men and women truly free. The gospel promises, “The truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32); and the effect of that message created the Western world of democracy and free, God-fearing people.

For decades I have sat in churches listening to members of The Gideons International tell how the Bibles distributed by that organization of Christian businessmen have changed lives. By the thousands, they testify of people whose lives have been transformed simply through absorbing the gospel message transmitted through the pages of the sacred text. It’s what we know as the “new birth” through life in Christ. It’s real and available, not through a government hand-out program but from the hand of the One who is the Bread of Life.

At this writing, the matter of whether the Mojave Desert cross will go or stay is in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court. The likelihood is that a decision will be handed down asserting the cross is no longer a symbol of faith, but rather, a secularized representation of what the country once revered. Such an opinion may defuse the need to divest public structures and cemeteries of offending associations with the past, but it will not halt the radical minority’s festival of hatred of the God who made us what we became as a nation.

Neither will it emasculate the true message of those crosses: that what was transacted at Calvary for you and me will never lose its power.

  1. Kimberly Edds, “Cross in Mojave Desert Preserve Barred,” June 9, 2004 <>.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Edwin Mora, “Georgetown says it covered over the name of Jesus to comply with White House request,” April 15, 2009 <>.

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