Co-opting the Crucifix

Is it a religious symbol – or fashion statement?

The Crucifix, once only a religious symbol, has been turned into a fashion statement, devaluing the meaning and important value behind the Crucifix. 

Origins of the Crucifix

The Crucifix is an image of Jesus on the Cross, as distinct from a bare Cross. The representation of Jesus, himself, on the Cross is referred to as His death and Resurrection. Therefore, most practising Christians wear the symbol religiously to commemorate Jesus. However, some do not as they may not practice regularly or believe that there are other ways that they can express their faith rather than through clothing or accessories. Others do not wear the Crucifix in fear of offending the Christian community. 

Although Cross necklaces have been around since the Roman Empire was Christianised, Crucifixes have become popular as fashion statements more recently. For instance, pop-star Madonna has been influencing fashion ever since she performed at the very first MTV Music Video Awards (1984) clothed in a white wedding dress, decorated with many rosaries and Cross jewellery while singing about virginity. Some may argue that Madonna has been aggravating the Catholic Church, normalising the rosary- a string of beads for keeping count in prayer with an image of the Virgin Mary followed by the Crucifix attached in a pendant style- a provocative fashion adornment. 

Who is the Crucifix Suitable for?

Some may claim that only those who are believers of the Christian faith or have some faith in a higher power should wear the Crucifix. Otherwise, the Crucifix becomes ‘meaningless’. For believers, the Crucifix represents the death and Resurrection of Christ. The salvation that Jesus brought upon the world. Therefore, for believers, wearing the symbol can make them feel closer to God and offer a sense of protection in their daily lives, providing strength and acting as a reminder of their faith and the teachings of Jesus. The symbol may also have prominent significance in countries where Catholicism, or Christianity in general, is ingrained into society and the way of life- such as in many Hispanic, French and Eastern European cultures. However, to a non-believer, this sense of security and protection is absent. The symbol thus becomes nothing more but what it physically is; a metal necklace that happens to be in the shape of the Cross. It becomes a trend rather than a lifestyle!

Further Symbols

In the same way, the Star of David (or a symbol belonging to any other religion) can, and has, been used as a fashion statement rather than for its religious meaning. It strips away the beliefs, history and significance behind the symbol. In a way, using the symbols as a mere fashion statement strips them of the respect they deserve.

The same can be argued for images of Saints, such as the Virgin Mary, embellished, painted or printed on clothing. One shouldn’t just purchase a dress with Saints on it just because Dolce and Gabbana have deemed it as the next big trend. It is necessary that one is aware and understands what the Saint represents.  What if you do not agree with what the Saint was preaching or what they signify? What is the point of expressing their views if you’re not aware of them? It all comes down to ignorance. As long as you are aware of what you are representing and understand the connotations of the images or symbols, wearing them respectfully, then one should be allowed to wear them. The problem is when people are ignorant of the meaning behind what they are presenting for the world to see. 

Be Unique!

Fashion and jewellery are all about personal expression. Why wear a Crucifix if it does not express your individuality? Surely conflates who you are with what you wear? We should be mindful to not fall victim to the trend of copying what others wear if we do not believe in the meaning behind the symbols… Fashion has the ability to highlight our values, beliefs and ethics.  So, if an atheist wears a Crucifix as a fashion statement, they are surely being self-contradictory. 

Although no one should stop you wearing what you feel comfortable in, individuals should be aware of what they are representing when they decide to wear a religious symbol, if they, themselves, do not identify with that religion. This is because these religious symbols do play a very important role in people’s lives and should not be mistreated in fashion or self-expression. Some may even see it offensive to see how such strong religious symbols can be taken so lightly. 

Religious seekers

However, some people are seeking their own religious meaning. Although Madonna’s use of religious symbols may be seen as offensive, it is representative of her own religious journey and discovering what she, herself, believes in. Despite being raised Catholic, Madonna describes herself as a ‘religious seeker’; she does not conform to any particular religion. Therefore, her religious accessories have a greater significance to her than it may seem at first sight. One may say that through singing about virginity and wearing the Crucifix, Madonna is coming to terms with her own beliefs and how she chooses to use and represent religious symbols in her own life, giving the symbol personal meaning. 

Everyone is entitled to their own spiritual journey and thus should be allowed to express their religiosity. Since we all have our own, personal relationship with God, even if that means no relationship, we should not judge others for their beliefs or use of symbols unless it harms others. Having said that, religious symbols do need to be treated respectfully, not used blindly!

Religious Symbol or Fashion Statement?

Overall, the Crucifix remains a religious symbol. However, not everyone wears it as one and it seems that the Crucifix is vastly used as a fashion statement in today’s society. Even those who see the Crucifix as having greater significance and meaning to them, use the symbol as a fashion statement. This may be a statement that brings comfort, safety and security as well as being fashionable. Others may find their religiosity, or lack of it, through wearing the Crucifix. Everyone has their own personal relationship with God, even if that means no relationship with God! As long as the symbol itself is not misrepresented than it should not matter if one is religious or not when wearing it. 

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