Is That a Cross on the Podium?

Is there a cross subtly embedded in the speakers' lectern at the Republican convention? When liberal talk radio host Ellen Rattner first starting complaining about this I thought she must be hallucinating. Then I looked at the picture on the front page of the New York Times yesterday. Sure enough, the light-grained wood makes a clear cross on the speakers podium. "It is a cross. It's an embedded cross," Rattner said. "You can't miss it." She said she didn't notice it until a friend of hers who was raised evangelical pointed it out. She suspects, therefore, that it was one of those symbols designed to be missed by all except evangelicals.

The problem, of course, is that any two lines intersecting form a cross, so if you look for them, you can find crosses many places.

A very popular 9/11 icon is a photo taken of two World Trade Center steel girders mangled into the shape of a a perfect cross. Christian merchandizers sell images of this by the thousands. So I suppose if Christians believe that is a genuine spiritual sign, it's harder for them to say the podium is just a coincidence.

"How Can We Shoot Liberals?"

The campaign set up a Grand Old Marketplace stocked with Republican paraphernalia stores. Convention brochures described it as the place for "Official Convention Souvenier Shopping."

I have to say, the Republican button peddlers had a much better and funnier variety than those at the Democratic Convention, which just offered stodgy Kerry-Edwards buttons.

But I was also amazed at how mean some of them were. Among the buttons I picked up the mini-mall there were:

"Beauty and the Beast" featuring a picture of Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton.

"If They Take Our Guns How Can We Shoot Liberals?"

"The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" with photos of Bush, Kerry and Hillary.

"Hollywood Acts...Like They're Un-American."

Right near the "Christians for Bush" button was one that made me do a double take. It appears to be an elephant mounting the backside of a donkey. "Keep Bush on Top." Surely this isn't what I think it is.

Well, here it is so you can decide for yourself:


The Righteous Rule

By the way, the most common religion buttons were:

"Christians for Bush" (No buttons for other religions)

"When the righteous rule, the people rejoice. Prov. 29:2" (Photo of Bush, head bowed)

"One Man, One Woman. Just as God Intended. Bush Cheney 2004"

Zell Miller's Faith

Several hours before watching Zell Miller's keynote speech I went to a screening of a movie called "George W. Bush: Faith in the White House." It is going to be sent to most churches in America. The narrative in a nutshell: Bush was raised in a religious home (but not too religious because that would ruin the story), became a louse and a drunk, found faith, became a strong leader and a better person. They had actors re-enacting key spiritual moment like Bush's conversation with Billy Graham--and, in great detail, the time he rebuffed a campaign worker who wanted to have an affair with him.

A few hours later Zell Miller yelled these words:

"I can identify with someone who has lived that line in 'Amazing Grace,' 'Was blind, but now I see,' and I like the fact that he's the same man on Saturday night that he is on Sunday morning."

It tracked nicely the official line on Bush's faith journey, which stresses not just his faith but his transformation. I was somewhat surprised that the film placed so much emphasis on his marital fidelity. With that fresh in my brain, I heard Miller's "Sunday morning" line as a subtle attempt to remind people of Clinton.

His other interesting religion line: "I am moved by the…fact that he is unashamed of his belief that God is not indifferent to America."

This was interesting on two levels. It appealed to the sense among many evangelicals that they are mocked and persecuted for their beliefs. George W. Bush has been unafraid to let it all hang out.