One Saturday morning several years ago, the daughter of my neighbor came to me with the news that the youth director at the church she was attending had told the students that all symbols came from the devil. Now, I must admit to finding this somewhat amusing as the church has used symbols from it’s very inception. The sign to the left was one of the first, and a sign that one believed in the carpenter’s ministry when those who believed were in danger of being killed at any moment. Besides having used the analogy of being “fishers of men”, apparently the letters spelling fish also were the first letters for Jesus Christ, son of God.
Symbols have been used to communicate human to human before there were alphabets. They are as much a part of human history as anything associated with civilization. To be sure, symbols are like any other tool we have ever developed from the hammer to nuclear science, and can be used for light or dark purpose. The symbols on the right are common to witchcraft, a path with a high, light side, and a deeply dark side. The presumption that the use of symbols immediately implies only darkened use would be crippling to communication, to say the least.
In fact, we use symbols, or icons, on a daily basis when we use computers, or check the weather, or drive down the street. Communication that can be instantaneous with symbols would be slowed painfully without them. So, how do I see symbols? I see them as a wonderful type of shorthand that lets each of us tell others who we are, or where to turn with as little wasted energy as possible.
I am a believer in God, but I am also one who believes that God doesn’t need defending. I have seen many signs and symbols that indicate that compassion is at the root of understanding and interacting in a way that will bring peace all over the globe. I don’t believe in making my path demand that others follow it to reach God. I truly believe God, in the person of the Holy Spirit has reached out to all human kind, and that the principle of compassion that shows up throughout history, in all the major faiths, and many not considered major, is the sign that God is there, amidst all the children of the world, no matter their age.