Friday, October 28, 2005

A chronology of faith & opposition

The apostle Paul once wrote that there are spiritual battles taking place in unseen realms around us. Once in awhile, if we pay close attention, we can discern certain physical locations that appear to be regional centers of spiritual disturbance.

One of these, we believe, is Mount Davidson, at 938 ft. the highest point overlooking San Francisco.
At a website simply entitled, "A History of Mt. Davidson," a chronology is posted of the development of the mountain, the park and the cross. It also features a long MIDI sound clip of "White Bird" with no off switch. We like the song, but you may want to have your volume control handy.

Originally named Blue Mountain by the man who did the official survey of the peak in 1852, George Davidson, it was given his name when he died in 1911.
In 1923 the first cross was erected on the mountain.

In years to follow thousands of people would come up to the cross on the mountain for Easter sunrise services. The land around the cross would have its ownership transferred from private to public ownership. In fact, in 1932 six acres were donated to the City of San Francisco so that a cross and sunrise services could be maintained at that location in perpetuity.

Thus begins a tale of the steadfast faith of a people who supported the cross, and a tiny but growing minority who did not. Several times the cross was burned by arsonists. It would be rebuilt, once as high as 103 ft.

The mountain and its cross were popular. In 1934 Franklin D. Roosevelt, remotely by telegraph, switched on newly installed lights one week before Easter as 50,000 people gathered there.

In 1941 another seven acres were added to the park by the City of San Francisco, and 75,000 people gathered for sunrise services. More acreage was added in 1950 bringing the park to 38 acres.
In 1955 the cross is lighted year 'round. That would continue until the energy crisis made it politically unpopular. In 1976 the lights were turned off, except at Easter.

But if Satan did not want to see the lit cross advertise itself in the night sky, he must have been apoplectic when the next year the Easter sunrise services began to get live TV coverage. In fact, in 1979 the CBS TV network did a nationwide broadcast of the services. (It's difficult to believe, in today's faith adverse environment, that TV networks routinely had special programs during major religious holidays.)

In 1987 a drive began to have the cross lighting restored fulltime, and to have the peak transformed into a "holy mountain of prayer" in time for Pope John Paul II's scheduled visit to the city. This was apparently more than the Prince of Darkness could stand, and in the chronology we read that by 1989, the San Francisco City Council rejects both the cross lighting and the "holy mountain" proposals, the San Francisco Chronicle actively editorials against the site, and the city puts and end to efforts to designate the mountain as a historical site.

The group Americans United for Separation of Church and State gets actively involved in calling for removal of the cross and activities associated with it.
Fourteen years ago the ACLU, the American Jewish Congress and the church-state separatists go to court, suing the City of San Francisco for ownership of the cross. An incredibly odd legal strategy given that none of the groups were what could be called "friends" of the cross. This strategy proved futile as a year later Judge John Vukasin rules for the City of San Francisco. The ruling holds that while the cross is a religious symbol, it also served as a secular landmark of historic value to city residents.

But down the coast the battle has expanded. A federal appeals court rules against the City of San Diego's public display of crosses, saying they violate the "no preference clause" of the California constitution. This puts the heat back on San Francisco as an appeal is granted to the 1992 decision. Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to get involved. Meanwhile Mount Davidson neighborhoods organize the "Friends of Mt. Davidson Conservancy" to preserve the cross during a proposed transfer from public to private ownership, and to prevent commercial development of the land.

A victory comes in 1997 when the San Francisco Landmarks Board ruled the cross monument and park as historically significant.
Finally the cross and the land directly beneath it are auctioned to a group friendly to the conservancy, and the city council of San Francisco signs an agreement that allows the cross to be maintained in perpetuity. Of course, that could mean next to nothing if the anti-God zealots wish to keep pursuing court actions.

What struck us when reviewing the chronology is how the cross had such widespread acceptance in its early days, yet how over time the attacks against it grew and evolved. At first there were physical attacks, but when the faith of the people proved greater each time than the damage that was caused, the nature of the attacks changed to public relations and lawsuits. The story of the Mount Davidson cross mirrors the attack on Christianity nationwide.

What caused us to find the site were the reports this week of strange pulsating lights over Mount Davidson. We were curious as to what was there that might explain why phenomena is occurring. Now that we know more about the background story, our best guess is that the lights are signs that the spiritual warfare, centered on this cross, is being waged in unseen realms.

You are free, of course, to differ in your interpetation. We merely offer our take for your discernment. We would not be surprised, however, if the lights portend a dramatic moment in the near term for this area of the world.


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