A caller to my morning radio talk show last week criticized me for stating my Christian beliefs on the air.

“By what right,” she demanded, “do you fill the airwaves with your religious beliefs?”

I told her it was my radio show and if she didn’t like it she could call me, as she had done; tune to another station; or go get her own radio show.

Then she began to discuss mono-theism vs. what she called Christian tri-theism, and how some author had just written a great book that brought those thoughts together very clearly in her mind. She asked if I had read it?

I replied that I had not, but I had a great book for her that would answer her questions about “tri-theism” if she would take time to read it.

She literally screamed, “You don’t mean the Bible, do you? I’m not going there!” Then she hung up.

All of which brings me to some observations on the growing anti-Christian movement.

First, I note the near-sacred separation of church and state has now become the separation of any public figure (me) from his religion. And I’m just a bit player in a relatively small radio market. “By what right…” she demanded. Then she didn’t want to hear about the First Amendment because to her, there is no such right if it offends her.

Second, her mind was closed. I didn’t really understand the name of the book she was touting and didn’t get a chance to inquire further. When she realized I was going to suggest she read the Bible it was like a deputy sheriff had shined his spotlight on two kids making out on lover’s lane. Break it off, get out of there!

All this on last Thursday’s show. A bit later I had a call from a listener who’d noted that the large lighted cross that has always stood atop Asheville’s St. Joseph’s Hospital had been taken down. Established 100 years or so ago by Catholic nuns from the Order of the Sisters of Mercy, St. Joseph’s was purchased by the non-profit Memorial Mission Hospital in the 1990’s. The agreement read that St. Joseph’s was to keep its Catholic identity for at least five years after the acquisition.

Well, five years have come and gone and I was concerned that the change marked the beginning of the removal of religions icons from the St. Joseph’s campus. I called the Mission PR department, left word, and received a call back stating the cross was simply down for repair. I asked when it might be returned to its position high atop the 10-story building and ran into “the attitude” copped by some PR people when they really don’t want to go any further.

“We’re not a Christian hospital,” the PR lady said. “Some people won’t like that but it’s true. There are some issues and problems with putting the cross back up.”

I told her that the only problem I foresaw for the hospital was with me and my listeners if they didn’t put it back up, and do so rapidly. My rough estimate is that 96 percent of the community would support a movement to force the hospital to resurrect the cross, so to speak.

I also asked to see the battered old cross so as to better understand the problem. She arranged for me to do that on the roof of the building the very next day.

The St. Joseph’s cross is 15′ tall and proportionally wide. It is built on a rugged but rusted steel frame with flat anodized white aluminum panels forming the rectangular structure. Neon tubing provides perimeter lighting that is quite attractive when seen from the street.

The cross is in a sad state. Several segments of the tubes are broken, the hinge and base support are rusted and two of the five guy wires that hold it against the wind had broken due to excessive corrosion.

Faced with this, I was considering how to exercise my right of free speech to either pressure management to make the repairs or to raise money for the task from listeners. But just then the maintenance worker who had taken it down said he had already ordered new cables for it; that a neon light company was working on the tubing; and a buddy of his was going to come over with a torch to help straighten the pipe that triangulates the cross and braces its back when it is stood upright.

The PR lady looked annoyed. While she was busy declaring the hospital had been taken over by pagans and barbarians, a kind and gentle Christian craftsman had already set about making things right again.

I didn’t catch his name. But he assured me it will be finished, in place and lighted in time for Christmas.

God bless him. Maybe this Christmas season that lighted cross on a hospital built and dedicated to Christ’s service, will serve as a symbol of spiritual hope for the hurt people who go there every day.

Merry Christmas

Bill Fishburne