Brandon Maxwell was all over the rainbow flag emoji that Facebook that rolled out as a reaction option during June, which was Pride Month.
“I used it nonstop,” said Maxwell, pastor of worship and spiritual formation at Park Avenue Baptist Church in Atlanta and dean of students at Columbia Theological Seminary. “I used the pride emoji on everything.”
The rainbow-colored Pride Flag has come to symbolize the LGBTQ community and its movement for equality.
But there were some who weren’t so enthusiastic about the colorful image that briefly took its place next to the standard reaction possibilities of Like, Love, HaHa, Wow, Sad and Angry.
That group consisted of conservative Christians who, chagrined by the nod to the LGBTQ community, wanted Facebook to give them their very own emoji — a Christian cross.
One of them was evangelist and Internet personality Joshua Feuerstein, who shared another member’s image on Facebook demanding an emoji featuring a white cross surrounded by a red circle.
Feuerstein’s post generated at least 28,000 likes, 2,400 comments and more than 9,500 shares.
One commenter vented against the presence of the Pride Flag emoji, saying, “Lucifer and the LGBT community are perverting any form of God they can find. … It’s all perversion.”
But many of the comments were opposed to the idea of a cross emoji — mostly that it doesn’t make sense as an anti-LGBTQ image.
“I thought the cross was a symbol of justification, salvation, restoration, love and companionship in Christ, not heterosexualism,” one commenter said.
Either way, Facebook told Huffington Post in June that a cross emoji is not something it is preparing.
Others were disturbed that the cross is being used as a political tool.
“As a follower of Jesus, my deepest understanding of the cross is that it stands as a daily, persistent invitation to resist empire and confront destructive and dehumanizing structures with my very body even to the point of death,” said Maria Swearingen, senior co-pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
“Any time followers of Jesus instead use it to proclaim, ‘I’m a Christian, hear me roar,’ we’ve cheapened its meaning and its impact on our witness in the world,” she said in an email to Baptist News Global.
“The cross isn’t a button or trinket. It’s an ever-present reminder to us that the powers and principalities are violent, brutal, and unforgiving, and we as Christians are called to resist such brutality no matter the cost.”
Maxwell said the dustup between conservative Christians and Facebook, and even the liberal responders to it, is another sign of the times.
“We’re in a world, and in a culture, that values this reactive mode, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram,” he said.
“I thought it was silly, actually,” he said of the social media debate that resulted.
But Maxwell did agree that it made little sense for conservative Christians to seek a cross emoji to counter the Pride Flag emoji.
“It’s silly to think that those things have to be juxtaposed, because there are some LGBT people who use the Pride emoji who would use the cross as well,” he said.