HERE'S THE DREAM: 3,000 Christians marching from the Oregon Convention Center, across the Willamette River and into Pioneer Courthouse Square, carrying 1,000 12-foot-tall crosses, emulating the (purported) torture, demise, and resurrection of one "Jesus Christ." Well, hold onto that dream—because an event of that magnitude is going to take a while.
However, if you're downtown this Saturday, April 19, you'll see a much smaller, scaled-down version of true believers marching along the river with heavy wooden crosses on their shoulders—at least that's the plan for the Jesus Experiment Cross Walk.
Co-founders Scott Stuart, a burly mustachioed guy, and Bill Perkins, a leaner ministerial type, are a curious blend of blunt and charm. They've been planning a massive cross-carrying march through the streets of Portland since 2012. For the inaugural Cross Walk, they've decided against taking over Pioneer Courthouse Square (it cost $7,500 a day, including fences, security, setup, toilets, police escorts), and they know they'll be falling short of the thousands of walkers they originally envisioned.
"We've got about 35 people signed up, so it's about 12 teams," says Stuart, owner of Christian Ministries Insurance (yes, there is such a thing—more on that in our sidebar below). "Our expectation is, if we can get 50 teams this year... boy, we'll be really happy!"
"We go from the convention center, along the Eastside Esplanade, cross the Steel Bridge, travel along Tom McCall Waterfront, and return to the convention center—so there are no traffic issues whatsoever," Perkins says.
Three-person teams will carry the crosses, and members are encouraged to switch off when necessary. Since different teams will travel at different paces, "passing" is acceptable—but sorry, there are no prizes.
"If participants are young athletic types, that's no big deal," Perkins says. "But if they're older, we'll have lighter crosses available."
The crosses come in two sizes: 2x6 and the significantly lighter 2x4 variety.
"The person in the front carries most of the weight," says Stuart, who's already taken a cross for a test run. "You've got to keep switching shoulders—you're talking 30 to 35 pounds right here on your shoulders—so it's like walking with a three-year-old for a mile and a half. You get tired!"
"It's a heavy cross," Stuart laughs, "2x6 construction, about 45 pounds. We want it to be that way. The point is, it's not what the cross looks like, or how heavy it is, as much as the physical walking, carrying it, identifying with what Christ went through. And this is a message for Portland. Young people are especially drawn here. Why? They're trying to find themselves, and the Cross Walk message is, 'You will never be set free unless you lose yourself at the foot of the cross.'"
"What Scott means," Perkins counters, "for him, carrying the cross is a way of lifting Christ up in a way that would prick someone's thoughts, to connect with Christ themselves. We're carrying a symbol. We haven't been basically skinned alive, almost beaten to death. We won't be nailed to a cross and left to die. For us, it's remembering, contemplating, and feeling it. Placing God and His will above our own desires. Sacrifice. It's about denying self and selfishness."
Obviously if participants are looking for a "fun time," this particular walk might not be right for them.
"Many people believe Easter is about a bunny," Perkins says. "It's a time for children to have fun—and it is that—my kids loved searching for eggs and candy. But Easter is about the resurrection of Christ, and for the resurrection to happen, there had to be a crucifixion."
If this event sounds like a cross you're willing to bear, simply register yourself and two "spotters" online at jecrosswalk.com. Entries are being accepted up to the time of the event.
"The idea is for the individuals to be able to focus on Christ, and follow in his footsteps," Perkins says. "We're not making a political statement, and this is not some sort of evangelistic effort. This is a personal spiritual experience, to carry a cross in a public setting, to quietly meditate on Christ. And, because it's a silent walk, we don't want people who are carrying a cross to engage in talk. Just focus on what Christ did: He kept his mouth shut."
Yeah... What Is "Christian Insurance"?
According to his website (cmirisk.com), Scott Stuart's Christian Ministries Insurance provides "coverages [sic] specifically designed to protect the Bride of Christ while encouraging his clients with relative ministry opportunities," according to the website. CMI is insuring the Jesus Experiment Cross Walk for a million dollars. "Standard liability," says Stuart, for parading around Portland these days with your cross out.
"My mission statement is," Stuart says, "'Protecting the Bride...' well, no. Excuse me. It's, uh... that's terrible. It's 'Keeping...' It's, 'Protecting the Bride, keeping your... keeping the enemy's target off your ministry's back.'"
"You've got the Evil One over here," he says. "Satan."
"[Satan's] got a gun-scope on your church. He's going to do everything he can to destroy that which he doesn't like. It's good and evil. So, my job is to protect that ministry against events that could go wrong, and it's on an annual basis, so it's no different than if you buy a homeowner policy."