For years I was uncomfortable with traditional Christian reverence for the cross. I recently realized that there's an alternative symbolism for the cross that, for me, has a much greater ring of truth to it.
Reverence for the Cross
In some Christian traditions (including the Episcopal Church, to which I belong), worship services begin and end with processions led by a large cross. As the procession moves up the aisle, it's customary for people in the pews to bow as the cross passes them.
I've always been uncomfortable with this and other reverence for the cross. It puts too much emphasis on Paul's views concerning Jesus's death by crucifixion as an atoning sacrifice. His views are not without problems.
Another "Crucial" Symbolism: Extreme Faithfulness
There's another way to look at the cross. Jesus preached a powerful faith in God. He didn't just preach it, he lived it. He kept the faith and obeyed what it demanded of him, even at the cost of his life. Jesus was faithful to God, even unto death. In the parlance of the MTV generation, this was "extreme faithfulness."
Symbols can mean different things to different people. Certainly, the cross can symbolize the faith of Jesus. That's a symbolism I can embrace. Now, when the cross passes in procession, I can bow without qualm.