The Archbishop of Canterbury has launched a scathing attack on people who wear the Holy Cross as a fashion accessory, saying it has been reduced to little more than a 'piece of jewellery' by society.
The Most Revd Justin Welby has accused designers of trivialising the symbol without understanding its true meaning, saying the symbol of the Crucifix has lost its capacity to 'shock and challenge'.
The Archbishop expressed his concerns in his Lent book, Looking Through the Cross, which will be published in February.
He claimed that as a result of the trend, wearing the cross was a fashion statement that bore no religious significance. In the foreward he wrote: "For those early Christians it was a badge of shame. Today it is more commonly seen as a symbol of beauty to hang around your neck. As a friend of mine used to say, you might as well hang a tiny golden gallows or an electric chair around your neck."
Church of England General Synod member and commentator on religious affairs Alison Ruoff told Premier's Des Busteed on the News Hour why she agrees with the Archbishop, but also criticised the way in which some Anglican bishops wear the symbol.
In the foreward, Archbishop Justin also asks if we are now living with a symbol emptied of power by time and fashion, and asks Christians to reflect what a cross-shaped church means in a very non-cross-shaped culture.
He wrote: "Christianity with a powerless cross is Christianity without a throne for Christ or an aspiration for Christians. A cross that has no weight is not worth carrying. "For God to be fully human, and then to die an ignominious death reserved for a criminal, seems so extraordinary and pointless as to be inexplicable.
"Indeed in the early centuries of Christianity many of the accusations against the Church started with the assumption that you could not seriously believe in a God who undertook such a terrible and dishonourable death."
Despite the Archbishop's prostestations, Christian jewellery designer Norma Jean Murrain told Premier's News Hour why she thinks he's got it wrong.
His comments follow a decision earlier this year by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which ruled that a British Airways employee suffered discrimination at work after BA made her stop wearing her white gold cross visibly. The court said BA had not struck a fair balance between Nadia Eweida's religious beliefs and the company's wish to "project a certain corporate image".
The ECHR said Ms Eweida's rights had been violated under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.