In his wonderful book, Being the Body, Charles Colson, a revered leader among evangelicals, and a Southern Baptist, says this:
“The sign of the cross is a good example. After praying with an Orthodox sister, Irina Ratushinskaya…I said my “Amen” and then watched her make the sign of the cross with such depth of feeling that I had a powerful urge to make the sign myself. I resisted–for fear it might be a betrayal of my Baptist tradition. How foolish I felt when I later discovered that believers since the very beginning and through the centuries have made the sign of the cross, signifying that they have been crucified with Christ.”
I HIGHLY recommend this book to Catholics and Protestants. It was one of the books that led me to convert to Catholicism.
My father-in-law makes the Sign of the Cross when he prays, and he’s Assemblies of God-moved-to-United Methodist.
In my novel, the Sign of the Cross is a turning point for the Protestant protagonist.
I think what a lot of Protestants, including Baptists and other evangelical Protestants, object to is when Catholics and others make the Sign of the Cross flippantly, as many movie stars and sports stars do, and sadly, as many regular Catholics do when we are not thinking seriously about our faith. How many of us enter our pew at Mass with a quick flippity-flip hand movement that can barely be distinguished as the Sign of the Cross? How many of us do it strictly out of habit, without even thinking about the significance of this visible profession of our faith in Jesus?
Evangelicals (including Baptists) despise “lukewarmness” and “lack of committment” and “carnality” in themselves and of course, in others. Christianity needs to be deep and meaningful, not just a “habit.” When Evangelicals see Christianity “institutionalized” and not taken seriously, they’re turned away.
Notice in Colson’s comments, above, that he distinctly mentioned the sisters “depth of feeling.”
Admittedly, often Evangelicals are incorrect in their assessment of someone’s soul. They judge by appearance–they see a person just sitting and praying with no facial expression, no uplifted hands, no tears, and not even closing their eyes, and the Evangelical makes an assumption that the person is not really praying. But of course that’s not true.
OTOH, Catholics do the same kind of judging of their brothers and sisters. They see someone who is not kneeling, or receiving Communion in the hand instead of the tongue, or wearing a Bears t-shirt to Mass instead of a suit and tie, and they assume that this Catholic is a "modernist’ and therefore not a “good Catholic.”
So we need to be careful about condemning others for things that we ourselves are guilty of!
However, I do feel that the Evangelicals have a good point about the Sign of the Cross. I think it is good to make it carefully and thoughtfully. We shouldn’t just toss it around like hand jive.