The meaning of the cross is well understood, and the dove is often regarded as a symbol of the Holy Spirit1. Pentecost was the time when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles2. If Pentecostalism had a central church body, it's quite possible their emblem would include a cross and a dove.
But before trying to define and justify the design of a Pentecostal Cross, we'll flutter away with a some lightweight ornithology.
Why is the dove, and not the pigeon, considered a bird of peace? Sure, 'dove' rhymes with 'love', but aren't doves and pigeons pretty much the same sort of bird? Why do people consider the dove as fluffy and gentle, and shun the pigeon for being a dirty nuisance?
Much has been written in the past about the evils of racism, sexism, and terrorism. Here, we'll take a tongue-in-beak look at avianism.
(And since some of this technical information has been scanned from a Swedish Bird Association magazine, perhaps the term should be Scandinavianism!)
In the Church of Sweden, deacon's wear a lapel pin of a cross overlaid with a dove3. Why a dove?
Well, most people are familiar with the story from Genesis4, where Noah sent a dove to find land. The dove returned, carrying an olive twig in its beak to show that land was close by. What had happened was that God, angered by man's conduct, waged war on mankind by flooding the land and flushing away everyone but a few chosen people and animals. The return of the dove, and the appearance of a rainbow, was God's way of promising never to repeat such a 'war', and to nurture man to live with God and one another in peace.
From this story, we have three 'peace' symbols: the dove, the olive branch, and the rainbow. (For other peace symbols, see Broken Cross and Pax Cross.) The dove takes off again in the Bible to be a symbol of the Holy Spirit1 and as a harmless and gentle creature5.
The dove found dry land because the flood waters were receding, which meant that Noah and his family would be saved. The dove therefore symbolizes salvation, as does the cross. But the distinction between the dove and the cross is that the bird is a symbol of God's love shown in the Old Testament, and the cross is a symbol of God's love shown in the New Testament. Therefore this cross spans the whole Bible.
The photo on the left is a Celtic Dove Cross spotted on a sidewalk in Salinas, California, USA. It shows five doves flying around the cross, and at the lower end, they are upside down, implying they are flying in the opposite hemisphere. The circle, therefore, represents 'all around the world'. And this is the extent of God's love; all encompassing. All nations, all races, young and old, male and female, sinners and sinners. God loves us all.
But returning to our initial question: Why a dove, and not a pigeon? And what's the difference anyway?
Well, there are two differences. The first is spelling; the two words use different letters of the alphabet. And the second - yes, you've guessed it - the second difference is pronunciation6, not to mention that 'dove' is one syllable and 'pigeon' is two. But those are the only differences. Both the dove and the pigeon are of the columbidae bird family. There are over 300 species of columbidae; some include the word 'dove' in their name, and some use the word 'pigeon'. For example: 'Wood Pigeon' (Columba palumbus) and 'Turtle Dove' (Streptopelia turtur).
Ah yes; there's another difference... Doves tend to have a positive image, pure and good. Pigeons are dirty scavengers (unless you're a pigeon fancier of course).
These are labels we have decided to place on the different species, and for no logical reason. That can be called 'avianism'.
Just as we have racism today; we put labels on people according to their nationality, skin colour, height, weight, physical or mental ability, sexual orientation, political or religious belief, education, and so on. For no logical reason.
So take pity on the pigeon. It's not their fault they were born into that species. And they cannot change their species.
Maybe we should be less prejudiced and call the Dove Cross a Columbidae Cross!