Why is the dove, and not the pigeon, considered a bird of peace? Aren't doves and pigeons pretty much the same sort of bird?
Why is the dove seen as fluffy and gentle, whilst the pigeon is seen as a dirty nuisance?
also known as the Peace Cross or Olive Cross
The meaning of the Cross is well understood, and the dove is often regarded as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost was the time when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles. If Pentecostalism had a central Church body, it's quite likely 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 some lightweight ornithology.
Dove, superimposed on a Sun Cross
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?
(Or since much of this technical information has been scanned from a Swedish Bird Association magazine, perhaps the term should be Scandinavianism.)
Well, you'll be familiar with the story from Genesis 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, flooded the land and flushed away everyone but a few chosen people and animals. The return of the dove, and the appearance of a rainbow, showed that land was close by, the rain had stopped, and a sign that God was giving us another chance to live with Him and one another in peace.
From this story, we have three 'peace' symbols: the dove, the olive branch, and the rainbow. The dove takes off again in the Bible to be a symbol of the Holy Spirit and as a harmless and gentle creature.
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 the Dove 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 in a circle around the cross. The circle represents the world and you'll see at the lower end, the doves are upside down, implying they are flying in the opposite hemisphere. And this is the extent of God's love; all encompassing. All nations, all races, young and old, sinners and sinners. God loves us all.
Here's a clever logo made from two white doves on a red cross, used by Tokushukai, a general hospital group in Japan. The red line separating the two doves represents the line on a cardiac monitor.
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 and the second - yes, you've guessed it - the second difference is pronunciation, 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, 'Turtle Dove' (Streptopelia turtur) and 'Wood Pigeon' (Columba palumbus).
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. )
God's love is all encompassing. All nations, all races, young and old, male and female, sinners all. And God wants our love to be similarly all encompassing.
The dove also appears in several emblems, including:
- Anglican Church of Burundi (ACB)
- Armenian Catholic Church (ACC)
- Church of the Lord (Aladura) Worldwide (CLAW)
- Church of the Province of Rwanda (CPR)
- French Calvinist Protestants (FCP)
- Indian Orthodox Church (IOC)
- Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC)
- National Missionary Baptist Convention of America (NMBCA)
- The Old Apostolic Christian Church (OACC)
- Presbyterian Church of Nigeria (PCoN)
- Protestant Church in Netherlands (PCitN)
- Syro-Malankara Catholic Church (SMCC)
- United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP)
- Uniting Church in Australia (UCA)
- United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA)
- Wesleyan Church (WC)
The Apostolic Catholic Church (ACC) based in Philippines also has a dove in its emblem. They gained notoriety when its founder canonized his mother, believing her to be the reincarnation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The ACC has been labeled a cult by the Roman Catholic Church in Philippines, and others.
Messenger of love, hope and peace: Gen. 8:11-17
Harmless and gentle : Matt. 10:16
See also the Columba Cross