This is the script of this morning’s Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Winston Churchill is famous for many things and renowned for his way with words. It is a little ironic, then, that what I always associate him with is a brick wall.

If you go around the back of his house at Chartwell in Kent, there is a walled garden. One wall was built entirely by him as he tried to cope with the black dog, his deep depression. The first time I saw this wall I wondered: why a wall?

Well, it struck me eventually that if you are building a wall in solitude – and remember there would have been silence rather than the ubiquitous noise and talk and music we carry around with us today – you have to stop thinking about other things, focus on one point, and pay attention to detail. It slows you down, narrows the focus for a time, shuts out the distractions that can debilitate a fragile mind. You have to look and stare and coordinate hand with eye and material stuff.

Silence and paying attention to one thing.

Around the world today, Good Friday, Christians will contemplate the events and meaning of the day when Jesus, having celebrated a final meal with his friends – a meal, ironically, heralding liberation – is brought to trial before an imperial governor. It is clear where power lies in such an encounter. Yet, Jesus remains silent in the face of questioning and, subsequently, goes to his execution.

Betrayed, denied and deserted by his close friends, he suffers in silence. Today many Christians will sit in front of a wooden cross and, in unhurried silence, look at the wood, recall the events of the first Good Friday, and let their imagination run while the questions are fed by the mystery of meaning.

But, this is no idle staring at some material idol. Rather, it is the quiet space in which we refuse to fill the gaps with noise or words, decline to run away from the agonising reality of human suffering, resist the powerful urge to avoid the pain. Contemplation of the cross is no empty escapism; in fact, it is the opposite.

The Welsh poet RS Thomas, in his poem The Letter, writes: “I gaze myself into accepting that to pray true is to say nothing.” This is the same poet who once wrote: “History showed us / He was too big to be nailed to the wall of a stone chapel, yet still we crammed him between the boards of a black book.”

Today’s gazing and silence creates a unique space in which, coloured by the story in the gospel books, I can face the realities of a fragile world, own the undeserved suffering of too many people, and refuse to give in to easy answers.

Oh dear. Sometimes you get the feeling that a big row is unnecessary, that everyone wishes they could wind the clock back or just get out of it. The wearing of crosses in England is one of those matters. For some it is a non-issue, for others it is a matter of simple common sense, for others still it is the thin end of a very dangerous wedge.

Media reporting doesn’t help. Just as a nuanced comment about gay relationships (aspiring to the ‘virtues of marriage’ – got that?) leads to headlines proclaiming that the new Dean of St Paul’s ‘backs campaign for gay marriage’, so another game is set up to create/prove/illustrate (delete as appropriate) division between archbishops. What if there is no contradiction between their positions and this is just ‘story creation’?

The Archbishop of York rightly says that the wearing of jewellery is not a matter for government judgement. If the government wants to get involved in questions of what people wear, then I await with interest their rulings on the abolition of the burqa and the prohibition for Sikhs wearing their kirpan. This argument about someone wearing a small cross has got completely out of proportion: if jewellery is to be banned on a BA uniform, then all jewellery (including BA badges, presumably) should be banned – the ruling being based on the potential dangers in an emergency of loose or sharp jewellery. However, if it is the nature of the jewellery – in this case a cross – then that is a different matter and the argument should be one of principle about religious symbols. That this current argument has gone as far as European courts is ridiculous as it appears to most people to be a matter of simple common sense.

According to the Daily Telegraph the Archbishop of Canterbury said in Rome that “the cross had been stripped of its meaning as part of a tendency to manufacture religion. Taking as his text the account of Jesus driving the money changers from the temple in Jerusalem, he said the temple had become a ‘religion factory’ rather than a place of worship”:

I believe that during Lent one of the things we all have to face is to look at ourselves and ask how far we are involved in the religion factory… And the cross itself has become a religious decoration.

Er… isn’t that true? Is anyone seriously going to argue that the cross has become for vast numbers of people simply a piece of jewellery – a decoration devoid of any religious significance – or a sort of religious totem (or lucky charm) that substitutes for substantive faith or commitment?

The point is that both archbishops are telling the truth about the wearing of crosses. They are simply not engaged in the same argument. (It’s a bit like me saying the sky is blue, my mate saying it is covered in a layer of ozone, and the commentator saying we are bitterly divided.) Any contradiction – and they are both grown-ups, so they can differ if they wish to – is, in this instance spurious. The fact that some people are ‘angered’ by the archbishop’s comments is irrelevant: someone is always angered by whatever an archbishop says and we have all been told by journalists that we are ‘furious’, ‘angry’, ‘upset’ when all we have done is differed from a view. You’d think that all archbishops do is spend their day working out how to upset people by making outrageously sensible statements.

However, I still think it ridiculous that any government – especially a religiously illiterate one – should try to decide on questions about the wearing of a cross on clothing. This simply feeds suspicions of conspiracies against Christians. So far BA has never asked me to remove my pectoral cross when flying – and my pectoral cross is a good deal bigger than any little piece of jewellery.