Sunday, July 23, 2006

Thoughts on messages given

Sign saying: There are are no dead atheists



I am in upstate New York for a family wedding that took place on Saturday. While here I have had occcasion to drive past the church sign shown above a few times. It keeps me puzzled.

The first time I drove by it I was trying to figure out what it meant. The first meaning that came to my mind was that it was claiming that atheism causes immortality, a claim that I would not expect an atheist to make any more than I would expect a community Bible church to make.

Eventually I came upon a second possible meaning: that when any person dies they immediately meet God and know that God exists, and if they were atheists before dying they are atheists no longer. Perhaps this is what the writer had in mind. Of course, there is no way to test the truth of the statement on this side of the grave.

But that leads me to my next set of questions. Who was the intended audience for this sign, and what does it say to them?

Perhaps the intended audience is those who believe in God. What they would hear is a message that validates their own faith while putting down the opinions of those who might disagree. I guess it is comforting to many people to hear someone say things with which they already agree.

But if the intended audience is those who do not believe in God, what would they hear? I am afraid that what they would hear is a form of discourse that starts from a position of disrespect, offers no substantiating evidence or rationale, and does nothing to begin a discussion of why it might make sense to believe in God. Sloganeering does not seem to me to be an effective way of getting into a genuine, respectful conversation.

I hope that there is a better way of bearing witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ.

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2 comments:

W. said...

I think someone was trying to be clever.

I've noticed in recent years that there seems to be something of a competition among pastors to see who can tack up the most eye-catching thing on their church signs.

There was one recently at one of those Methodist churches up on Freeport Road. It said, "body piercing saved my soul" (or something to that effect).

I got a kick out of it.

Stewart said...

I saw that sign about body piercing, but I don't remember where.

I liked it because it challenged the judgmental way some Christians respond to piercings; at the same time it communicated to people with piercings that there might be some common ground.