Ten years ago I left the area to travel and live else where in this fine country. Among the many places I was able to experience, the sweet South was one of them. I cherished my time there and am always proud to say how much I enjoyed the Southern experience.
While there I was able to observe a contrast in the way faith and religion was expressed compared to my New England community.
People in the South were proud of their Christian roots and not afraid to share it. One way in particular was the messages that would read on the billboards posted on sprawling highways or in the beautiful manicured lawns of churches along country roads. Some were simple. Some were sweet. Some were just fire and brimstone. The latter always seemed to leave a bad taste in my mouth.
Why were some people getting it so wrong? Why were scary and sometimes hateful messages being posted as opposed to those that would reflect what Christians proclaim as the love of God and Jesus? I don’t know about you but reading a sign that makes me feel judged, or worse, hints that I am going to hell, is not a way to make me want to walk in your church doors on Sunday morning.
Since leaving the South and moving back home, I have seen far less of these types of fire and brimstone messages on church lawns. That is why I have to say I was saddened to see one of such poor taste on my daily commute yesterday. The church sign reads “Exposure to the Son Prevents Burning”.
Now, I am one for freedom of speech and freedom of religion but I encourage church leaders to consider: Is this helping your cause? Is this proclaiming God’s love? If the message is supposed to be taken seriously, is your intent to bring the fear of being sent to hell your purpose? Or, if the message is intended to be light and possibly funny (even worse in my opinion), whose needs are being served? Do we think that God likes us joking about people going to hell?
I am not saying that people and churches cannot have their beliefs and proclaim them publicly. I am just asking those who chose this message to ask themselves “Is this working?”
As a wanderer from the Christian faith as well as a seeker of God, I can speak for myself as well as many that I know who are simply just turned off by these approaches. It seems so cliche and so not within the realm of Christ’s love and message.
If the idea is to either make people feel badly or scare them in to coming to church for fear of going to hell, then, by all means, continue with that message.
I applaud your boldness.
I just think you may have missed the true Message (capital M).