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Saturday, January 29, 2011

My First Sign

Just to kind of get started here, I took this from the Grundy County Historical Society website, in what is presumably Grundy County, Tennessee.  For most of my future church signs, I'll be using either photos submitted by readers, or photos taken by me.

I just Googled "Church Signs" and this is one of the ones that caught my attention, and I'd like to dwell on it for a couple of different reasons.  First, though, I'd like to point out that in the heart of the Bible Belt, the same rules don't seem to apply.  I don't want to make this a Red vs. Blue (no, not that kind... a Red vs. Blue) thing, but it's pretty clear the moral and political conservatism is at its strongest in this region of the country.  Where I live, in rural Florida, things aren't terribly different.  But my intention is to get people to think about their language as a pathway to their ideologies, and so yes, wonderful people of Tennessee (and the rest of the Bible Belt), we're going to take a look at this.

So, when I see a church sign, I often pretend to be a non-Christian; either someone who has never been introduced to Christianity, or someone who has been jaded and disenchanted by Christianity.  If I were the latter, my initial reaction would have been, "Oh great, more war hawk Christianity propaganda."  I bring this up because this might be my first rule of church signs: consider your intended audience.  If your intended audience is people who have the exact same ideologies as you, then congratulations, you've made your job much easier.  But, assuming you find this statement to be crucial to the overall message of your church, if you're looking for the "lost", and you put up this somewhat bold political statement, you're probably not going to attract anything but some hate.  I'm not saying the message is good or bad at this point.  I'm simply suggesting that if you want to form a brute squad or team, this is a good way to alienate people, perhaps to be on the other team.

But what about the message of the sign?  Well, to me, and this is just my humble opinion, there's nothing inherently bad about the sign EXCEPT that it's a dangerous game to start talking about political freedom in the same breath as we talk about our freedom in Christ.  It's no doubt that we are free, as a nation, because of the sacrifices of brave men and women throughout history, and not just our military (as I hear my mother's voice in my head) but also those civilians who made stands against injustice even within our borders.  People like Martin Luther King Jr., Gerrit Smith, Lucretia Mott, Rosa Parks, and many, many, many others, fought through various means to uphold freedom.  All of those men and women in the Revolutionary War fought so that we might have a better life, free from a government that had no part with us, yet still sought to govern us.  And hundreds of thousands of men and women have given their lives over the course of the last 225 years to protect that freedom.  And in those lives, we can clearly see bravery.

But when are the churches going to praise peace?  And when are they going to talk about the spiritual freedom we ALL have in Christ (not just Americans, but all Christians).  And so my beef with the sign has nothing to do with a lack of patriotism (I'll admit that I'm not the greatest patriot), but instead a desire to see the Church be unified across political borders, and that the Church would understand that there's a freedom that can't be taken away by the Nazis or the Commies or the people at MSNBC or Fox News or the current presidential Administration.  There's a freedom that outlives all of that.  And it doesn't mean we do nothing about our political beliefs.  It means that we have proper priority, where our spiritual lives, being healthy, live into our political lives, and give us power instead of fear.

So, if you'd like to take something away from this, be careful, when mixing politics and faith, to mix in proper proportion, and again, know your intended audience.

1 comment:

  1. One other bit about the "because of the brave" portion of that sign. When I see this on a church sign I think it implies that the writer (or church) sees our military as an extension of God's might. If this were said explicitly I would probably start to literally distance myself from that person or organization, but the more subtle implication is worse in a lot of ways. Among other things, I think it cheapens the sacrifice of non-Christians who just as bravely serve their country in the name of the freedom that they share, including freedom to be something other than Christian without fear of repercussions. By all means thank our veterans at every opportunity. But be sure that you are thanking all of them, and not just the ones who share your religious or political views.