I was driving down the road in Asheville with my wife the other day. We drove past a billboard that said, “One Nation Under God.” That was all it said. To be honest I didn’t think much of it. But my wife explained the significance to me.
It seems that a group of non-Christians has bought 5 or 6 billboards that say, “One nation, indivisible…” Obviously an affront to the “under God” portion of the pledge of allegiance.
First of all…I’m not saying I agree with these folks that “under God” should be removed. But stick with me. There’s something wrong here.
A local church has decided that it is important for them to raise a ton of money to post these competing billboards that say “One Nation under God…”
What I’m saying is this…
That’s all we have to say right now?
When I learned what this billboard was actually about it made my blood boil. I cannot understand what some people spend their money on. Maybe I missed something. Maybe I didn’t understand a subtle nuance of the Greek language in which the Bible actually says, “I was sick and you comforted me. I was in prison and you visited me. Someone posted a billboard you disagreed with and you raised money to put up an opposing billboard.” Or did I miss something when Jesus said that the world would know that we are his and that he is from the father if we love one another? Did he also include something about making sure we have a stake in bathroom stall graffiti fights via billboard?
This local church’s representatives have stated that there is nothing more important that making sure that this nation remains a Christian nation. I can’t say if that makes me more sad or angry. Right now there are falsely accused people in prison. There is an oil spill in the Gulf. There is a war. There is a global water shortage. There are people right here in our own back yard who live well below the poverty line. There are people who need to know that God loves them. I cannot understand how these things take a back seat to the fact that a group of people took out six billboards that state that we ought to not say “under God” in our pledge of allegiance.
God is not an American. We are to render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and render unto God what belongs to God. I think that America is a great country. I like living here. I have no plans to defect. But how do nationalism and political issues factor into our faith as Christians?
I like this country. But I am not called to build this country. We are called to build a kingdom. Perhaps it is important to remember that the country was founded on Christian ideals. But if we want the world around us to understand that we have some Good News to offer, then I don’t think that billboard fights are the way to do it. I don’t think that raising an ungodly amount of money in order to post a billboard contradicting another billboard will convince anyone that God is real, God loves us, and we should love each other.
I suppose I am writing this to beg my fellow Christians. Please…please, please, please. Can we stop this bickering? Can we stop the graffiti fights? Can we please set aside the passive aggressive warring and start loving our neighbor? Paul said that we should live our lives so that it is like a billboard. So that people running past us can see that it is a life that has been touched by a God who is Love. We are called to *be* the billboard. Not to purchase the billboard with money that could be used to build God’s kingdom here and now.
I want to leave this with a quote from Donald Miller in his book, “Searching for God Knows What.” He says, “I met a guy not long ago who was very conservative and had opinions all over him, and he was saying why God agreed with his political ideas and why that made his political ideas right…and I was feeling like this guy with the opinions was presenting a kind of Jesus who didn’t even exist. His Jesus was just an invention of his imagination, someone who more or less justified his position concerning a lot of different political opinions. Sitting there listening to him made me feel tired. People like that should have an island.”
I was tempted to stay out of this argument altogether. I almost didn’t want to comment on this debate because it is so juvenile. It is so obviously a graffiti war. But I want my friends who live in this area to know that these folks do not represent Christianity. I don’t deny that they are Christians, but they do not represent what Christianity is all about.
So, to my friends at this church I say this. Please stop. Reconsider. Please take this passion and direct it towards loving your neighbor instead of proving them wrong. And to my friends outside of the Church I say this. Please don’t judge us based on what some well intentioned, but misguided people are doing in the name of Christ.
Please. Let’s stop denouncing and start discussing. I love you. Let’s talk.