My church posted the sign that’s pictured with this column out by the entrance to our facility. Twice now, someone has taken it down. It’s not the first time we’ve had a sign vandalized or stolen. The first time happened several years ago when we had a “Torture is wrong” sign in the same spot. More recently, after putting up a sign that says “Honor God, say no to anti-Muslim bigotry” we needed to re-post the sign after someone unsuccessfully tried to tear it down.
So, my question becomes, what is it that is so offensive to someone that they expend the energy to take our signs or attempt to dismantle them?
Really, is “torture is wrong” an un-Christlike stance for a church to take when the one we claim to follow was tortured and executed? I don’t think so.
Is speaking out against the scapegoating of our Muslim neighbors and friends inconsistent with the commandment to “love our neighbors as ourselves”? No!
When we acknowledge the damage racism has caused our country, when we hear and listen to the stories of black America, I believe it is Christ-like to affirm the value and validity and the importance of their lives. Black Lives do Matter, and saying so acknowledges that we have a history in which they haven’t.
Of course, I’m making an assumption that saying Black Lives Matter is the offending statement on the sign that prompted its removal. And I’m assuming whoever took it didn’t take it in order to re-post it in their own front yard. But, hey, that could have happened.
However, maybe I’m wrong, maybe the offending message was one of the other lines such as, “women’s rights are human rights”. Surely not. Surely recognizing women’s unequal pay, unequal treatment, and unequal voice is not offensive.
Of course with the DACA announcement this week and the months of deportation activity, maybe the message “no human is illegal” is the problem. But, how could that be? After all, as Christians, don’t we recognize all people as children of God? That’s a far cry from suggesting that a human being is “illegal”.
On the other hand, Christians and scientists have a history of butting heads. So, maybe the problem is recognizing “Science is real”. But, again, how could that be? It’s science that enables us to produce new drugs to combat an assortment of illnesses. It’s science that is investigating the potential of stem-cell treatments for numerous maladies. It’s science that developed vaccines for things like polio, tetanus, among many other life threatening diseases. Christians love science because Christians love healing stories. We have numerous examples of Jesus’ healing ministry. So, I know “science is real” can’t be the issue with the sign.
And I know “love is love” is not the problem, especially when I consider Jesus’ message to “love our enemies.” Love is the baseline ethic for following Christ.
Last, but not least, I can’t imagine that “kindness is everything” is the offensive line. After all, our scriptures say, “Be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.”
As I write this, I shake my head. But, we’ll put up another sign because we believe the messages are consistent with following Christ. And we’ll keep putting up the sign as many times as it takes.
More than that however, we will continue to try and keep living the messages. We won’t be perfect, but we are committed to living our faith. And we’ll keep trying to live it for as many days as we have to live on this earth.
Rev. Mary Wilson is pastor of Church of the Savior in Cedar Park, which is affiliated with The United Church of Christ, American Baptist Churches - USA and The Alliance of Baptists.