They’re provocative. I’ll grant them that much.
But as each year brings new billboards sponsored by various atheist organizations protesting (I think) belief in Christ, my response has dimmed from grimace to yawn. “You know it isn’t real,” read last year’s campaign. This year’s fresh new take? “You know it’s a myth.”
Some of my most visceral reactions have nothing to do with faith. As an editor, I groan over their usage of the word myth; they apparently stumble over its primary meaning on their way to some vague notion of what they think it means. And I find a campaign that appeals to some mysterious ur-knowledge or gut instinct and then follows with the instruction “celebrate reason” to be a bit insincere. And, as a Christian, it’s hard not to be insulted by a slogan designed to make you feel idiotic for believing in God. Even a neutral observer will agree that, in the words of Stephen Colbert, “there are much worse things to believe in.”
I see the contra billboards popping up, too—often right next door. “You know it’s real,” they’ll say. At first, they made me cheer inwardly. “Yeah, stupid atheists,” I’d think. “Take that!”
But now I want to say: Don’t tell me it’s real. Show me. Take the price of all that time, effort, righteous indignation, and billboard space and hand out a few warm blankets to the gentlemen who spend Christmas Eve under the highway. Drop off some goodies at the local food pantry. Wrap a few gifts for the giving tree at church.
I believe in Jesus, and I’m grateful for that belief. But I can’t blame those who suggest that maybe Christianity isn’t real. For all the good it has done, there is still a world of suffering out there.
This year, let’s let them win the billboard war. We have more important campaigns to wage.
Image courtesy of Simon Howden.