I recently saw news of yet another atheist billboard popping up in a major US city, this time Charlotte, NC.
If you missed this one, you can see a picture here. The billboard (with a sister ad which criticizes Mormonism, thereby attacking the faith of both the Republican and the Democratic presidential candidates) describes Christianity briefly: "Sadistic God; Useless Savior; 30,000 + Versions of 'Truth'; Promotes Hate, Calls it 'Love'."
Oh, and there's a picture of a piece of toast with Jesus' face on it.
I'm still not sure what the point of an advertisement like this is. It seems like there are only two things it might accomplish: 1) make Christians angry, or 2) make atheists feel smug and superior to their Christian neighbors. What I don't expect this billboard to accomplish is spur an intelligent and charitable debate about the place of religion in American politics, as seems to be the idea. If there's one thing our political system certainly does not need, it's more vitriol, more mudslinging--no matter how morally or intellectually superior to the opposition you may feel.
The only good that I think might come out of this latest childish display in the atheist billboard-attack on the religions of the world is for Christians to respond by putting up absolutely no billboards of their own. This is our opportunity to exercise turning the other cheek.
You see, I could make a billboard in response. It might say something about atheists lacking any meaningful basis for living an ethical life, or about how hopeless materialism is as a philosophy. Or maybe it might just say that all atheists are ugly booger-faces. (Underneath it could read: "Didn't my billboard make a good point?")
Maybe some Christians will start putting up such billboards--maybe they already have, and it's just not in the news, and I haven't heard about it.
Well, please don't.
Don't join the billboard wars. Let American Atheists (the actual organization sponsoring this and other ads) have a monopoly on the aggressive, simplistic, somewhat confusing (I'm still don't know what "Useless Savior" is supposed to mean--someone help me out here), and offensive billboards. As a follower of Jesus, I don't want any part of it. Frankly, it's too hateful and intellectually dishonest for me. And it's too alluring an opportunity to be sarcastic or just plain unkind.
Instead, let's use our resources--I could do a lot of good with the $15,000 this billboard cost for one month--and our energy to find aggressive and public ways to love the people who are so disgusted by us. Or not so public ways. Jesus' ministry doesn't exactly scream 'billboard' to me. Let's just love them, and bless them. It won't often make the news, but that's okay. It's what the life of faith looks like.
"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." - Luke 6:27-28