Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cowardly Church Signs

This afternoon as I was driving home in my neighborhood I saw a church sign that had been freshly changed. I'm used to this particular church co-opting whatever message happens to be popular in our city at the time. For the longest time now it's been: "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." I'm all for recycling, but this seems pretty desperate. "Please like me, PLEASE???"

I wish we could get rid of church signs altogether, or at least simply have our service information available and not feel like we have to preach to the people that don't want to come and hear us preach on Sunday. Why can't churches find the balance between saying nothing and is cowardly (i.e. as seen above), and saying WAY too much and is inappropriate ("Where will you be spending eternity? Smoking or non-smoking?)

The church's latest message, no doubt in response to Terry Jones' media perpetuated sham in threatening to burn the Quran, is "One God, Many Faiths". And this sign made me wonder, at what point did this particular church simply stop believing anything, or to say it inversely, when did they start believing in nothing?

The statement "One God, Many Faiths" ignores the obvious and apparent contradictions between what these "many faiths" believe and proclaim. It's tough to get around and I've never heard anyone do it in a way that doesn't insult basic human intelligence. Can all of these faiths be describing or seeking to describe the same God? Is there a difference between resurrection and reincarnation? Is suffering really an illusion, or is suffering the real pain that Christ experienced on the cross? Does Jesus show us who God is? Or is he simply a prophet? Can we with any kind of integrity or intellect make a statement like, "One God, Many Faiths" when there are a limitless number of contradictions?

To me it's more than embarrassing to make a statement like this, it seems intentionally and intellectually dishonest and intended to give an aura of enlightenment or tolerance of some kind by essentially making the statement that "we believe in everything!" In fact, I think if you believe in everything, you really believe in nothing. Let's see you get that one by a freshmen philosophy class :)

Frequent push-back to any kind of exclusive claim is, "It's arrogant to claim your perception of God, or your scriptures' perception is the only way." But isn't it just as arrogant to claim that everyone's perception of God is right? After all, both are exclusive claims in the sense that you're both purporting to view reality accurately, right?

So there really IS no difference between the two in regard to believing you have an objective view of reality. One individual absolutely believes ALL ways are right, another simply believes ONE way is right. Both a claim that they are right, and other people are wrong. If you want to call that arrogant...okay. The big difference between the two approaches is that at least if you claim ONE way (whether that is Islam, Judaism, or Jesus) you're not being intellectually dishonest or making claims that are logically impossible (i.e. the "many faiths" approach).

Or perhaps, maybe they are honestly choosing to believe that in light of the complexity of the world, there is no possibility for anyone to know anything true about God? But if that is the case, haven't they ceased to be "the church"? Why not just hang it up?

Honestly, I think the church may simply have a desire to be liked and accepted in society (a priority they put above truth or making any absolute claims), even if that means saying a bunch of nothing on their church signs that people would just as likely see on Oprah or on Sesame Street. To me that smacks of desperation and lacks any sense of mission, unless the mission is a bait-and-switch where people come in and hear what the church "really thinks." But I doubt that is the case.