A Starkville resident told One News Now, a Christian-focused “news” site, that he disagreed with his town’s reversal of an earlier decision to refuse a permit for a gay pride parade. So when they decided to allow the event, he went to Lamar with $200 and an order to post a Bible verse on one of its billboards.
The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.
“They parade their sin….” See what he did there?
I’m glad the company rejected the ad.
Some of you might be surprised to hear that, since you probably already know I’m a Christian. But even a message made up of a verse from the Bible can be sent in a way that seems far too unchristian.
Let me try to explain that with a story about a really good burger.
On a recent day off, I had a craving fo a burger at a certain restaurant near me. They call it the “Killer Beehive” because stacked on the burger is a ridiculously-tall tower of onion rings. I’m not generally a fan of food constructed in a manner that requires you to disassemble it before you can eat. But I just had a craving for that burger.
So I went to the restaurant and managed to land a park right at the front. As I turned off the ignition and reached for the door handle, I glanced at the front door of the restaurant and noticed a handwritten message on a piece of notebook paper:
“Sorry for any inconvenience. But today we are CA$H ONLY.”
Adding the dollar sign in the word cash was a nice touch.
But it didn’t help me.
You see, this is 2018, and I rarely carry a lot of cash; that’s why God made debit cards. I didn’t have enough cash to pay for a meal. So I drove somewhere else were a debit card wasn’t a deal-breaker.
There are two ways to look at this.
First, I can be grateful to them for posting the message on the front door so I could tell, without stepping foot inside, that this was not the place fo me on this day.
It might have been more of an inconvenience to get out, walk in, stand in line to order, and only then be told that they couldn’t serve me because of whatever technical problem they were having with their credit card machine.
They saved me, with the message, from wasting any time at lunch.
But there’s a second way to look at it, too. Before I ever even had the chance to step inside, they made it clear that they didn’t serve “my kind,” those who don’t walk around with cash for every purchase. Some of us don’t have a lot of free time and don’t necessarily trust ATMs now that card skimmers have become a growing problem that puts your private data at risk.
If I were a first-me customer who was met with that sign, I’d have never even seen the inside or interacted with the staff. I’d have no impression of what’s on the menu unless I’d Googled it beforehand. I wouldn’t know whether the restaurant is one I’d definitely want to visit again since they essentially told me not to bother coming in. (They didn’t mean it that way, I know, but that’s still the message communicated.)
When I read about the billboard story, I couldn’t help but think about that note on the restaurant door. And it made me wonder how many times Christians come front and center with messages that exclude rather than messages that love.
If the person ordering the billboard was doing so, in his own mind, to help homosexuals to “get on the right path,” he surely could have sent a message from a different angle, one that gives the assumed LGBT visitors to the area a positive message of why living a life with God (something he obviously thinks gay people can’t be doing) is better than living a life outside of God’s will.
If this person, like many other Christians, assumes that those who are Christian can’t be gay, his message seems to be targeting only those who aren’t fellow Christians. Presumably, at least for some Christians, someone who isn’t a Christian probably has very little experience in fellowship with Christians. So if this billboard happens to be among the first interaction, what kind of message does it send?
What are non-Christians supposed to think about the prospects of joining (or at least trying to attend a church service or two to get to know what Christianity is all about)?
Does anyone really think being met with that kind of treatment is going to make them associate with the kind of people who’d deliver it?
I’ve written before about an exchange between a pastor I know and a woman who expressed interest in joining his church. But she introduced herself as a lesbian who had a partner and wanted to know if they would be welcome to attend.
If the pastor had behaved in line with the person who wanted that billboard posted for all to see, his answer to the woman would have been very different: he might instead have told her, “No, I’m sorry. We can’t allow that. We can’t help you because you’re different from us. You’re far too sinful to be associated with us perfect people.”
But that’s not how he answered her question. Instead, he told her they’d be perfectly welcome to attend. He said as a pastor, his job wasn’t to “turn her straight” but instead to help her build a conversation with God. As that happens, he said, God might well start working in her own heart and mind about that relationship. On the other hand, he said, there might be a thousand things in her life God wants to reveal to her before ever going there.
In other words, he welcomed her to come in and experience God, thereby opening the door for God to work in her life however He would.
There have been cases as well of Christians from different churches setting up booths at gay pride events just so they can offer hugs to those marching. The LGBT community is constantly being beaten down by the Christian community — the same community that follows a God who said loving their neighbors was part of the greatest commandment. When Jesus Christ said that, as far as the Bible tells us, He said nothing about loving only your heterosexual neighbors.
That kind of billboard wouldn’t have been about ministering to people; it would have bullied them. It wouldn’t have been reaching out in a loving way to people assumed to not know God’s Word; it would have been lashing out in a temper tantrum.
That doesn’t attract people to God’s Word or those who follow Him.
Patrick is a Christian with more than 26 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.