There’s a new billboard campaign going up around Indianapolis. An atheist organization is stirring more controversy in the Christian community than Rob Bell (and that’s a tall order).
We’re used to Darwin bumper stickers, Discovery Channel specials detailing man’s metamorphosis from primates, even Stephen Hawking’s scientific assertions. But these people threw us a curve ball.
This message is emerging in giant, white letters on major thoroughfares around Indianapolis:
Wide-smiling televangelists and obnoxious prosperity preachers are one thing, but these guys overtly called out the Big Man Himself. You don’t need God? You can’t say that in the American Midwest, can you?
Honestly (and you may “Charlie Sheen” me for this), I’m much less troubled by this 25 x 75 foot antagonistic message than with some of the visceral, fear-filled responses I saw from “my side” of the dialog. There seems to be an assumption that our faith has permanent ownership of the cultural fabric. That Christianity holds an incontestable birthright to the American subconscious. That we don’t have to earn the right to be heard. Is that really the case? Do we even want it to be?
In my experience, I’ve noted the following:
- A culture of Christian values isn’t by definition authentic Christianity. We can embrace a normative set of Judeo-Christian ethics without ever embracing the cross. Without actually becoming followers of Jesus. This terrifies me.
- Christianity has historically spread rapidly through opposition, when it’s forced to enter the arena of ideas. Jesus doesn’t want to be a cultural assumption, He wants to be the One we consciously choose to put in the driver’s seat.
- The reality of the Gospel is irresistible when it’s evident in our lives. What if we lived in such a way that messages like these had no choice but to fall on deaf ears (or blind eyes)?
In the end, the message of this billboard is actually true. You can live a “good life” without God. But noble behavior was never the message of the Gospel. As my favorite apologist Ravi Zacharias always says:
“Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live.”
That’s the message I want on my billboard.
We should lament the anti-God trajectory of our culture, but to assume we’re entitled to it may be equally as dangerous. Instead of demanding ownership of the norm, what if we just proved the power of the Gospel with our “abnormality?”
What do you think?