Monday, April 12, 2010

Highway Billboard Wisdom

If any of you are familiar with the strip of I-24 from Chattanooga to Nashville you probably recognize this billboard or at least have driven by a similar one.

"Life is short. Eternity isn't." -God

My initial thought whenever I pass by is what would the people of think if I put up another billboard stating "Everything returns to Me, the compassionate, the merciful." -Allah.
There's nothing wrong with ad wars, right? I mean if Verizon and AT&T can do it why not religions, they're businesses too. My following thought is that the Godspeaks billboard is so entrenched and accepted as the norm that ANY OTHER public message which carries a contrasting religious tone is considered a threat to the majority faith. How Christians handle the mental gymnastics of "equality" within a highly diverse country while proclaiming any other voices as a threat to themselves, our country, and freedom itself is far beyond me. (Someone please explain to me how this is done. Should I reread 1984 and grasp the mechanics of doublethink first?)

(Note: When I looked up and checked out their billboard section all they had was a link to their 2009 Nascar campaign. Hmm. God can put up a billboard but has trouble managing His website on the internets. Fortunately, I was able to find this photo on an Atheist site.)

For those at home keeping score, churches across our Christian nation are increasingly finding themselves with rows upon rows of empty pews and stacks of dusty collection plates. At first this was blamed on the recession: sadly, like grampa at the nursing home, nobody wants to waste gas driving to visit God every Sunday (anyway, there's a game on tv).

But when the PEW survey came out last spring showing that there is a small but growing shift from organized faith to personal spiritual searching outside the control of the clergy, the religions ramped up their ad campaigns. These campaigns have been around for decades but it seems that they've been growing in the last few years. Scientologists, Atheists, and Muslims (oh, my!) have also jumped on the advertising bandwagon. The billboard on I-24 in particular got me thinking in a manner opposite of its original intent. It was meant to deliver, as Sean Prophet at Black Sun Journal describes as "a thinly-veiled threat of eternal torture and damnation". Thin enough to cause you to think about life after death as you careen down Mount Eagle at 80mph (again if you're familiar with this area you've probably also had a near-death experience coming down the mountain). The quote itself can be read in the spirit of Kohelet, the narrator of Ecclesiastes, and many non-religious folks in the South: everyone dies, there's no life after death, so invite a few friends over and have a party. The Universe was fine before we were born and it will continue after we're gone. It may seem eternal from our perspective, and it may be, but all we have are our 80+ years (if we're lucky) so let's enjoy our little blip and not worry about an afterlife which may not even exist. This is where the religious folk confuse the wisdom of Kohelet with hedonism. Ecclesiastes (along with many of us considering ourselves postmodern, progressive, realists, etc.) does NOT say that we should indulge and give in to our every urge, but to just sit back and simply be. All we want to do is sit out on our porch and just breathe. I'm not threatened by eternity, I stand in awe of it. Shouldn't we be that much more grateful for our microscopic existence and not attempt to annihilate one another over God, politics, and resources?

"Life is short. Breathe it in." -God


Chris Ledgerwood said...

To borrow a term I heard many times in church as a child: Amen, Brother: Amen!!

Don said...

The feeling is still strong within me that we must make peace with ourselves, love others, and enjoy the life we live. It IS what we make it. As a believer in co-creation, I must take responsibility for my own life, and in the process, I can change the world one person at a time.

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