Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ugh!

Driving from DC to Ohio, I came across this billboard and was able to grab a quick photo. I'd crop & enlarge it, but I really don't want to.

In case you can't read it, the sign says "HELL IS REAL." Ready to go to church now? 

I don't know what to say. I can't imagine this is a very effective evangelism technique, and wonder who would want to be part of a church that thinks this sign is a good idea. It reminds me of what G.K. Chesterton said "Every heresy has been an effort to narrow the church." Not that the billboard putter-uppers are necessarily heretics, but they do seem a bit on the narrow side, dontcha think?  

It just really hurts my head (& my heart) to see this kind of thing. Jesus' message is not "Hell is real." I'm pretty sure His message has a lot more to do with love and redemption than with condemnation and punishment. Yes, Hell is real - but that's not really the main theme of Christianity. How about a billboard that says "GOD IS LOVE"?

7 comments:

Mark said...

I'm not much for billboard theology in general, but I suppose whoever put this one up felt it was an important message. I would assume they are trying to address those individuals who deny the existence of Hell and by their denial (or perhaps their ignorance) justify immorality. Sort of like a commercial that says "You drink, you drive, you go to jail" - could have been stated as "JAIL IS REAL".

Is this billboard in good taste? Debatable.
Is it effective? I think it absolutely is - it got your attention, didn't it? And here I am continuing the discussion. Isn't that what they wanted?

As far as Jesus' message goes, I agree that His focus is on love and redemption, but all that redemption wouldn't be necessary if sin (and sin's ultimate consequence - Hell) didn't exist. So I don't think it is accurate to say that Jesus did not come to convey (at least in part) that Hell is real. And given that Hell is real, we need a loving Savior - who is Jesus. Yeah, the billboard kinda leaves out that last part...

Mark said...

I just realized we are operating on an assumption that this is a Christian billboard.

Christianity is not the only religion with a concept of Hell, right?

Huh.

Don C said...

I know that sign, and that stretch of the highway.

My first reaction to the sign is that it's being put up not in any objective, rational, instrumental belief that is effective. Rather it is that individual putting it up for God to see that he or she is doing the right thing. It's more about that person's issues than a marketing/rhetorical exercise.

I'm also reminded of George Lakoff's "nutrurant parent"/"strict father" dichotomy of world-views. Clearly the sponsor of the billboard believes that people are most easily and effectively controlled by fear.

I'm not sure I understand Chestetons' comment about heresy. As one who is more likely to be a heretic, my impression is that heresy is an attempt to broaden the church. That labelling one a heretic is narrowing, a demarcating of acceptable belief.

Don

Passante said...

Welcome back to the Middle Ages. That's how they kept 'em in line then. Lasciate ogni speranza.

Phil said...

maybe it was refering to the drive from DC to Ohio ...

The Dan Ward said...

@Phil - I think you nailed it! Holy cow that's a long drive.

@Mark - I think part of my distaste for this kind of thing is linked to my distaste for the use of fear as a motivator in general. I think using fear is bad for the motivator as well as the motivatee, generally speaking. Plus, it seems to be advertising faith as fire insurance, which cheapens it imho.

@Don - I really enjoyed Lakoff's book "Metaphors We Live By.' He's quite a writer. As for Chesterton, as I understand it, his view was that the Church is inherently broad and balanced, with feasts & fasts, celebrations and mourning, etc... and most (all?) heresies arise when a group overemphasizes one aspect of faith and neglects the other aspects. They think they are expanding, but it's really a contraction...

Kimmer said...

I can see why billboards aren't allowed at all in Vermont because they're pretty unsightly, no matter what the message. I kind of feel like I'm being yelled at just looking at the pic.