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Religious billboards scare motorists
By Crystal Ray

"'If I were drunk or stoned that would scare the {expletive deleted} out of me.'"

Driving across interstate I-40 on the Little Rock river bridge, my husband Paul scans the road in front of him. He looks out at the broad freeway, the scramble of cars, the billboards that scream their important announcements. One black and white billboard strikes his attention, like it has several people's, and he turns to me and says, "Damn, if I were drunk or stoned that would scare the {expletive deleted} out of me."

Without even asking, I knew to which billboard he referred. On my lone drives, I had struggled with how to "take" this sign before. Covered in a rich black paint, the sign's only words are in white. They read, "We need to talk." Then at the bottom right hand corner of the sign there is a small dash, followed by the letters, "GOD."

Perhaps if I had not been raised within the strict bounds of the Church of Christ, I could take these words, this suggestion, and whatever good intentions that lie hidden, infested beneath the pricey paint to heart. However, because of the fact that I was raised in a strict church that asked me not to question its rules and methods, I now must question. Because I believed so whole-heartedly without knowing the why or the how the words came to be, I now must question the why and how of these words.

"I guess the purchaser of the sign gave up on miracles and lives touched by God, willing to revert to a strange form of mass media to display the 'word of God.'"

First of all, who bought this billboard? Surely the purchaser of these words did not pay thousands of dollars with the intentions of passing this advertisement off as a direct message from God. Yet there is no signature or label or afterthought which tells me to visit a particular church. Perhaps it would be more effective for me if they had. Instead, advertisers leave it blank, suggesting that God called the sign company up, suggested a motif and design while instructing painters on how to curve the symbols so as to display the proper message. No more personal visits within the deep sleep of prospective prophets or heretics - too much work for the 90's God. No more possessing the tongues of some church-goers with a funny unrecognizable speech for the preacher to interpret for the mass - too much work for the 90's God. I guess the purchaser of the sign gave up on miracles and lives touched by God, willing to revert to a strange form of mass media to display the "word of God."

And if this is just another attempt to use the media to pass along the word of God, should 90's readers of this sign be surprised? It's not as if we don't see churches frequently taking use of the media to pass along their church's propaganda and ideas. Certainly we aren't unfamiliar with the drama and recent commercialization of churches. Churches pop up daily and they must make money - look at the huge, elaborate, well-designed structures that plague the sides of freeways and highly traveled areas. But this sign advertises no church; it advertises a message from God.

And it's not the alone in its kind - they are everywhere. "We need to talk" and "What part of 'thou shall not' did you not understand?" are just a couple that I have seen within the central Arkansas area - all topped off with God's name at the bottom. Does not signing God's name at the bottom of a billboard qualify for some kind of mortal sin? It seems like it should. They don't even include a "God said," or "found in such and such verse." Just "God." It may just be me. I am kind of fickle and strange, but I would feel kind of eery if I were the one who signed God's name. Can you imagine writing a letter to someone, loaded with tons of paraphrased scriptures or hints at things that you may believe in, and not signing it with your name, but God's? If it was me, I would just sit back and wait for the lightning bolt.

"I will give the billboard this - it is distracting. It distracts us from God, pointing instead toward man's creations and man's intentions."

But it's not me. Instead, I am just one of the many travelers across the United States who must decide how to take this sign. I could read it as a benevolent, good-intended message from some unknown, but caring organization. The black paint, the cold white words, the messages that assume I have done wrong lead me to react otherwise. I just can't buy the idea that God chooses to speak to me through a costly, man-made billboard sign. I prefer to believe that God speaks to me in the beautiful forest that lays behind my house, through my two beautiful sons, through the loving husband he has allowed me to have and via the life he lets me live each day. I prefer to believe that God speaks to each of us through the beauty that he provides in our lives, as God helps us through our daily struggles. Not an expensive, horrifying, scary billboard.

I will give the billboard this - it is distracting. It distracts us from God, pointing instead toward man's creations and man's intentions.

But . . . maybe it will knock some drunk @#%less, causing them to sober up a little before they plow into the car next to them.

 

 

 

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