Christians have a credibility problem and the vandalization of banners hung along Main Street downtown to promote an educational event and campaign by Metroplex Atheists is a case in point. Believers have been flooding the city with phone calls to complain about the banners’ “In NO God We Trust” message, apparently forgetting that the First Amendment guarantees everyone – yes, even atheists – free speech and freedom of (or from) religion.
Just days after the 66 bright yellow pennants appeared, at least six were destroyed, according to atheist blogger Hermant Mehta. A man posted a photo of two ripped banners online, along with a message that everyone should “just love one another.” He deleted the post but not before Metroplex Atheists, which assumed that the man was the person who had vandalized the signs, captured a screenshot and notified police, Mehta wrote.
The defaced banners were quickly replaced because Metroplex Atheists had predicted what Christians would do and thus had extras made. Christians were in such a snit over the banners that the city issued a statement last week explaining that the signs had met the necessary criteria for a permit. Though Mayor Betsy Price said she was “appalled” by the banners’ message, she tweeted that freedom of speech must be respected and that “many Americans have fought and died for the freedoms we cherish today.”
Too many mainstream and evangelical Christians seem to feel that they are the only ones who have rights and that only their views matter. The term “evangelical Christian” has become synonymous with right-wing fundamentalist Republicans who have embraced an ideology that does not represent Christ-like love. During legislative sessions across the country this year, lawmakers fitting that description did their best to roll back rights for women and gays, using religion – the lawmakers’ – as a sword and shield. If Christians would do a better job of looking inward, they might see why church attendance is steadily dropping, particularly among the young.
Per city rules, the Metroplex Atheists’ banners will be gone five days after Sunday’s event at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. The controversy will be quickly forgotten, but the damage caused to Christianity by Christians themselves will have a far more lasting effect.