Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lost on the causeway?

Christian sin

Glenn Branch was speaking in Sacramento last night, so I made a pilgrimage up to the state capital. I took some notes and will probably be able to find time to post a report later this week. (Unwritten exams are currently demanding my attention.) While I was in the vicinity, I drove across the Yolo causeway to check out the vandalized billboard near I-80's westbound lanes.

I was too late. It has been miraculously healed. Or, at least, a kind of blue Band-Aid has been stuck on top of the anti-atheist graffiti. The blue was not a perfect match for the original billboard, but close enough for motorists zipping down 80 at 70. The billboard is one of ten scattered about the capital region by the Sacramento affiliate of the United Coalition of Reason.

I am guessing, of course, but I imagine the vandalism was carried out by one of California's many irate Christians, someone who is affronted by the existence of people who don't agree with him. (I'm guessing about the “him,” too; most of the female Christians would probably consider it unladylike to clamber up a billboard.) The vandal was also stupid enough to use black paint against a deep blue background, apparently not noticing why the original lettering was in white.

I wonder why this person thought he was honoring his god by committing a sin. Vandalism is covered by the seventh commandment*—“Thou shalt not steal”—because destroying or damaging something that belongs to someone else is akin to taking it from him. It's nice of him to be willing to risk hell for the greater glory of God.

Still, things may not be working out as he hoped. When I drove down I-80 and saw that the billboard had been repaired, I cried out, “It's a sign!”

*No quibbling, please, about the numbering of the commandments. They aren't numbered in the Bible and Catholics disagree with most Protestants about how they should be designated. I am, after all, a Catholic atheist. And, unlike the commandments' right-wing idolators, I can actually recite them. So there! (Oops! Sin of pride!)


Anonymous said...

"*No quibbling, please, about the numbering of the commandments. They aren't numbered in the Bible and Catholics disagree with most Protestants about how they should be designated. I am, after all, a Catholic atheist. And, unlike the commandments' right-wing idolators, I can actually recite them. So there! (Oops! Sin of pride!)"

Hmmm. Isn't idolatry the difference between the numbering schemes? I seem to recall that one version buries the "no graven image" as part of another commandment. And, as I recall, with reason.

Zeno said...

Most Protestants treat the last two Catholic commandments as one: "Thou shalt not covet." The version favored by Catholics (and Lutherans) has two anti-coveting commandments: "9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife" and "10. Thou shalt not covert thy neighbor's goods." (I actually don't see a good reason to have those separated.)

To make up for having only one anti-coveting commandment, the usual Protestant Decalogue separates into two the injunction that Catholics treat as one commandment. While Catholics take "1. I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt have no false gods before me" as banning other gods and idols, most Protestants have the second commandment prohibiting the creation of "graven images" (idols). So when Catholics go on to "2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain," this is the third commandment for Protestants.

Karen said...

Uh, Zeno, perhaps the Catholics are (gasp) acknowledging that a wife is not a good.

They at least make an attempt at noticing that women are halfway human. Not fully human, mind you, but still better than some fundagelical Protestants who think that women are baby-carriers, period.

Zeno said...

I'd concede the point, Karen, if the Protestant tenth commandment was "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods," but it's usually simply "Thou shalt not covet."

Anonymous said...

I think it's more like the other version buries the idol commandment in a laundry list version of #1, and then had to divide one up (the last was convenient) so as not to leave 9 commandments.

Anyway, I like that version better, and I'll probably stick with it.


llewelly said...

"10. Thou shalt not covert thy neighbor's goods"
"covert"? What does that mean? "10. Thou shalt not hide thy neighbor's goods"?

Miki Z. said...

I too am catholic in my atheism, though of the lower-c variety.

It's not presently known what the spectral radius of the commandments are, so whether enough iterations of Christianity will converge is an open question, but so far, the answer is trending to "no".

allenpeek said...

As you know, many people SAY their "christian". But Jesus Himself warned, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Matt 7:21-23

A false convert may have vandalized the sign but a real Christian would not have done such a thing. Jesus said that a, “Tree is known by its fruit” (Matt 12:33). Among other things, vandalizing a sign is “bad fruit.” Therefore the fact that this sign was vandalized proves that a Christian didn’t do it (at least a real Christian). A false convert possibly.

Although I don’t agree with the sign, I’m sorry it was defaced. As an American, I too enjoy our freedom of speech rights. But I am compelled to use my privilege to proclaim the Excellencies of the ONE the sign defames.

When I read the sign from your blog entry, I was greatly saddened for the people who are responsible for putting up such blasphemy. In the very next verse of the chapter I sited above Jesus says, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (v. 34), then in verse thirty six He says, “ I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak…”

Rest at ease, whoever defaced the sign will be brought to justice; either in this life by a judge or in the afterlife by THE JUDGE. The LORD JESUS CHRIST will hold everyone accountable for what they’ve done – in thought, word, and deed.

As for those responsible for putting up the sign? Their words prove that they are at war with GOD. The Word of God says, “They speak against you [GOD] with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain!” (Brackets are mine).

The third commandment says, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”

Those responsible for putting up the sign are guilty of violating this commandment. Have you violated the command friend? If you have, you are like the rest mankind, guilty.

If you’ve looked with lust, you’ve violated the seventh commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.”

If you’ve taken something that didn’t belong to you (eight commandment) you’re a thief in GOD’s eyes.

Are you going to claim innocence friend? If you do, the just Judge of the entire universe will throw the book at you and you’ll get exactly what you deserve. What are you going to plead? Innocent or guilty?

Zeno said...

A helpful suggestion, allenpeek: Brevity is also a virtue.

Anonymous said...

He did it for the lulz