The Firefighter’s Sign

At church yesterday, a few people were expressing support for a local firefighter who put up a sign saying “Happy Birthday, Jesus” outside of the fire-station.  An atheist group is suing, saying this violates the separation of church and state.

During the four years that I’ve attending this church, I’ve differed with many members on church-state issues.  I rarely voice my opinion about this, for I don’t want to be obnoxious.  And, to be honest, it’s not so much that I have problems with their position, as it is that I wonder about the extent to which they have considered the other side.

Then again, I don’t know.  Is it really a big deal for a fire-station to have a sign saying “Happy birthday, Jesus”?  I can understand prayer not being in public schools, since we wouldn’t want people who don’t want to pray to feel excluded, to be pressured to violate their convictions, or to be bullied for not praying.  But is a person seriously hurt by driving by a sign saying “Happy birthday, Jesus”?  He’d see it outside of a church, and that is legal because it’s not a public place.  Why would the former be hurtful, whereas the latter would not be?

Of course, there is a history behind the American idea that the government should be neutral about religion.  There was the notion that Americans should not have to pay taxes to support a church whose beliefs they do not accept, and that America should be a place that welcomes religious diversity rather than one that has a state church.  Maybe those issues come into play in the case of the sign.  Yet, were tax dollars even used for the sign?  Well, they’re used for the fire-station, which is promoting Christianity whenever that sign is displayed!

I guess my response is “What’s the big deal?”  But it is a big deal to some in my church, and to the atheists suing.  I feel a bit alienated from both sides, to tell you the truth.  Those who are gun-ho behind the firefighter seem to me to think that Christianity is the truth, everyone should accept it, and the atheist group just wants to silence Christians.  Do they realize that people with other beliefs just might have a rationale for their positions?  On the other hand, the atheist group acts as if the sign is such a huge problem, when I would say that there are worse problems out there in the world.

This issue is not a deal-breaker for me when it comes to attending my church.  I myself should accept that there is diversity of thought in the world.  Fortunately, this sort of issue does not come up too often in the weekly church services, which focus more on God and living right rather than divisive political issues.  At the church’s Bible study, on the other hand, it comes up more often—-repeatedly.  Or at least it did when I attended the Bible study.

Please feel free to comment, but any comments that I consider insulting or obnoxious will not be published.  What’s more, any nit-picky comment that asks me to define or set clear criteria for what is insulting or obnoxious also will not be published.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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1 Response to The Firefighter’s Sign

  1. I am with you James 🙂


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