The Debt Problem, 2012
There's a little church just outside the entrance to the Norfolk airport that’s become famous locally for the intensity of the anger, intolerance and hatred displayed on its message sign out by the street.
Most churches use these signs to show the schedule of services or announce the title of the upcoming Sunday's sermon. This place, on the other hand, uses its sign to scare people into coming to church in a tone that wastes neither courtesies nor Christian charity. You can bet this church is a hotbed of fire and brimstone talk. They’re certain that things are either black or white. You're either with us or agin’ us, and if you’re not with us you’re probably a sinner who's into man-on-dog sex and government mandated spinach.
It used to be entertaining to drive by this church and see what aspect of contemporary life had riled them. Some subjects are such regular targets—e.g. people who aren't patriotic or God-fearing enough, people who don't abide with the inerrant word of the Bible, gays, minorities, computers, science, technology, President Obama and the other usual suspects of the intolerant—that they fail to arouse much attention any more. Heck, such is the almost hilariously mean tone of the thoughts shared on this sign that I'm predisposed to be supportive of anything this church disapproves of.
Differences of opinion don't usually upset me. I can respect someone whose opinions are different from mine if I feel we are at least coming from a base of mutual respect. This church, however, crossed that line long ago. The nature of their screeds is so absolute, so fundamental and so totally disrespectful of any values but their own that there's no reason to waste your breath on a conversation.
I used to feel sorry for people like this. I know that when push comes to shove many of them will come around to a more civil position. But at the center of such groups is usually a small cadre of individuals—sometimes just a single person—so flawed, so insecure, so manipulative, so consumed with anger and just plain clueless that there's no reason to believe there's any chance of recovery. I take some confidence, though, in noticing that such persons tend to eventually get tangled in their own sins or simply implode and die young. Carrying all that hate and self-righteousness is hard on the body.
If the messages it puts on its signs are any indication, this church carries a lot of that negative weight, so much so that I've taken to thinking of it as I do that building in Ghost Busters that was so imbued with evil that it took all the good vibes in the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man to destroy it.
Don't take what I say here as a threat. If someone else wants to cast a few stones on this church, that's their business. You won't find me doing such things. But I will continue to be amazed that people ostensibly organized to promote a god's love are instead so consumed with spreading hate.
n.b. I should mention that this church is not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, but rather with the much smaller Conservative Baptist Association.