A new billboard campaign is being launched in central Indiana by a group who wants to promote a secular view of life. They will be placing several large billboards around Indianapolis proclaiming, "You don't need God to hope, to care, to love, to live." One of the persons responsible for this campaign is quoted as saying, "People can live without God. Millions of us do so already. We need to discard once and for all the myth that one needs God in one’s life to be a caring, loving person."
Really? Is that true? Do you believe that people can be loving and caring without some kind of religious foundation? I don't see much evidence that it works. Especially over the long run, especially dealing with tough times in life, and especially learning to love people beyond our own family or comfortable circle of friends.
This campaign reinforces the myth in our American culture of "The Nice Person." How many times have you heard it said of someone, "Well, he didn't really go to church or believe in God, but he/she was a nice person"? I have heard that stated at so many funerals, and I have always found it was an excuse to try to celebrate the life of someone who lived in a very narrow circle of caring for family (which is a good thing), being a nice person in social settings (which is OK), but not living much of a life of giving, serving, outreaching, or sacrificing for those beyond that small circle. I have also heard such statements made by family and friends who were totally grief-stricken and unable to deal with the reality of death. By contrast, when I have been a part of funerals for Christian believers, I have found grief and sadness over the loss of a loved one, but it is always coupled with a faith which sustains and enables people to live with hope. Which is why the Apostle Paul says, "We grieve, but not like those who have no hope." Simply being a nice person does not bring much comfort when confronted with the ultimate realities of life and death.
The cultural myth of "The Nice Person" is even more of a fallacy when we examine our lives today. Yes, there are nice people who do lots of nice and benevolent things -- but I don't see much sustaining power for the long-run. Almost anyone can shed a tear over a TV commercial about starving children, maybe even write a check, and then go on with life and believe he/she is a Nice Person. But people who sustain a life-long commitment to caring, sacrifice, sharing with others, and reaching beyond their comfortable circle - those people are almost always people of faith. It is our faith in God, our awareness of being grace-filled people, which enables us to overcome the basic selfishness that confines most people to a life of being just a Nice Person to those who are nice to us.
This "You Don't need God" campaign is an interesting and challenging campaign. It will invite Christians and other God-believers to examine ourselves to make sure we are living our lives in such a way that our faith is clear, caring, hopeful, and joyful. Perhaps this campaign reminds us that we Christians have been very weak in our witness to the power of our faith to move us beyond being "nice people." This campaign is also a sad reminder that so many people today are trying to live their lives without God.
My response is simply this: "Yes, you do need God."