“In This House, We Believe:” What Your Neighbor’s Yard Sign Gets Right (and Wrong)
Now that the weather is starting to warm up, my wife and I have resumed our evening walks, where we process our day while simultaneously avoiding calories. Before winter rudely interrupted our ritual, we noticed more signs popping up in people’s yards. These weren’t the typical signs marking a house for sale. Instead, they were marking the people who lived there as good people.
I don’t think it’s a surprise that in the fall of 2020, right before a hotly contested national election, political signs adorned people’s yards. There’s nothing noteworthy about seeing signs for candidates or issues on the upcoming ballot.
But the signs that got my attention were different. These signs read more like religious creeds than political advocacy. They weren’t promoting a candidate. They were saying the “right kind of person” lives in that house.
In This House, We Believe…
The sign I see most frequently declares the religion of the homeowner. Religion? Sure. These signs espouse a creed not much different in form than the creeds Christians recite in Sunday morning worship services all over the world.
Now, I’m aware that most people who place these religious signs in their yard are eager to announce to anyone who’ll listen that they aren’t like religious conservatives. But I wonder if they realize how dependent on biblical Christianity their beliefs are.
They are attacking the very belief system that undergirds their claims. Let me show you what I mean.
Black Lives Matter
The Bible says that every human being is created in the image of God. And, therefore, has inherent value and dignity and is worthy of respect. Great civil rights leaders– from Dr. King to Fannie Lou Hamer to William Wilberforce– were motivated by this truth.
In 1968, Memphis sanitation workers went on strike to protest the poor working conditions that led to 2 workers being crushed to death inside a garbage truck. Dr. King traveled to Memphis to encourage the activists. Sadly, this would be his last march as it was in Memphis that his life was tragically cut short. The sanitation workers used a simple phrase to communicate their struggle: “I am a man.”
But suppose you remove the biblical teaching that all human beings are created in the image of God. What’s compelling about that statement? If human beings are nothing but more evolved animals, doesn’t the statement “I am a man” lose its power?
In the first century, the church brought together Jew and Gentile. Today, Christianity is the most racially and ethnically diverse faith in the world. The reason is simple: Unlike competing worldviews, the Bible teaches that every person is created and loved by God.
Women’s Rights Are Human Rights
Agreed. Women, like men, are created in the image of God and have human rights. But apart from a Christian worldview that grounds human rights in God, there’s nothing restraining those with the most cultural or physical power from dominating the weak.
If you’ve had the opportunity to visit George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon, it’s obvious there’s nothing special about the house. What attracts thousands of annual visitors is who the house belonged to. Human rights aren’t grounded in gender or power but in who we belong to—God.
I wonder if the homeowners who’re proudly proclaiming that women’s rights are human rights realize how much Jesus revolutionized the way women were treated.
Greek and Roman culture afforded few, if any, rights to women. Women couldn’t be in public without a man. They were expected to remain silent around men. They were considered ontologically inferior to men. And girls were not allowed to go to school.
Into this norm stepped Jesus, who initiated conversations with women, treated them with respect, and built friendships with them. As Dorothy Sayers noted, Jesus “never treated them as ‘The women, God help us!’ or ‘The ladies, God bless them!’”
Jesus’s behavior led one scholar of ancient Rome to say, “The conversion of the Roman world to Christianity [brought] a great change in woman’s status.” No wonder women have eagerly become followers of Jesus for thousands of years.
No Human is Illegal
The Bible calls believers to open their hearts and homes to the outsider.
This stands in stark contrast to the way the ancient world treated people. “Othering” isn’t new. Being suspicious of people different from you is the norm in human history. The same goes for blaming minorities for societal ills.
Christianity is unique in the fact that God identifies with the marginalized.
It was Jesus who said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
And it’s Jesus that people “from every nation, tribe, people and language” will worship for all eternity. It’s unmistakably clear that God’s people transcend national boundaries.
On that note, can we stop putting kids in cages? It’s wrong whether the president has a D or an R after their name. While Jesus did not advocate a national immigration policy, Jesus’s followers must demand humane treatment for all people because all lives matter.
Science is Real
This one is a little confusing. Who doesn’t think science is real? We all go to the doctor, ride in airplanes, and use computers. Aren’t all those dependent on one kind of science or another?
Maybe this statement refers to the fact that both sides in the culture war tend to use science when it’s convenient. The same people who insist that we must follow the science when it comes to climate change deny the science when it comes to sex and gender. But I digress.
Some of the world’s foremost scientists were also faithful Christians. This includes Isaac Newton, who explained gravity, and Francis Collis, who led the team that unlocked the human genome. There is no conflict between Christianity and science.
Science is based on the idea that the cosmos is consistent, not random. And that the study of the natural world leads to truth. The foundations of science are compatible with a Christian worldview.
Love is Love
It’s difficult to find fault in this statement if for no other reason than it doesn’t really say anything. Blue is blue. Truth is truth. Babies are cute. Yup.
Ahh, but you say that “Love is Love” is really about gay relationships and gay marriage in particular. Framing it as “Love is Love” is an attempt to take the moral high ground. It’s a way of saying that those who disagree with gay marriage deny the validity of same-sex love.
Jesus agrees that love is essential. He taught us to love our neighbors, friends, family, and even our enemy. But love shared between people doesn’t mean they’re married. If it did, Jesus would have been married to the whole world.
Interestingly, in his teaching on marriage, Jesus doesn’t even mention love. For Jesus, marriage is a public covenant made before God between a man and a woman who enter into a one-flesh union which is designed to produce children.
Of course, not every marriage produces children. For some couples, that’s heartbreaking, and for others, it’s a choice. But childless marriages don’t change God’s original intent for marriage, established in Genesis and affirmed by Jesus.
The Christian worldview gives us a richer definition of love than the world offers. And it’s more faithful to the human experience of different kinds of love shared between people. Reducing all love to romantic or sexual love leaves us impoverished.
Kindness is Everything
In a hard, cruel world, Jesus launched a kindness revolution. He practiced kindness to strangers, the sick, and the oppressed.
I’m glad that I have neighbors who want to imitate Jesus. But what makes Jesus’s kindness so startling is that he didn’t only show it to those who agreed with him. That’s something we all probably need to work on.
Where does that leave us? Well, let’s be thankful that our neighbors have shared their beliefs with us. We should look for an opportunity to have a conversation with them.
As we’ve seen, there’s a lot of common ground. I’m not sure they have rejected biblical Christianity as much as a caricature of it. If so, that may be our fault for not sharing our faith clearly and intelligently.
Want to know more about the counter-cultural ways God calls his followers to show love and kindness? Watch this sermon on 1 Corinthians 13: Rescuing the Love Chapter from the Wedding Service.