Abraham, the father of the Israelites, had a little tradition for himself. Every morning, he would have breakfast with some random traveler, sharing his meal and his time as a testament to what a swell guy he was. And this went on for a while. Then, one morning, the random person coming by sat down and revealed he was a pagan. (Given that Abraham lived in a region crawling with pagans, it's kind of surprising it took so long for one to happen by. But I digress.) Abraham refused to dine with someone who did not believe in and/or respect his God and threw him out. God then appeared to Abraham to give him a Gibbs-smack. God's message was simple -- "Would it have killed you to just be nice to the guy and have breakfast with him?" In other words, there's a lot of good people in the world who the only difference between them and you is they worship differently than you. So be nice to them. Be friends with them. Don't be an asshole just because of different beliefs.
Now, I also want to mention the fundamental philosophy of democracy at this point. The whole point of democracy is not majority rule, even though a lot of people subscribe to that dangerous oversimplification. The point of democracy is to come up with a set of mutually agreed upon laws that enable people to do as they wish as long as it doesn't interfere with other people. You can paint your house hot pink with blue polka dots, but you can't do that to your neighbor's house. It comes down to the basic lesson of the Torah, the lesson Jesus taught and Christians call the Golden Rule -- "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow." "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Everybody still with me so far? That's good!
So, let's head on down to the little town of Starke, FL. A bunch of Christian activists set themselves up to be trolled, and now they're paying for it.
The whole thing started with the trend in the American South of erecting a granite monument to the Ten Commandments on government institutional grounds (granite == lasts forever and is heavier than shit, basically making it too inconvenient to relocate). Remember the hubbub in Alabama? Despite there needing to be a separation of church and state, people are suing for the right to go around it or just flat out ignoring it. Starke, which is best known for being the home of a prison for death row inmates, is a religiously conservative town that wanted to jump on the bandwagon. The Community Men's Fellowship erected a granite monument on the courthouse lawn.
The fellow in the picture above is not one of the supporters of this little action. That is David Silverman, president of American Atheists. They sued to have the monument taken down, saying it violates the separation of church and state. The Community Men's Fellowship, however, had an ace up their sleeve. The monument was not technically on court grounds. It was on public grounds, in what is labeled a "free speech" zone, where people can say what they want without government interference. In fact, was pointed out to the Silverman during mediation that the American Atheists could have their own monument there if they so desired.
Three guesses what happened next.
So, this weekend, the American Atheists unveiled their own little monument to their beliefs in the vicinity of the Ten Commandments monument. Check this out:
(This shows you how my mind works. I saw the picture, and the first thing I thought of was Adams College from Revenge Of The Nerds.)
You will notice that the monument is a bench. Silverman expects that to be the first thing you notice. "When you look at this monument, the first thing you will notice is that it has a function. (Yeah. Trolling. -- G) Atheists are about the real and the physical, so we selected to place this monument in the form of a bench." The bench features quotes from Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, John Adams, and (naturally) Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the founder of American Atheists. It also mentions the penalties for violating the Ten Commandments, which involve stoning someone to death (which I think is more a shot at politicians who routinely break the Ten Commandments and either hush it up or use their religious affiliation as a shield than anything else).
Naturally, this invited protesters, although they were few. About 200 people attended the unveiling, and other than a small smattering making Bible quotes and playing Christian country music, the crowd was generally supportive in that, "Well...okay. Why not?" kind of way. You know, the way this is supposed to work.
If we Christians have the right to express our religious beliefs, others have the same right. My beliefs aren't any less just because someone either believes differently (Islam) or doesn't believe at all (Atheists). If people want to express these thoughts, let them.
Like I said, the gathering was fairly sedate. But I do worry that some extremist nutballs are going to try something to it just because it offends their delicate sensibilities. So my message is simple:
If you truly believe in the Bible, believe that it is a historical document of the time of God, believe that it is, in fact, the Word Of God, then you must remember the story of Abraham, and how God told him the right thing to do is respect other's differences instead of forcing your beliefs on them.
Christians should act like Christians.