Monday, November 16, 2009

Compassion Found in Hell?

The other morning I drove past an art gallery a block from my office and saw a huge black sign draped in front of the building proclaiming:

“Even in Hell there is compassion.”

What!! I thought as I did a double-take. Who would proclaim such a message; and, right here in the heart of the Bible-Belt, no less?

Surely, this must be some kind of prank. But, of course it isn’t. The sign was placed there to promote a new exhibit by the Compassion Project. It is the work of two artists who have placed this same message on billboards in several other Southern cities.

Even for those who are not particularly religious this is probably a message that seems quite odd, initially. After all, whether you believe in it or not, everyone knows that hell is a place of pain and suffering. So, on what do these artists base such a positive spin on hell? The teachings of Buddhism; Surprise!

The art exhibitor says they are sponsoring the work in order to promote understanding of a more expansive view of escaping damnation than that offered by the Christian Church. In other words, the message of the Christian Church regarding hell is wrong so one must look elsewhere to find the truth. They have found the Christian view too narrow and restrictive. It needs to be broader for them.

For these two artists, and perhaps their sponsors, the answer is best found in the teachings of Eastern religion. For, in the religions of the East, everyone ultimately makes it (though it may require numerous reincarnations to finally escape this existence).

The placement of such a message, in the heart of the so-called Bible-Belt, indicates a growing willingness for some to believe and promote anything as true; especially at the expense of the Christian faith. Perhaps most alarming, it reveals how our culture has steadily moved away from its Christian roots; so far, that there are those who deny this nation was founded on Christian teachings and principles, in the first place.

Events like these should be a wake up call for the Church to what is going on in our culture. This exhibit and campaign, is indicative of the interest people have in spiritual matters. And, while the culture is having this important dialogue regarding the place of faith and spirituality in one’s life, the Church is noticeably absent from the conversation.

While I strongly disagree with the message of the Compassion Project, they have every right to display it. Likewise, Christians have every right to talk about what we believe. If we truly, believe that Christ is the answer, we must not wait within the walls of the Church building in hopes that seekers will find us. Instead, it seems to me, we should get out in the marketplace and begin to participate in these spiritual discussions.

There is a choice to make. We can look at a sign like this and be critical of its sponsors; or, we can recognize that the fact such a sign is being prominently displayed indicates an opportunity for us to engage the culture on a meaningful discussion of spiritual matters. It is an invitation for dialogue and though that may not have been the artists’ true intent; they have opened the door for the conversation. Knock, Knock!

We'll be covering this in more detail in our next issue of CrossingCurrents. If you are not a subsciber, just click on the subscribe button in the right column. Want to know more about advertising rights regarding one's religious views? Watch our video below on Billboards and Religion.

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