Thursday, May 5, 2011

On Passing By the CFI's


Maybe this poem needs a bit of pretext. Maybe not, but I'll provide it anyway. I've been seeing what feels like an increasing number of "non-commercial" billboards lately, bearing the kind of uncouth statements earlier reserved for bumper-stickers and window-clings. It's interesting to see this shift, but that by no means excites me. The billboard in question that inspired this piece is one put out by the CFI (Center for Inquiry), a humanist organization bearing the website name "LivingWithoutReligion.com". Their goal is the secularization of society, and as I passed by their billboard today, I was able to read "You don't need God - to hope, to care, to love, to live."

Now, obviously I find this approach distasteful, but not for the reasons you may think. Honestly, to an extent the CFI are correct. We as humans don't need God to hope or care or love or live; we can do these things alone, but only to the most minute and unsatisfactory degree when compared to the hope, care, love and life lived with God. We can settle for less, and hope, care, love and live at the bare minimum our existence allows us, as the CFI is encouraging - or we can reap the intended and fulfilling benefits of a relationship with God through Christ. That is not my point, though.

The problem I have with their billboard is the assumption it, and all approaches like it, seem to make: that all important decisions can be forced upon someone in passing, that all we need is to find the right condescending or condemning bumper-sticker and our "eyes will be opened", as if nothing worthwhile was ever gained through real discussion. I feel, if you are dealing in things so admittedly consequential, the topics deserve more time than a billboard and a bumper-sticker sermon - these are things that should be handled face-to-face, as if you actually cared for the person you're proselytizing to.

Let's just ditch the advertising of ideas already. I'll take a product over an idea any day, if I'm going to be patronized in the process.

On Passing By the CFI's

Bumper-sticker philosophies
with their backwards, one-way debates
have since hung their unsavory burdens
from the shoulders of city billboards,
prying for proselytes from the stream
of passing steel and glass with such
inspiring offerings as
“You don’t need God – to hope, to care”
and
“Judgement Day – May 21”.

Two sides of one devalued coin,
two poles of an unpalatable spectrum,
these pasted, presumptuous proddings
augur an attitude in their ads.
What respect can such one-sided
statements even pretend to retain
for their readers when they only offer
their thoughts in unanswerable barrages?

Billboard philosophy
and bumper-sticker wisdom
tout proudly the errors of others,
and possibly just as proudly
sell no discussion in one-sided debates.

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