Yesterday, I was headed over to York for my teaching parish (field education, whatever you want to call it) on US-30, also known as the Lincoln Highway. As I got to the outskirts of Gettysburg (doesn't that sound sketchy?), I happened upon a Rescue Mission. This Christian organization helps out the poor, homeless and needy, giving them a place to stay and food to eat, among other things. Awesome, right? I'm a pretty big fan of all of those things. What I'm not a big fan of? Terrible church signs, like this place was sporting.
In order to give you a better idea of the church sign, I've created a rendering of it on the church sign maker (ps, that can provide a lot of entertainment on a rainy afternoon...)
First of all, I don't understand what "O" is. I mean, I know it's a letter, but I can't quite figure out the implications of such a letter when related to "good" and "God." I mean, maybe they're saying that good without God is a big donut? I can't be sure, but I can only assume that they are playing on the visual similarities to the number "0." In which case, I have some even bigger concerns.
What this sign says to me, and I'm sure to the others who drive past it, is that, unless you have God, any good you do is worthless. Maybe it's just my steadily-increasing liberal mindset (more about this another day), but I'm pretty sure people who don't believe in God do good every day. If you're talking on a large scale, Brad Pitt has participated in some huge humanitarian efforts, and he says outright that he doesn't believe in God. On a smaller scale, I have plenty of friends who volunteer in soup kitchens or donate money and time to other charities aiding those in need who don't do it in the name of God.
Do I think that all Christians should be doing things for the poor and homeless like the Rescue Mission? Absolutely. But do I think that all those who do good things need to do them in the name of God? Absolutely not. If we start taking all of the things done solely out of the compassion someone has for others, not having anything to do with God, our world would be in a sad state of affairs (well, more than it already is). If anything, I think Christians need to be doing more than we are, and working with those who have great models for service, almost regardless of motivation.
It concerns me that this organization would immediately alienate so many people. There are homeless and hungry people who don't believe in God; would they feel welcome in this place? There are people who probably have time and money they would like to give to such a worthy cause, but why would they help an organization that assumes their good works are worthless? I'm also concerned about putting a label on things done in the name of God as being inherently good. Look at how many wars were started in the name of God, how many people were killed and had their land stolen from them because Christians thought they had a right to the land. If we start making blanket statements about what is good and what is not good, Christians are going to have a lot to answer for in the end.
One thing I'm learning about myself is that I have an extremely negative reaction to generalizations. I really dislike when things are lumped into one category because of a seemingly common thread among them. This one sign spawned a lot of thinking for me yesterday, because I was so offended by the generalization that all things good are done because of God; not because people of all beliefs care about other people or want to improve the world we live in. So my message to you all is this: if you are doing good things, keep doing them. If you attribute them to God, awesome. But if you don't...keep doing good things. Some Christians sure could use an example like you.