Last month, we rounded up up some of the most absurd right-wing Christian billboards that accost drivers with messages of fire and brimstone. But the billboards are dwarfed by the seemingly countless number of offensive plain old church signs. Apparently, creativity flows when there are fewer financial constraints. So, without further ado, here are 10 cringe-inducing signs deemed appropriate to place in front of houses of worship.
1. Offensive and illiterate. To make this sign, just take the Obama/Osama classic and add three pinches of stupidity. First assume that parents give their sons the same name, minus one letter. Then misspell "hmmm" or "hmm." And finally, omit all punctuation. The genius behind the sign, Pastor Roger Byrd of the Jonesville Church of God in Jonesville, South Carolina, explained his process as well as the deep meaning not immediately evident: “See, it asks a question: Are they brothers? In other words, is he Muslim? I don’t know. He says he’s not. I hope he’s not. But I don’t know." Byrd was going for totally non-offensive fear-mongering, Muslim-baiting: “And it’s just something to try to stir people’s minds. It was never intended to hurt feelings or to offend anybody… It’s simply to cause people to realize and to see what possibly could happen if we were to get someone in there that does not believe in Jesus Christ.”
2. The meek shall NOT inherit the earth.Contrary to Jesus Christ's consistent and unequivocal "I'm with team poor" teachings, this church thought a good way to honor the son of God would be to adorn his house with a sign saying, "laziness and poverty are cousins.” The saying is so catchy, it has graced church signs from Sylva, North Carolina to Portland, Oregon.
3. A three-word poem. This "Turn Or Burn" sign gives haiku a run for its money. In a mere three syllables, it gets right to the point, which is that you should embrace God or suffer eternal damnation. The fact that the poem rhymes is another reason it should be studied by all those interested in concise fear-based conversion poetry. The sign pictured is from the First Baptist Church Main St. of Little Rock, Arkansas. In addition to its poetic virtues, the message is extremely customizable! For example, it was adapted for homophobic purposes in Wilmington, North Carolina, to read, "God loves gays but hates a perverted life style. Turn or burn." Tammy Heuring, the wife of the Seagate Community Chapel pastor explains the medicinal powers of the hurtful sign: “It's kind of like salt in a wound… However, salt does heal a wound. It just hurts really bad at first.” Hurt so good!
4. Short and not so sweet.This is another sign that doesn't waste any time, though it lacks poetry or rhyme and is more specific in its bigotry than the sign discussed above. The Islamophobia expressed in this sign is based, apparently, on a time-travel sect of Christianity which allows Jesus, who died nearly six centuries before Mohammed was born, to travel to the future, observe Islam and declare it diabolical. This sign was from the Florida church of Pastor Terry Jones, who was arrested on his way to burn 2,998 Qur'ans, one for every victim of the 2001 attacks.
5. Blame the Jews!It’s pretty obvious that the sign below was not created with the aim of converting Jews to Christianity. But just to be sure, I checked to see what motivated the Reverend Maurice Gordon of Lovingway United Pentecostal Church, Denver, Colorado. Gordon explains that the sign isn’t hateful because the particular Jews who have the blood of Jesus Christ lord and savior on their hands aren’t alive anymore: "It would be hateful if it pointed at anybody alive today…. But this has been part of the record for 2,000 years." So, the sign isn’t about recruiting Jews or spreading hate. What, then, is its aim? According to Gordon, it was to encourage people to read the Bible. Because nothing makes me want to read a book more than an anti-Semitic excerpt.
6. Vote for the lesser of two infidels.Pastor Ray Miller, who put up this sign in front of his church in Leakey, Texas, isn’t a big believer in separation between church and state or the IRS, which prohibits non-profit organizations from endorsing candidates. So, with this VOTE FOR THE MORMON, NOT THE MUSLIM. THE CAPITALIST, NOT THE COMMUNIST, Miller combines an explicit illegal intervention in electoral politics with an ad-hominen and inaccurate (if only Obama were less of a capitalist) attack.
7. White on black crime (against God). Interestingly, the church boasting this sign isn’t located in the bible belt. It is actually the Atlah Worldwide Missionary Church in New York City. There’s a lot to unpack in this sign. Although it’s not exactly clear how, Obama’s stance on same-sex marriage has dire demon-based implications for black men. Specifically, white demons, suffering a double jungle-homo-fever, will wreak havoc on the black nuclear family.
8. Shut your pie hole for God.I would think that people who believed in God and heard him speak, would imagine or hear a very commanding voice. Apparently, however, God is a close talker. So his words of wisdom are easy to miss. Or as Pastor Ricky Patterson of the Valiant Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee put it rather grouchily, IF YOU WOULD SHUT UP, YOU COULD HEAR GOD’S VOICE. I’m pretty sure that isn’t in the Bible. Or if it is, it’s not a very good translation.
9. A Katy Perry-based cautionary tale. Katy Perry may be the daughter of a preacherman. And he may say things like “You know how to make the Jew jealous? Have some money, honey." But even those Christian Right bona fides won’t get the pop singer a get-out-of-hell (or jail, depending on where you live) free card for singing about locking lips with a lady in her hit "I Kissed a Girl (and I liked it)." Reverend Dave Allison, of Havens Corners Church in Blacklick, Ohio describesthe loving intentions behind a sign that says "I KISSED A GIRL AND I LIKED IT THEN I WENT TO HELL: We meant that as a loving warning to teens.” I can feel the love.
10. Sex isn't church. If I were a member of the Catholic clergy, I'd probably stay away from any joke involving sex and the church. And I certainly wouldn’t make a sex-church joke to try to guilt people into anything, like showing up. But, luckily for us, the person behind this Catholic church sign showed no signs of awareness or sensitivity toward the victims of the Church's sexual abuse epidemic. In that way, theSt Cyril of Alexandria Church, located in Houston, Texas does a good job representing the Vatican. So, good job, signmaker!