I was scrolling through my Facebook feed a few days ago when I came across a picture of the new billboard in Times Square. If you're one of the approximately 1.6 million people who pass through the intersection every day, perhaps you've seen it. Over a light blue backdrop, white lettering reads, "To our atheist friends: Thank God you're wrong."
The billboard, which will also flash an animated version on the Times Square Digital Board every 2 minutes for the next month, is funded by Ken Ham, the founder, CEO, and President of Answers in Genesis. AiG is known among Christian groups as a defender of the creationist young-earth theory, and recently funded the construction of a creation science museum in Petersburg, KY. My immediate reaction was one of shock and shame, and I left a quick comment on both my friend's post and the original post from Ham. Ham deleted my comment, but what I said to the small group of friends was this: "This is an awful idea and I'm ashamed that any Christian supports it."
The first reason I don't think Christians should support this photo should be obvious. To say "you're wrong" is unconvincing. It's also unloving, but while being loving should be first on the list of priorities for people who follow Jesus, my experience with supporters of this kind of thing would say something like "speaking the truth is the most loving thing you can do."
I'm bothered by three other elements of the billboard campaign. First, it points to Genesis 1:1 to make its point, which means the argument is between young-earth creationism and evolution. Second, it says "thank God" on it. Third, it calls atheists "our friends," and proceeds not to treat them in a friendly way.
When I made my comment, more than one person agreed that my expression of shame at this representation of my faith meant I have a heart issue. The reason what I said frustrates other Christians is because we grew up hearing Romans 1:16 and 1 Timothy 2:15, both of which talk about not being ashamed of the Gospel.
I'm not ashamed of the Gospel, but I can say I'm ashamed of this billboard and any Christians who support it because it's not the Gospel.
The Gospel is not young-earth creationism. There are plenty of people who believe in intelligent design who aren't Christians, and there are plenty of Christians who don't believe in a young earth. To say this billboard is an attempt to spread the Gospel is equivocation - the logical fallacy of defending something by placing the wrong label on it.
The reason this seems clever to Christians is because we don't hear the phrase "thank God" very often to start a catchphrase. To use this phrase is hypocritical for any Christian who thought he was witnessing to an atheist when he called him out for taking the Lord's name in vain.
I have atheist friends, and I can guarantee that the person who thought it was a good idea to spend millions of dollars on this campaign doesn't have atheist friends.
It's guaranteed because my experience with atheists tells me to tell someone they're wrong, based on an authority they don't believe in, is the worst way to convince and love people. I'm ashamed of this campaign, because the gospel tells me to love and contend by speaking the truth in love, not come up with a short, hurtful, expensive ad to flash in the faces of the most frequented place in the country.
This needs a response because hundreds of thousands of people will be seeing this, unfortunately. It exemplifies an important principle: don't think if someone accuses you of being ashamed of the gospel, that what you're against is really the gospel.
(UPDATE: Since this article was posted on cynthiajeub.com, Answers in Genesis has been deleting comments from opposing voices and has blocked some users from viewing the Ken Ham page. Ken Ham responded to my article in a Facebook comment saying "I can't believe the nonsense some Christians come out with.")