Meet your friendly neighborhood minister. His name is Jim Nimmons and he lives in a city named, wait for it, Cathedral City, California. You will learn in a minute why that name is ironic at this point. You'll find the link to the NY Times story below at the bottom.
Jim's the pastor of First Southern Baptist Church and he's in a peck of trouble. In fact he's got an eternity's worth.
He has a small little church and he decided to paint the word 'eternity' on the roof of the church. Well, why not some would say, he's in the business of selling eternal life insurance and eternal fire prevention insurance isn't he?
But unfortunately various irate residents of the town have complained to the city fathers that Pastor Nimmons has placed 'a commercial advertising sign' on the roof of his building and there is a city ordinance against that.
So the city fathers of 'Cathedral City' want him to remove that sign from 'here to eternity', err, or wait remove 'eternity from church', or words to that effect.
Now it may be hard to believe but Jim has a congregation of 2,100 members, many of them no doubt stalwart members of that community of Cathedral City. But never mind that, Jim is threatened with not merely a nuisance citation but potential misdemeanor charges as well. That will look good on his resume.
Now here's the rub. Those complaints to the city fathers-- well they are all 'anonymous callers'. I learned a long time ago to simply ignore anonymous callers, or for that matter anonymous bloggers. If you aren't prepared to put your own name on the complaint or rant, then you don't have the courage of your convictions, and if you don't have the courage of your convictions, you should just do what my granny used to say with regularity--- "HUSH YO MOUTH".
If the city fathers had bothered to meditate on the history of their city, and why it was named Cathedral City in the first place they might have realized that the city was founded by people who cared about the Christian faith, and they still have a duty to protect that heritage.
But NOOOOOO. Instead they chose to cower before anonymous callers, 'lest they offend any one'. After all, the sign might be bad for business in town. It might lead to other signs in town like--- 'God loves you' or 'Have a blessed day' and other offensive remarks.
The issue here comes down to whether the message on the top of the church could be construed as a commercial one, or if it should be seen as a nuisance. Let's suppose for a minute it is considered a commercial one, say, on a par with a McDonald's sign.
Is anyone objecting to the fact that that McDonald's sign is huge, and is on late into the night? Well, no. What about the Pizza Hut, which has a sign on its roof? Well, no. We could go on. Now Pastor Jim's sign it does not glow in the dark, and as you can see, is not sticking up over the tree line or right beside the curb. Shoot, you can't even see this sign at night.
Now the press has turned to a lawyer (of course) to interpret this matter and put it in perspective. Here is what the article says about that---
"Douglas W. Kmiec, a professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University, said Mr. Nimmons’s position seemed more plausible (i.e. his view that it is not a commercial sign)
“I would think it would be a mistake to conclude the word ‘eternity’ is proposing a commercial transaction,” Mr. Kmiec said, “even if one hopes for salvation.”
This word just in--- salvation is not for sale in the Baptist Church in Cathedral City. It's available for free, which surely eliminates the word 'commercial' from the transaction. But naturally it looks like we are heading towards a court case.
Now one thing you need to know about the First Southern Baptist Church. It's not on any main road. Indeed, its on a dirt road well off the beaten track.
In order to get offended by this sign, you have to go out of your way! There's a grocery store and a Mexican restaurant near by that have signs on their roofs, but is anyone going after them and suing their pants off??? Anyone tossing burritos at the city fathers in protest for that sign on the Mexican restaurant?
Not so much. Hmmmm.
What did happen to the first amendment rights of free speech in Cathedral City any way? Wasn't Christianity one of the reason this town was named what its named in the first place?
Well Rev. Nimmons doesn't have the money to fight a court case, but he now has a lawyer thinking of taking it to federal court. I'm feeling better now--- our tax dollars being put to good use.
Meanwhile the Reverend say he can't pay the fine, but he is happy to go to jail for his message which he says "is worth standing up for".
You see if someone has everlasting life, what's a few days in jail for your message? I mean that puts you in St. Paul's company. Nice company.
Well, it sounds like Cathedral City is going to Hades right fast, but one place it does not sound like its going to--- You guessed it---- is ETERNITY.
Jesus may have had have something to say about this matter: " Woe unto you Chorazin! Woe unto you Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you were performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago...But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to Hades." (Lk. 10.13-15).
Seems like even cities do need to repent once and a while. How 'bout now Cathedral City?