I know from personal experience that Terre Haute, Indiana, is not the most happening place. But is "Church sign raises objection" really one of the most newsworthy items of the day?
Bear with me, and read the beginning of the story.
A sign at a Terre Haute church bearing a message that many people would deem "intolerant" has raised an objection from a concerned teenager who could not let the message go unchallenged.
Saagarika Coleman submitted a letter to the editor of the Tribune-Star (see page A8) stating that she was "hit with a wave of shock. I was horrified" when she saw the sign at Bible Baptist Church as her father drove her to school Monday morning.
The sign stated, "Jesus died and rose and lives for you. What did Allah do."
To Coleman and others, the message seems to challenge or belittle the Muslim faith. At best, such sentiments strike some people as an un-Christian approach to tolerance of other beliefs.
Stop the presses. A 13-year-old is upset? I don't want to diminish a 13-year-old's opinion, but just because one person objects, that makes it news? Later in the story, the pastor of the church said he had received three comments about the sign. That's it?
The Associated Press also picked up the story and wrote, "A Terre Haute church upset some residents with a message on its outdoor sign that mentioned Allah." Some residents?
Anyway, Lisa Trigg writes that "many would deem [the message] 'intolerant,'" but no one in her story does anyone call it intolerant. She also writes that the message "seems to challenge or belittle the Muslim faith," but no one uses those words. Then she says at best such sentiments strike some people as an "un-Christian approach." Some people? Who?
It's unfortunate that Trigg didn't interview Coleman, who wrote an articulately worded letter, and could have provided a colorful argument for the story being newsworthy in the first place.
Trigg spoke with the pastor, who defended the sign, saying "It just means the founder of Christianity still lives." Perhaps she could have asked him about why his church believes exclusively in Jesus, though this is not a shocker to a lot of Christians. She then quotes someone from the Islamic Center of Terre Haute:
"Allah means God. God is the Creator. Allah," he said, agreeing that Jesus is the Son of God, as Christians believe. Muslims also believe in Jesus, he pointed out. "We have to believe in Jesus. If we don't, we're not Muslim,"
This leaves the false impression that Islam and Christianity are essentially the same. Instead of explaining how they are different, she writes:
Terre Haute is a diverse community, with many people of the faiths of Judaism, Islam and Hinduism residing, working, raising families and being active in the community. However, the dominance of Christian churches and worship centers may give the impression that Christianity is the only organized religion in the area.
For Hindus, the nearest temple for worship is in Indianapolis, but weekly visits to a temple are not required for worship, unlike Christianity, which urges regular attendance at worship services.
Terre Haute is diverse? It would have been helpful for Trigg to provide some numerical data to prove her point.
I have no data to prove that this might be happening, but perhaps she could use the anecdote to pursue a story on how fewer churches seem to be using church signs. I'm just guessing that there are debates over whether you can effectively communicate a Christian message in a headline burst. Besides, who wants to end up on a blog like this?
Photo via Mel B. from Flickr Creative Commons.