I’ve been seeing this sign up and down my neighborhood on my walks for the last few years, tucked here and there beside mounds of Black-Eyed Susans and glorious rose and hydrangea bushes. Presumably, these signs endure year round, but, because I try never to leave my house in winter, I don’t know what they look like in piles of snow. I have always chuckled to myself whenever I pass one. But now they are everywhere. And it occurred to me (and to other people—can’t remember who though) that they comprise a kind of modern-day creed. The word “believe,” of course, should have clued me in. But all the other words kept me from noticing it.
It took me observing someone at the end of my street—someone who has an adorable baby and one of those cool ergonomic strollers, and gorgeous tomato bushes in the front, and a tiny expensive camper, someone I have long envied for what a gracious life she seems to be living—carefully placing this sign in a prominent place that more of the pieces plunked themselves together in my conscious mind.
The sign, from my point of view, is absurd. Statements like “love is love” and “kindness is everything” and science is real” are about as useful as saying, “the moon is made of cheese” and “I feel like the sun really does revolve around the earth.” You may feel like there is something deeply meaningful about the declaration that “love is love” but it is a circular statement. If you have ever had to teach children anything about language, you can’t say that. “What does that mean?” the poor child asks, trying to make sense of the world, and you respond, “it is what it is. Love is Love.” At which point the child will wander away and go find the meanings of words elsewhere.
Of course, we all know what is meant by “love is love.” It means that a person’s feelings are so valuable and precious that all of reality—including biology itself, the movement of the stars and sun, the law, everything—has to bend toward that person’s inclinations and desires at every moment. “Kindness is everything” means that no one should be questioned about who they think they are, or what love really is. “Women’s rights are human rights” means that men should fall silent, for they themselves only have rights in so far as they agree with those demanded by the progressive left. “No human is illegal” is only for those trying to come into the United States. It doesn’t extend to women in other countries, nor the unborn babies of women in America who find them inconvenient and think they, the babies, should die, even if they would have been girls and, eventually, women. And, of course, we all know what “black lives matter” means. It means that there are a lot of black lives that don’t matter because they haven’t bowed the head and heart to the organizing principles of BLM.
The sign itself points in some embryonic sacramental sense beyond itself to the absurdity that many many people feel when they plunk themselves down in church and have to choke on the words of the Nicene or Apostles Creed. What do you mean that God is almighty? That Jesus was born of a virgin? That he will judge both the living and the dead? None of those words make any sense. A modern person traces his or her way through the maze of Christian belief and finds the stars falling out of the heavens, the universe of the mind and heart thrown into chaos.
The sign is meant to be invitational, of course, to create a space “safe” from the horrors of the pedantic and archaic beliefs of two or three years ago. It is a warning against people like me who believe not that “love is love” but that God is love and that God himself should be allowed to set out the meaning of his own nature. His love is nothing like the spinning, hopeless, morass of modern self-love. Moreover, his kindness is “everything” because it is grounded in the depths of his goodness and mercy. As such, he is dangerous, and me believing in him, in standing up to declare Sunday after Sunday, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty…” must be kept at more than an arm’s length lest my toxic belief tangle up and confuse the plain meaning of the sign.
And the sign is meant to stand as a cosmic declaration of one’s own virtue and goodness. It shows, at least, that social media is a failure. It is not enough to get online and tell one’s five hundred or a thousand facebook friends that you are righteous. Those people can snooze you for thirty days (and probably have, over and over, in an effort to keep forgiving, keep being tolerant, keep living with some shreds of sanity in a foolishly unhappy world), or worse, block or unfriend you. And, you are not even friends with everyone on the street or in the town. So you go out and put this sign in your yard so that the world will know.
In this way, though the sign is meant to be provocative, to “change the world” and so on, it is actually strangely impoverishing. It shows the political preoccupations of the moment to be so ascendant and necessary that truth, justice, love, kindness, and even science have no way of crowding themselves in, not into the living room, nor into the heart and mind.
If you’re looking for an alternative, this is a pretty great sign, though I don’t have the courage to put it in my yard, being a true coward.
Meanwhile, because God is love and Jesus is Lord, I will keep walking around my neighborhood, keep being fascinated by the people who live on my street, keep being as kind and friendly as I can. Honestly, I have nothing of cosmic meaning or substance to lose–possessing as I do the universe-ordering presence of God in my very own body and mind.