After nearly 25 years of receiving hate mail from irate readers, I finally got around to writing an angry letter to an editor myself.
The missive was in response to an article written by Baptist Pastor Chris Clark for a Christian newspaper called Good News, etc. His piece was titled, “Pastor welcomes atheists’ billboard,” (Page 6) about an anti-religious road sign that was scheduled to appear along the Martin Luther King Jr. freeway. The pastor correctly pointed out that atheists have a right to advertise on billboards, but he wondered why they don’t have the same tolerance for Christian marketing.
“I wish atheists and humanists wouldn’t get all worked up over a nativity scene in a park, or a display of the Ten Commandments in a courtroom,” he wrote in his Good News commentary. “Atheists and humanists get a free pass to display their religion in the public square but no one else is allowed.”
It was Clark’s use of the term “public square” that set me off; hence this letter:
“Dear Pastor Clark and Good News editors: It’s one thing when some Joe off the street doesn’t know the difference between the words public and private, but you guys are supposed to be authorities on language and religion, so what gives?
“In the context of the First Amendment, the word ‘public’ does not mean ‘out in the open’—as in, ‘Did you hear that Father McCreepy exposed his genitals in public again?’ Rather, the word public refers to that which is owned by government and is therefore owned by the citizens.
“Private, on the other hand, refers to that which is not owned by government—as in private property or private business, both of which are owned by individuals or groups. Do not confuse the lay meanings of private and public because, in this context, a ‘private’ business may be totally visible and open to the public, just as some ‘public’ installations (the White House bomb shelter comes to mind) can be completely hidden and virtually private, dig?
“In fact, most billboards are privately owned businesses atop privately owned property, and every secularist I know not only tolerates, but ferociously defends the right of any religious group to promote their delusional interpretation of reality sacredly held beliefs in the ‘private’ square.
“So, a monument to the Ten Commandments on the courthouse lawn is expressly forbidden by the First Amendment while a crucifix nestled in Kim Kardashian’s otherwise public cleavage is not. That’s my opinion, anyway. And we can argue all day about the intent of the establishment clause, but there’s no arguing that a religious message in a public courtroom is in any way analogous to an irreligious message on a private billboard. Well, you can argue it, I suppose, but wildly negligent, self-sustained ignorance makes the baby Jesus cry.
“‘Rather than ban any and all displays in the public square,’ writes Clark, ‘I propose allowing all religions access to the public square.’
“Methinks the pastor might be smoking some of that stinky Eucharist dank before Sunday services because dude has it mass-backwards. There’s no room for the icons of 300-plus American religions in each of our squares! Clearly, the place for that is in the private sector—your homes, your businesses and your towering, gaudy churches that cast icy shadows upon the frostbitten poor. These are the places to promote your racket faith. But in the public square? And you gotta be really freaking high if you believe the residents of Sharia-phobic Oklahoma would ever allow a statue of Mohammed on any of their courthouse lawns.
“‘So let the atheists and humanists spend their money and erect a billboard to convince the public of their constructed reality,’ the Pastor writes in his hilarious conclusion. ‘We as followers of Jesus are billboards ourselves….’
“OK, first of all, Pastor, you’re acting as though it is beneath Christians to use billboards. So did I imagine all those ‘Jesus is the Reason for the Season’ and ‘Christ is not a swear word’ monstrosities? Hell, I’ve seen people wearing sandwich boards at football games to promote the Lord. Come to think of it, they even got Jesus ads on the sandwiches, usually grilled cheese, so don’t tell me that billboards are beneath you.
“Secondly, really? It is the atheists who have ‘constructed reality’? Well, isn’t that just the Popov calling the Ketel whack? Let me get this straight: You’re saying it’s the atheists who’ve ‘constructed reality’ by, um, not constructing an all-knowing, all-loving, super-deity who lives in a special happy palace where only happiness happens? OK, got it. Thanks.
“Sincerely, Edwin Decker, Ocean Beach (land of the heretics).”
And there you have it—my first hate letter in 25 years. I forgot how much fun they can be. Admittedly, I removed some of the offensive jokes, mostly because I didn’t want them to stamp “Return to Satan” on the envelope. For instance, I deleted the “smoking Eucharist” bit (to which I bade a tearful farewell); I also cut the Father McCreepy line (goodbye Father McCreepy line—sniff—oh, how we laughed); and, of course I ditched the Kim Kardashian cleavage joke (bon voyage, Kim Kardashian cleavage joke, I always loved you the best).
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.
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