FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Above the recent preaching, praying and weeping on the steps of the Alabama Supreme Court building in Montgomery, television news outlets captured the teeth gnashing of a would-be biblical style prophet.
When workers inside the court building began to wheel Judge Roy Moore’s monument of the Ten Commandments to another area of the building, the protester shouted, “Put it back!” every three to five seconds.
Several protesters lying prostrate in the shadow of the building appeared inconvenienced and even perturbed by the fellow’s one-sided shouting match. Several men tried to sooth his spiritual wounds. “This is a place of prayer,” one of them said. “Please,” another said.
But the fiery tirade would not be stopped. He broke away from those trying to calm him, saying that he was “telling it the way God put it in my heart to tell it.” I am certain that he believed so. I am equally certain that he was sincerely grieved at what he was witnessing.
He was not alone. A recent USA Today Gallup Poll indicated that 77 percent of Alabama’s citizens favored leaving the monument in place.
Sincerity and grief aside, however, the protester who eluded his comforters uttered a comment which so violated the spirit and letter of the Ten Commandments that I sat straight up in my chair in disbelief. In fact, any sympathy I had for his grief evaporated like the morning mist when he delivered the heart of his message.
“Get your hands off of our God, God-haters,” the protester screamed with bulging veins and crimson face.
Perhaps it was merely a poor choice of words; perhaps he was exhausted by his exuberant protest in the Alabama sun. “Irony,” however, does not sufficiently convey the inconsistency in his words and the message etched in stone a mere 50 feet inside the court building’s rotunda. His words, whether he knew it or not, depicted the monument as a representation of God — a 5,300-pound idol.
God is not in the granite. He is not in the rise and fall of the letters that form the words carved into it. God is not in the paper on which the constitution of the state of Alabama was written which, according to Judge Moore, requires him to acknowledge God. I think most people realize this, and I submit that, if given the chance, the protester would likely choose his words more carefully.
God is, however, in the hearts of Christians and it is there that His law is carved into tablets of flesh. It is in Christian judges and politicians and churchmen and the Christian everyman. I also submit that the very fact that we have a legal system which promotes equality and fairness is a sign of God’s blessing and provision. Each time Judge Moore’s gavel falls he is acknowledging the words of the nation’s founders that God has created all men equal and endowed them with certain inalienable rights.
That seems to be a hard concept for some to grasp. Many people want a tangible representation of God’s law. That is easy to find, in my opinion, in every Christian who allows Christ to govern their thoughts and actions.
As the television cameras have been focused on Judge Moore and the church-state separation crisis in Alabama, all I have heard leads me to believe that the controversy isn’t really about a hunk of stone. The crisis is a product of the ineffective witness of Christians.
If Christians expended one-tenth of the energy preaching the Gospel throughout the week that they did traveling to Montgomery and protesting a decision that they have little chance of reversing, perhaps there would be no atheists to file lawsuits against Christian judges, monuments and inscriptions carved on buildings.
And it is the responsibility of Christians to see that God’s laws are added to more hearts daily. That law, the pure and perfect law of loving the Father and our neighbors, cannot be moved. That is the good news. Then, no matter how many granite monuments are removed the principles of the Judeo-Christian ethic will still be embedded in our legal system.
Gregory Tomlin is interim director of public relations and an adjunct professor of church history at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.