Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Billboard/Poster/Sign (any or all) (12/02/10)
TITLE: The Battle of the Billboards
By Gregory Kane
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Two minutes later with several photos of the poster stored in his cell phone, Jim roared through the toll gate. God's people had been pushed around for long enough; no way was Jim going to stand idly by while the Lord's enemies ran amok. It was high time for the church to confront such blatant evil.
"I don't see what the big deal is," said Bill Thomas, the presiding elder at Jim's church. "They're merely exercising their right to free speech."
"That's twaddle. Do you have any idea how many people pass by that toll gate every day? When a man looks at that billboard, the Devil's words are gonna grab a toe-hold in his mind, dragging him down to eternal damnation. And what about vulnerable children, impressionable teenagers, struggling believers? We have to respond!"
Bill picked up one of the fuzzy photos that Jim had printed out and brought with him. The image of the stable scene was blurred but the text was all too visible: "Does anyone honestly believe in the Nativity? Have the courage to call yourself an atheist." It was in many ways like a declaration of war.
The second salvo in the Battle of the Billboards was fired on the following Tuesday. A nearby billboard was dispossessed of its advert for a popular brand of toothpaste. In its place appeared a scene of happy children singing Christmas carols, accompanied by the words: "Thank God for Christmas. Be proud to call yourself a Christian."
The money to rent the billboard was raised by the members of Jim and Bill's church. Across the city prayer cells were moved to fervent intercession, pleading with the Lord to open the eyes of drivers as they approached the Christian poster, only to close those same eyes as they neared the toll gate. Bill suspected that were God to answer that particular prayer, there would be some serious fender-benders in the offing but wisely he kept such thoughts to himself.
Vandals struck in the first week of December. Jim was called to the scene by an anguished supporter. Someone had daubed their poster with pink paint, replacing the word Christmas with Sex and the word Christian with something entirely unmentionable.
The story spread like wildfire around the Christian community, with immediate suspicion falling on the atheists' society. Bill appealed for calm, saying that the defamation was most likely the work of some anonymous pervert. His words fell on deaf ears as Jim immediately announced a 24-hour protest underneath the anti-Christmas billboard. Before long, the road up to the toll gate was lined with television vans, all keen to draw attention to the growing confrontation between faith and unbelief.
One week later, just as interest in the matter was dying, arsonists doused the contentious poster with petrol and set it alight. Although the vandals disguised themselves with balaclavas, CCTV footage recorded the licence plate of their car and it took the police less than three hours to round up the culprits. Much to Bill's chagrin, one of the men arrested was Jim Brown, who announced to the waiting television cameras that the Lord Jesus had commissioned him to send the abomination back to hell.
As Christmas drew near, the agency that owned the two billboards declined to rent any further space to either group. Jim was released on bail and made quite a name for himself speaking at prayer meetings and fellowship groups. Bill was considerably less upbeat. To his way of thinking the followers of Jesus Christ had made a complete fool of themselves in the eyes of the wider public.
The chairman of the atheists' society raised a toast to Lady Luck as he prepared to tuck into his Christmas dinner. Enquiries using the atheists' toll-free number had quadrupled since Jim Brown had started his protest and generated so much publicity for their billboard. The chairman had appeared on five news programmes and a dozen chat shows. If the champions of Christianity were all as vainglorious and dimwitted, the days of the Christian faith were surely numbered.
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