Billboard Theology

Driving home from my retreat last weekend, a billboard caught my attention. “When you die,” it asked, “will you go to heaven or hell?” At the bottom was an 800 number you could call, presumably to find out whether you’ll need your flame-retardant pajamas in the afterlife.

I would love to listen in on these phone calls.

Caller: “Hello. I just saw your billboard and wondered if I will spend eternity in the glorious glory of heaven or the fiery pit of hell.”
Answerer: “Well, sir, have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?”
Caller: “I think so. But I was pretty drunk at the time. Just trying to impress a hot girl.”
Answerer: “The important thing is that you’ve prayed the prayer of salvation. Jesus will forgive your sins and welcome you into heavenly glory. Have a nice day.”

Caller #2: “Hello. I just saw your billboard and wondered if I will spend eternity in the glorious glory of heaven or the fiery pit of hell .”
Answerer: “Well, m’am, have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?”
Caller #2: “I think so. But I was pretty drunk at the time. Just trying to impress a hot girl.”
Answerer: “The sin of ho-mo-sex-u-al-ity is an abomination in the sight of God. You will definitely spend eternity in hell. Have a nice day.”

Or maybe the conversations go more like this:

Caller: “Hello. I just saw your billboard and wondered if I will spend eternity in the glorious glory of heaven or the fiery pit of hell.”
Answerer: Well, for the incredible price of just $19.95, I will personally pray the prayer of salvation with you over the phone right now and send you a certified certificate guaranteeing your heaven-bound status. (This document is not legally binding. Some restrictions apply. Please see Bible for details.)

O.K. Maybe I’m being a bit cynical. The conversation could go like this:

Caller: “Hello. I just saw your billboard and wondered if I will spend eternity in the glorious glory of heaven or the fiery pit of hell.”
Answerer: Well, my friend, God became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth out of deep love for you as a means of reconciling all people to God. What happens after this earthly life is beyond our knowledge or comprehension—but we are called to be faithful in the way of Christ while we are on earth. Loving people and working for peace and justice in this world. (See, this is why they don’t let me answer the hotline.)

However those conversations go, this billboard also makes me wonder: What kind of people call the heaven or hell hotline? Who thought this was a good idea in the first place? Have any souls been saved by this disconcerting billboard? How much money and time have Christians wasted in this ill-conceived “ministry”?

If we really want to help people understand the state of their immortal souls, I propose we shut down the hotline and replace the 800 number on the billboard with Matthew 25:31-46.

 

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One thought on “Billboard Theology

  1. Love Love LOVE this! I’m seriousl thinking about using this in a sermon (citing appropriately, of course).

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