Thursday, May 5, 2011


Portland, Oregon–April 25, 2011–A multimedia ad campaign challenging the myth that the nonreligious lead empty, selfish and self-centered lives will be unveiled this week in Portland, Oregon. “You don’t need God-to hope, to care, to love, to live.”

Living Without Religion billboards will be seen on both the west and east sides of the city, at SW Barbur, 50 feet southwest of Bancroft Street, on the east side of the road facing south; and at Powell and 8th, on the south side of the street facing west.

One of the billboards mentioned in the above referenced press release is less than two blocks from my home.  The billboard had recently been used as an advertisment for the Yoga center that is located on SW Bancroft and SW Corbett Avenue.  In addition to the Amrita Yoga Center, my neighborhood is home to two Buddhist congregations, and only one Christian church, a Seventh Day Adventist Church. There are Jehovah's Witnesses on the other side of the freeway.

There has been much talk about how people in Oregon respond negatively to organized Christian religion.  The Conservative Baptist Church that I was raised in dropped the "Baptist" from its name several years ago. We have all seen the advertisements for local non-denominational churches which offer "relationships not religion."

As Lutherans, we have attempted to separate ourselves from the "religious," who we see as judgmental and hypocritical; and, have allied ourselves with the "spiritual," who we see as open and accepting of people no matter where they are on the faith journey.  The Center for Inquiry, who has started their mult-media ad campaign in Portland, however, does not acknowledge a difference and has brought under attack the very concept of faith and God.

There are people in my neighborhood who poke fun at the Seventh Day Adventists because their sign talks often refers to the application of God, Christ, and the Bible to daily life.  Their electronic sign, which changes weekly, is less than two blocks from the new billboard advocating the merits of the non-religious lifestyle.  The battle for the hearts and minds (and yes, souls) of Portlanders is alive and well in my neighborhood, and yours as well.  We must understand that we face a real enemy as we determine how we will "brand ourselves" in a marketplace that is becoming more hostile every day. 

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