I’ll admit it. Years of driving past the Lighthouse Pentecostal Church in Island City several times a day and reading the quips on their sign has occasionally given me the desire to slip in under the cover of darkness and make some witty alterations. I’m a big child, I know. Of course I never considered actually doing it. Their congregation had never done me any harm and a petty act of mischief for my own amusement would have been, well ... petty.
In light of recent events, I’ve begun reconsidering my restraint. Their innocence of having injured me is certainly no longer a consideration, and what would previously have been petty now seems not only justified but perhaps even a civic duty. I could even argue it would be an act of religious freedom.
After all, my beliefs include doing unto others as I would have done to me. If I ever commit an act so egregiously selfish, reckless and consequential as the Lighthouse leadership and congregation did over and over again these past few months, I dearly hope the community wouldn’t hesitate to lightly trespass my property in order to both shame me appropriately and give itself at least a small taste of justice.
My beliefs also strongly value taking personal responsibility for my actions. If I were to perform my little act of sign editorializing I wouldn’t destroy any evidence, and if anyone asked I would confess. I assumed the Lighthouse Church held this value as well, as whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
So now I wonder. Would I be prosecuted for my minor crime? If so, would I be subject to the penalties described by law? Would I be instructed to apologize to those hurt by my actions? Understanding that being a member of a community comes with the responsibility to abide by the rules of that community, I would certainly expect to be held accountable for breaking the law whether or not I agree with that law. This concept is both foundational to democracy and a recurrent lesson in Western religions.
Lighthouse Church leaders and congregation members: My 3-year-old son wasn’t allowed to play with his friends for nearly three months. As a community, we had finally made it to the point where he could. Every parent knows the pain we felt every time he asked when he would finally be able to see them and play more. Same for his grandparents. Now my heart will break again every single day when he pretends his friends have come to see him and sets his toys out for them. You took this away from him.
I am one of tens of thousands of people in this community who each have made sacrifices and endured hardships because of your actions. Perhaps you did have a right of religious freedom to disobey the law and gather in the numbers and fashion you did, but you did not and do not have the right to then participate in our community as if you were abiding by the laws.
Accept responsibility for what you’ve done and understand you will obey the authority of the law or you will no longer be welcome in this community.
In the meantime, if you find your highway sign has been “adjusted,” feel free to come ask if I’m responsible. If it was me, I’ll proudly admit it.