There is a debate going on in my region regarding the placement of a statue in one of our city parks. The statue proposed is for the purpose of offering a place of solitude and comfort to families who have experienced the death of a child. The statue’s design is to feature a likeness of an angel. I use the term “likeness of an angel” as I really am not sure what one looks like. I have an idea they are not the little cherubs we often see in gift shops etc. but this is a topic for another time. For argument’s sake, let’s just say it’s a given that angels have, for centuries been synonymous with a kind of comfort and security.
The debate at hand is regarding the propriety of having a statue in the likeness of an angel in a city park. As you might guess, the discussion is centered around the separation of church and state question. Wisconsin’s most noted atheist in Madison, has voiced disapproval that such a statue be displayed on public property. The angel, in her opinion, would represent a Judeo/Christian point of view. Her argument is that this would discriminate against those of secularist/atheistic viewpoints who might also have experienced the death of a child.
There is a group who will donate the statue so there will be no tax dollars spent. The atheists claim that the placement on city property is unlawful and they insist that lawsuits will result should the city grant the group a space in the city park.
My observations are as follows. If these events follow the traditional patterns, there will be countless letters to the editor of our local paper. Rhetoric will be sharp and emotion filled. Those of us who are Christians will feel the pressure to keep our faith more and more privatized. The public square becomes more and more naked, as we remove any trace that religion has any positive contribution to make to society. I have an opinion about that too, but I’ll leave this for yet another time.
My concern is that the energies expended in the debate about the statue will exhaust emotions and resources that could have been spent in focusing on the real issue. Parents, whose children have died, need comforting. They need a shoulder to cry on. They need someone to hear them cry out in anguish to God about how unfair it is to lose a dear precious little one. The grief-torn need someone to care, to comfort and console. Someone who will help them get through the long nights of despair. How sad, if all the while the debates heat up, we ignore the hurt and the wounded.
Debates and discussions can be productive. I won’t say that it is wrong to spend time contending for one’s views. The tragedy is that while we busy ourselves with rhetoric, the wounded keep hurting.
So, to the atheists out there, I issue this challenge. Let’s see you show the same passion for helping someone who is hurting as you do to protect a 10 by 10 foot space in a city park. To my Christian brothers and sisters, I challenge us to be active in our faith. Let’s be the first responders when people in our community are hurting.
…..that a statue can never take the place of a shoulder, when someone needs comfort
….and a monument can never take the place of our ministry of compassion.