Two atheist organizations are teaming up to purchase a billboard in central Pennsylvania in protest of a resolution passed by the state's House of Representatives in January that declared 2012 the "Year of the Bible."
The billboard, which is being jointly sponsored by the PA Nonbelievers and the American Atheists, will show an African-American slave wearing a restraining device just below a quote from Colossians 3:22, which says, "Slaves, obey your masters."
"This lesson in Bronze Age ethics brought to you by the Year of the Bible and the House of Representatives," the billboard will say in the bottom left corner.
Rick Saccone (R) was the prime sponsor of House Resolution 535, which passed unanimously (193-0) on Jan. 24. The resolution declares 2012 the Year of the Bible "in recognition of both the formative influence of the Bible on our Commonwealth and nation and our national need to study and apply the teachings of the holy scriptures."
The atheist organizations that are opposing the resolution say that if people study the Bible, they will realize that its teachings are outdated.
"We hope people will read and understand biblical lessons like this one, and strive for a more reasonable system of ethics," the PA Nonbelievers said in a statement Thursday.
"Our country's history is in fact built on the moral achievements of great men and women, religious and non-religious alike. We encourage the House of Representatives to remember that when they pass laws, they are passing laws for all Pennsylvanians, both Christian and non-Christian."
The billboard is to go up around March 5 at the corner of 13th and Paxton Streets in Harrisburg, Penn., and will stay up for 28 days in all. The atheist organizations hope that state representatives will reconsider and eventually reject H.R. 535.
Ken Mellinger, senior pastor of Living Hope Church in Harrisburg, says many Americans don't understand that the enslavement based on race in the U.S. was very different from the Roman Empire, where "slavery was about military conquests and poverty." He also indicated that the Bible verse to be used on the billboard doesn't accurately portray the message in its entirety.
"Paul (in Colossians) is seeking to help Christians live out the gospel on a daily basis," Mellinger said in an email to The Christian Post on Friday. "Paul wrote to church leaders, not civil government. Christianity, accurately understood from the Bible, does not seek to make slaves. The goal is always freedom which is first spiritual, then physical but still very important. Christianity is opposed to all oppression."
The church has, regrettably, oppressed people in the past, he says, though he also pointed out that there have been human-centered or atheistic governments in which the level of oppression was "intolerable."
"The Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) is the ethic of Jesus," he said. "All law, that is valid law, comes from the Bible. No justice is available apart from the Bible."
He also called the Year of the Bible resolution "commendable" but "unnecessary" for the government to pass.
"There is no need to offend folks in the community," he said. "On the other hand, I won't protest if an atheist (or atheism) is so honored. The Bible doesn't need anyone to defend it because it is the Word of God. It will always stand."