A church in Alma, Arkansas has responded with "love and support" to the American Atheists holiday "skip church" billboards by putting up its own ad, welcoming doubters and those who have questions about faith.
"Our goal is not to oppose their message, but rather to respond with love and support. We actually welcome their desire to support those who have felt alienated by believers and start discussion between and among the Atheist and Christian communities," Grace Church wrote on its website, referring to American Atheists' recently erected billboards in several Bible Belt cities.
The new ad reads, "Questions, Doubts, Curiosity? All welcome at Grace," and runs on the same digital billboard as the AA ad in Springdale, Arkansas.
Pastor Devon Walker revealed that the billboard costs $900, and will stay up for two weeks.
"We had people who gave inside the church but we've also had support outside of it," Walker said, according to 5News. "We had people from Texas and Florida who've called us and been able to support financially."
Last week, AA launched its billboard campaign featuring a young girl writing a message to Santa Claus that reads: "Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is to skip church! I'm too old for fairy tales."
AA President David Silverman told The Christian Post that the billboards are aimed at atheists who are living with theists in mixed families and are under pressure to participate in religious activities.
"That little girl on the billboard symbolizes the atheists who go along to get along, attending and possibly tithing a church that preaches a religion in which they don't believe, for no other reason than habit or familial pressure," Silverman told CP.
"We are using these billboards to spur intra-family communication, because we believe the communication is desperately needed," he added.
The AA billboards have gone up in major cities like Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis and Fort Smith, as well as in more residential areas near churches and schools.
Grace's website explains that its own ads, inviting people to come to church, want to foster community and conversation.
"This is an opportunity for us to communicate our respect for their beliefs and also offer an open invitation to anyone who has questions, doubts, or curiosity, 'You are welcome among us,'" the church says.
"While our parties may disagree on the divinity of Jesus, our mission is to display and embody the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth in the hope of building bridges of communication and respect where walls of confrontation and animosity now stand."