You can’t help but notice them. Every day the sidewalks of campus bring to you another message courtesy of your friendly neighborhood campus group. “Vote ‘yes’ for the GEU!” “Happy Birthday, Emily! Love, your friends.” “Free Tibet.” “SAF meeting in the Union on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Free pizza and pop!”
Although many of these don’t apply to me, I read each and every one of them. They add some spice to my transcampus walks and alert me to events I might think about going to if I ever get the time.
Usually, these masterpieces on concrete remain untouched until rain, snow or one too many pairs of feet wipe them from our view. For some reason, once you have put chalk to sidewalk, it is allowed to remain as long as nature allows.
Unless, I have discovered, someone decides they don’t like your message.
Last week, messages began popping up advertising a Campus Crusade for Christ event about Easter. The sidewalk messages boasted the truth about Easter and gave a day, time and place. I am not the most pious of people, and for the most part, religious groups aren’t my thing. I am only now finding peace with Catholicism after years of struggle. I’m not really into revolving my extracurricular activities around Christianity.
These messages, as many others, I have learned to ignore if I’m not interested. I don’t feel pressured to go. I don’t feel guilty if I don’t go. I see them, decide I’m not interested and move on.
Unfortunately, some people aren’t able to just let things be.
On Monday as I walked to class I noticed the messages had been altered. Someone (or many someones) took the time to get some sidewalk chalk and cross out portions of CCC’s messages and replace the words, turning the messages into sometimes obscene anti-Christian sentiments.
What once said “Find out the truth about Easter” became “find out the lies about Easter,” a simple fish symbol representing Jesus became a “Darwin” fish with legs and crosses turned into indiscernible designs.
I can understand the frustration felt by non-Christians at the presumption that those in CCC know the “truth” about what happened half a world away almost 2,000 years ago. The fact is, no one in this day and age knows definitively what happened; people only know what they believe, and although some may believe in that so deeply they think it to be the truth, that doesn’t mean it is the truth to everyone.
The alteration of a symbol goes deeper than just making a few chalk strokes. In the early days, when worship of Christ could result in death, Christians used the fish symbol to tell each other they were believers. The cross represents the very foundation of the Christian faith.
The symbols are very important to many people and, while the alteration was pretty harmless, it was insulting. I can see how someone who doesn’t believe in the Christian version of things might be offended, but I don’t see the need to call it lies or to alter a symbol.
Although those two chalkings irked me, it was another pair that offended me enough to write about this.
“What’s the dilio with Easter?” was changed to “What’s the dildo with Easter?” and “Jesus loves you” messages became “Jesus wants you.”
No matter what your beliefs, no matter how sick you might be of being inundated with Christian messages in this WWJD world, under the realm of good taste and common decency, Easter and dildo do not belong in the same sentence. I don’t care who you are or what justification you give, there’s no reason to turn a religious figure or fundamental religious holiday into a sexual reference.
I realize many people have problems with Christianity being pushed in their faces. Even as a Christian, I and many others don’t appreciate having other people’s beliefs pushed on me. I know what I believe and I am comfortable in that. I don’t need someone to tell me I’m going to hell because I’m a liberal pro-choice advocate who doesn’t go to church very often.
But in all reality, a few words and symbols drawn on the sidewalk will not kill you. The messages from the CCC were on the harmless side of things; they simply hyped an event, provided the necessary information and left it at that. No one was demanding you go or saying you would burn in eternal damnation if you didn’t agree.
This is not so much an issue of freedom of speech as it is an issue of respect and consideration. The person or people who altered the messages had every right to express their feelings, just as the CCC had to write the original messages. You may not agree with something, but there’s no reason to destroy it.
If you have a rebuttal to something, go about it in the same way: Hold a meeting, advertise the event and get your message out – just don’t destroy others’ work to do it.
Insulting a group by attacking its beliefs in such a malicious manner leaves a mark that remains much longer than sidewalk chalk.
Michonne L. Omo, State News opinion writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.