A Christian vandal? Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Yet Congregation Kol Ami has had to deal with just that. In response to the ongoing crisis in New Orleans and Alabama, like churches and synagogues around the nations, CKA went into tzedakah (“charity”) hyper-drive. As part of that, we posted a new message on our roadside marquee board in front of the synagogue:
CHARITY SAVES FROM DEATH – PROVERBS
TZEDAKAH HELP ALA MISS LA.
Past postings on our board have included such zingers as UNDER THE SAME MANAGEMENT FOR 3500 YEARS and HAPPY CHALLAH DAYS, so I thought what could be more innocuous then a Scriptural quote? Yet Monday morning when I came in to help deliver a load of charitable donations to Jewish Family Services for distribution, I found the sign had been altered to read:
CHRIST SAVES FROM DEATH
Now I was a little puzzled at the implication that Jesus had somehow co-opted Captain Marvel’s magical phrase of power. And I don’t mind the message, per say, but it’s just not our message. But it was distressing to see that someone, obviously driven by religious fervor, somehow thought that propagating his message entitled him to deface other people’s property and to bear false witness (I’m not talking about what he believes, mind you – by using our sign, he bore false witness about what Judaism teaches).
Many of my congregants were upset, but I was a little reluctant to notify the police, given the really minor nature of this offense, so I just changed the sign back. Alas, later that week, I found the same malicious mischief replicated once more on our sign. So this time I filed a report. I’m happy to report that, as always, the Flower Mound Police Force was solicitous and diligent in dealing with this minor crime. But they were equally forthright in telling me how unlikely it was they could find the culprit.
Then something amazing happened. It seems the young man was so proud of his handiwork the second time that he took a digital picture of his handiwork and posted it on an internet Christian bulletin board. Within 24 hours, the minister who administered the site saw the posting, recognized what had been done, pulled the posting, and sent me the young man’s e-mail and IP address — which I immediately passed on to the police.
Within days there was a productive conversation going one between me, the police, the culprit, his family, and his pastor. This young zealot quickly came to the insight that what he thought was an act of faithful witnessing was actually malicious mischief. Apologizes were issued, the issue was resolved, and what in years past might have become ongoing source of contention and hurt was healed in the course of less than two weeks.
That’s what can happen when people of faithful are willing to work together with an attitude of respect. And you toss in a little of the magical power of the Internet. Shazam!