In case you missed it, the young earth creationist “apologetics ministry” Answers in Genesis (AiG) paid to display a 15 second message on a video billboard in Times Square on rotation for the day leading up to the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop ceremony. In a blog post announcing the billboard and an accompanying marketing campaign, AiG president Ken Ham cited his concern that Christian symbols such as the cross, the Ten Commandments and Nativity scenes “are being removed from public places across the US” and that “very intolerant groups of atheists and other secularists are now imposing their religion of atheism on the culture.” Citing these concerns, Ham stated that the purpose of the entire campaign is “to engage these groups and the culture as a whole to challenge them concerning the true freedom we all need in Christ.”
Ham went on to state that the purpose of the ad displayed in Times Square was fourfold:
- To reinforce the fact that many of those who oppose the Christian message in our culture claim to pursue tolerance, but they are some of the most intolerant people around. God’s people need to understand this.
- There is no neutral position—one is either for Christ or against Christ. Removing Christian symbols flies in the face of religious freedom and freedom of speech.
- Only in Christ we can have true freedom—the freedom each person so desperately needs to be free from slavery to sin.
- As crosses have been removed from many public places, we want the Cross and what it represents to be seen by millions in the culture—as a reminder of the true message of Christ.
Now, keeping these facts in mind, I invite you to watch the video:
My Problems with AiG’s Message
While numerous, my 6 biggest problems with AiG’s billboard are:
- Name-calling is never an appropriate way to make a point in the name of Christ. By beginning its message with “To our intolerant, liberal friends,” AiG immediately alerts the defenses of a large number of its would-be audience. Interestingly, Ham repeatedly cited the intolerance of those espousing tolerance in his justification of his new campaign and, instead of taking the high road and showing grace in the name of Christ, he determined the best course of action was a supposedly sanctified version of “turnabout is fair play.” By beginning the ad in this fashion, Ham conveys that however he wishes to dress up his message, his motivations and intentions are incredibly juvenile and not fitting a “minister” of the Gospel.
- I wonder on what grounds someone is categorized as “intolerant” and “liberal.” After reading up on AiG, I get the impression that intolerant means anyone who feels that public, government owned facilities should be religiously neutral and that “liberal” generally means anyone who does not agree with a young earth creationism cosmological position. Full disclosure: I am not a young earth creationist. I also feel that government facilities should be religiously neutral in light of the separation of church and state promised by the Constitution. I am not threatened by living in a reality in which the government stays out of religious positions which includes teaching “biblical Creationism” in public schools. Isn’t it the church’s job to teach the Bible? Perhaps the reason I have such a problem with the billboard is because AiG wants me to.
- No rational person can think that this billboard accomplishes the stated goal of “challenging secularists who are increasingly intolerant of the Christian message” by “bringing the greatest symbol of the gospel message—the Cross—to millions of people.” If the point is to prominently display the cross and all it symbolizes to millions of people then cut the first 3 seconds of the ad and everything is fine. By adding the first 3 seconds AiG belies its true motivation: to belittle those who would have the gall to disagree with them and what I’m sure they believe to be “clear, biblical teaching” under the guise of an evangelistic priority.
- This is a gross misappropriation of dedicated ministry funds that could be used much more effectively. While difficult to determine exactly how much was spent on the billboard, given the level of foot traffic in Times Square for the ball drop ceremony and the fact that some companies pay upwards of $4.4 million/year to advertise on similar billboards, it stands to reason that AiG spent at least thousands and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars to barb their detractors in an extremely public fashion.
- What, exactly, does this message have to do with freedom? Since “true freedom in Christ” is supposedly the theme, why is that message positioned as an add-on bullet point after a contentious opening statement and 5 seconds of a cross? Any why does the message, “Thank God for freedom” seem to refer to AiG‘s ability to purchase the billboard rather than anything to do with freedom from sin in Christ? Did I miss the reference to sin and its bondage somewhere?
- Ironically, AiG’s method is in violation of “clear biblical teaching” on how to deal with opponents. Two notable examples come to mind:
- “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.” -2 Timothy 2:24-25a
- “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarrelling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy to all people.” Titus 3:1-2
For an organization that takes “the clear teaching of Scripture” so seriously, this is the most egregious offense.
 Ken Ham and Mark Looy, “‘Thank God for Freedom’ to Be Messaged to Millions.” December 30, 2014, answersingenesis.org. https://answersingenesis.org/ministry-news/thank-god-for-freedom/. Accessed 1/1/15.
 Ibid. Apparently Mr. Ham doesn’t proofread his blog posts. Number 3 was especially painful.
 A range of $5,000-$2.2 million is stated in Wendy Parish, “How much does a Times Square billboard really cost?” Marketingdrive.com. July 17, 2014. http://www.marketingdive.com/news/how-much-does-a-times-square-billboard-really-cost/287184/. Accessed 1/1/15. Jim Edwards proposed that one year of advertising in Times Square could actually cost upwards of $4.4 million. Jim Edwards, “Here’s How Much it Actually Costs to Buy One of Those Times Square Billboards.” Businessinsider.com. December 31, 2012. http://www.businessinsider.com/what-it-costs-to-advertise-in-times-square-2012-12. Accessed 1/1/15.
 At least it is in Ham’s mind, as his opening justification for the billboard makes laboriously clear. https://answersingenesis.org/ministry-news/thank-god-for-freedom/.