So here's kind of a local news piece that I read this morning and it really just pisses me off. We have this very cool light display in Duluth that is totally free for families. It started out as this guy's yard light display and people would drive by, then you could walk through his property, and it's become so huge and such a tradition that it's held in a large park in downtown Duluth. My family loves it and it's free and it's just such a cool thing to do around the holidays. The other part that makes it great is that they collect canned goods and I think at some point they collect toys for disadvantaged families and they do a lot of good. Oh, and every kid gets a knit winter hat which are really great. I mean, think of how many kids seriously depend on getting the free hat every year because their parents can't afford it? Anyways. It's a really great thing that is run on donations and it's basically a very nice community thing.
A few years ago there was some controversy over these local preachers preaching and handing out religious materials through the park. Two years later and it's still in court battle and it's a giant mess. I mean, whatever happens it's going to be a shame either way.
I'm not a religious person. I don't look down on people who are religious and it's really just a personal thing. Everyone needs something to believe in and hold onto and I get it. Well, I don't really get religion, it sounds hokey as hell, but whatever.
But here's the thing: religious is a personal thing and I don't think anyone should try to influence anybody else either way. I get how in some religions you aren't a good follower if you aren't spreading the good word. Or you want to save someone from Hell and show them the light or whatever. OK, but what if they don't care? What if we just want to wander around a park with our families and see the lights and then get in line to see Santa and roast some marshmallows?
Now, the city made a First Amendment Zone (which is such a Duluth thing, truly) and honestly? That's kind of nice. I mean some cities could be assholes and not give you the option to preach at all. But the preachers aren't happy with that. They want to wander around, approach people, and do whatever they do. Which, why? Why can't you just have a table/booth, maybe some information to hand out to people who are interested, maybe a pencil or something for kids, and be positive? But no. They were shirts that say, "Fear God. Hate Sin. Trust Jesus". Now, as a parent with a child who can now read, that is scary. I don't want to answer the questions she's going to have and frankly- how dare you? How dare you push your thoughts and beliefs onto my child? As an adult I have logic and reasoning and my own beliefs to keep me steady but a child does not. You don't have the right to scare my kid into thinking something is truth when let's be honest- nobody really knows.
I support churches and their right to do what they do, I show respect when I see them at other events in our community, and that's all well and good. But I feel like if you have to force your opinion on another person it isn't really effective. Maybe be there with the table and show why your church and your religion is a positive thing rather than force yourself on others. Maybe do a fundraiser for a community cause, or collect winter weather items such as jackets and boots for families in need, something that would bring people to your table and show them that you aren't forceful assholes? Just a thought.
My fear is that groups like this will put a damper on free events in a community and eventually organizers would say it's more trouble than it's worth. Which is really a shame because something like Bentleyville is maybe the highlight of someone's holiday season. Why ruin that for someone? And really- maybe if these people focused on themselves and their own families and not be so worried about the destination of the rest of us when we die, the world would be better. Who knows.