"You shall not make for yourself an idol," the Bible's Second Commandment reads.
Now a new billboard going up along Interstate 85/I-40 near Mebane will include the quote, along with a photo of a pile of guns and ammunition.
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The billboard is from the North Carolina Council of Churches, a statewide organization representing 18 Christian denominations in the state and 6,200 individual congregations. About 1.5 million North Carolinians are members of congregations under the Council’s umbrella, the council says.
"It will go up this week and stay in place for the next four weeks, another crucial message for all of us while gun violence continues to erupt all around," the council said in a news release announcing the billboard.
This billboard is only the first of a series of messages planned by the council during the coming months. It plans to erect a new billboard in a different part of the state, "regularly reminding people there is a different way of framing the conversation."
The council is trying to "guide the conversation" about gun safety in the U.S., it said, by pointing to the Second Commandment.
Right after God commands God’s people not to follow other gods, God commands the people not to have any idols, according to the Old Testament.
“Idols can assume a lot of guises in our world that we don’t immediately understand as idolatry,” said Jennifer Copeland, executive director of the North Carolina Council of Churches. “For many of us, guns have become the symbol of safety, the idol we turn to because we ‘believe in them’ to keep us safe.
So the council is trying to re-frame the discussion about gun safety "by reminding people of faith of the guiding principles found in our scriptures and our creeds. As people of faith, we should always guard against those things that become more important to us than the God who calls us to abundant life. How much more so, should we call out the idols that hold out false promises," she said.
But to be clear, Copeland said no one wants to repeal the Second Amendment.
"The argument that criminals can always get a gun may be true, but we should make it very hard and very expensive for them to do so. Good gun laws will never prevent good gun owners from having their weapons," Copeland said. "Guns are not the solution to our safety."
Instead, Copeland suggested communities could become safer by feeding the hungry, welcoming strangers, caring for the sick and visiting the imprisoned.
"But that’s a message for another billboard," she said.
For more information on the N.C. Council of Churches, go to www.ncchurches.org.