Down the street at the Capitol rotunda, a curious display has been building. It started with a nativity scene, complete with a white-skinned baby Jesus, and was joined for a while by a menorah, which made a graceful exit when Hanuka ended. It now includes a couple of displays erected by atheist groups and a “Festivus pole” – a contraption that looks curiously like a column of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans. The most recent addition to this collection is a tribute to the “Flying Spaghetti Monster,” a deity concocted to make fun of people who believe in deities.
The whole business is more than a little embarrassing, not so much for Christians like me, who are used to being embarrassed by fellow believers, but for Floridians in general, who are still trying to live down the “rep” we acquired in the bad old days of pregnant and hanging chads. It was bad enough to be known as the state that can’t count. Now we’ve become the state that doesn’t know when a joke that wasn’t all that funny to start with has gone way beyond bad taste.
I am very familiar with the rotunda of the State Capitol. I spent a fair amount of time there last August chatting with the Dream Defenders as they kept up their vigil in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin. And when the State of Florida executes yet another prisoner, a dozen or so of us — many from this congregation – will gather there to pray and sing and remind whoever will listen that the death penalty is an offense to justice, which is another way of saying an offense to God.
I regard the rotunda as sacred space. The current display doesn’t offend me so much as it disappoints me. Given all the truly important issues facing our state, it seems a shame to waste so much energy fighting over stuff that my grandmother would have called “just plain tacky.”