Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

Editorial: ‘End’ signs send wrong message

The end is near. Or so say the signs up and down the highway that serve as harbingers of a coming apocalypse that promises everyone who does not “REPENT, REPENT, REPENT” will spend eternity in a condition of hellfire and damnation. Welcome to Clarendon.

Roger Estlack, Editor

If you’re new to town or just passing through, you might wonder what kind of place you’ve just stepped into. More than 40 crosses made of four-inch PVC pipe have sprung up from one end of town to the other and along highways in Donley County. And if that doesn’t get your attention, a dozen or so signs question your relationship with Jesus and repeatedly proclaim the coming of “the end.”

The work of one man, Jim Griffin, the signs and crosses are an expression of religion, free speech, and Griffin’s desire to see people turn to Christ as their personal savior. Griffin has a right to his beliefs, and property owners have the right to put up a sign or a cross, but as a community what is the message all this sends to visitors to our fair city? What is the cumulative effect of this repeated message? During one recent event that brought several folks in from out of town, comments ranged from the bewildered to wondering if that many people had died along our highway to openly speculating if perhaps the Klan is active here.

Despite the good intention behind the signs and crosses, they are having some negative repercussions. City Hall, the Chamber of Commerce, and this newspaper have fielded calls that have questioned what can be done to stop the signs or what their purpose is. Some folks disagree with the message of the signs – preferring a message that centers more on God’s love, and some are incensed that the emblem of the risen Christ is being represented by sewer pipe.

But the most unfortunate consequence of the signs and crosses was made clear by one reader of this paper who emailed to say that, to her, the message is one that Clarendon is a “Christians only” town and people of any other faith are not welcome. That statement is hurtful to our city’s reputation and I believe would disappoint not only our early pioneers but also Jesus himself, who taught his followers to “love thy neighbor as thyself” and even went so far as to admonish us to love our enemies.

As a matter of historical fact, Clarendon was established as a Christian temperance colony by a Methodist minister. But when asked if other faiths were welcome in the colony, Rev. Carhart said that Methodism was prominent but that the settlement was “not of the narrow gauge.” In fact, one of its earliest and most prominent citizens was Jewish. Morris Rosenfield was one of the colony’s first merchants, was held in high esteem, served on the Clarendon School Board, and has his name on one of our city streets. But he was most certainly not a believer in the cross.

In more recent times, we have had a Jew on our city council and one of the finest families, in my opinion, who have sent their kids through our school system were Muslims. The kids were accepted, well liked, and made their mark on CHS athletics; and while they were not Christians, they were far more decent human beings than many folks I know who claim to be followers of Christ. Last month, our community buried a local business leader, a man who was a true gentleman in every sense of the word. His faith was different than many who knew him, but we valued his friendship and deeply respected him just the same.

Even among our Christian churches – of which we’re up to about 16 at last count – there are some stark differences in beliefs, doctrine, and theology that might or might not be in keeping with the message that is being seen along the highway. Our community is composed of different doctrines and different faiths, and that’s okay. It’s what makes America – and Clarendon, Texas – great.

Mr. Griffin himself says he wants the signs and crosses to glorify God and that he does not seek to demean people of other faiths or make them feel unwelcome. In fact, he says everyone is welcome here and that is part of being in America.

Unfortunately, for many, the signs, the crosses, and even the proposed Ten Commandments marker for the Courthouse Square have the effect of painting Clarendon with a broad brush and will leave outsiders with the impression that the town is an unwelcoming place, one that is intolerant of other religions. That is a reputation, however unintended, that we do not want. Everyone is entitled to their religion and to express that religion, but if every property owner puts up one or more ten-foot tall plastic crosses, then that can appear to be a bit over the top.

Good Christian people may disagree on this point, and many who do not approve of the signs may keep silent, which is what we saw happen with the Ten Commandments proposal. People think speaking out against a monument or a sign will invite accusations that they are not dedicated to their faith, and, sadly, that will indeed be said. But we can disagree and still be agreeable with each other. Clarendon is and has been a town with open arms with a penchant for spreading the loving message of Jesus, but it’s never needed signs or ten-foot crosses to accomplish that. To reach the most people, the apocalyptic messages of the end times should be taken down and replaced by signs that proclaim God’s love for his children, and property owners might want to think about the cumulative effect before they agree to add more crosses along the highway so that our neighbors of other faiths can still feel comfortable calling Clarendon their home.

Comments

22 Responses to “Editorial: ‘End’ signs send wrong message”
  1. KatMye says:

    I find it strange that there is not one comment on this misguided article. I also find it alarming at how blatantly obvious you bash Christianity. Perhaps you are blinded by your Masonic teachings and don’t realize that you are inadvertently performing pagan/occultic practices that adhere strongly to mystery religions and the luciferian doctrine. It’s nothing less than mystery Babylon. True to satan’s nature, he always reveals himself as an all knowing, benevolent creature that tricks man into worshipping him. Maybe I should just pray for you, the newspaper, and all its readers. I’m sure you won’t post this as it probably comes across offensive, but believe me when I say, I’m not bashing you. Have a great day!

    • Roger Estlack says:

      Your post doesn’t just come across as offensive, it is offensive. I’m not bashing you, and I’m certainly not bashing Christianity. Why would I bash my own faith? My faith in God and Jesus Christ is stronger now than it ever has been after the losses my family has endured in recent years. But despite by own personal convictions, I do not want to see anyone bashed for their religion. We’ve seen what happens when other faiths are not respected. Look at the Holocaust where so many people died because they were of a different faith. The strength of America is that you are free to worship as you choose, and Clarendon is and has been a community where – even though Christianity is prominent – other faiths have been accepted and welcomed. I’m sorry that you find religious freedom and tolerance for other faiths to be “misguided.”

      Your comments about Masonic teachings are also completely off base. I’m not sure where you got your information, but I assure you that your sources are faulty, to say the least. I suppose to some degree masonry invites such wild speculation because the fraternity is selective about who it accepts as its members. As such it becomes a target for those who are conspiracy theorists or who, in some cases, are religious fanatics that get their kicks by spreading hate and misinformation about other groups and other faiths. I don’t have the time to dispel every myth about masonry that has ever been put forth but I will say these few short things. A belief in God is an absolute requirement to be a mason. Masons come from all walks of life and many different religions and are bound together by such principles as the Fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, and charity to all. The symbols of freemasonry are visible reminders to its members of moral lessons that govern how masons are to act not only in their dealings with other masons but with everyone in all walks of life.

      Some of the finest men I have ever known in my life have been masons. Some of this community’s finest men have been masons, and many great men throughout history have been masons. George Washington, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Sam Houston, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Winston Churchill, Buzz Aldrin, Davy Crockett, Ben Franklin, Gerald Ford, Bob Dole, Red Skelton, Danny Thomas, Will Rogers, and even John Wayne himself – they have all been masons. And if you think that these men would be involved with anything as sinister as you’ve suggested… if you really and truly believe that for even one minute… then it is you who need my prayers. Is your post offensive? Yes, it is. It is an offense to the memories of my grandfathers and my father and to the memories of all the good and decent men who have been members of a Masonic lodge.

      I hope this gives you something to think about. Have a nice day.

  2. Seek U First says:

    I want to say,thank you for allowing for me to give some feedback.
    I do not agree with the article and here is the reason. Clarendon is a so small that if you blink you will miss it. This man is simply posting along the roadway’s of Clarendon some truth’s of the Bible.That may hurt and offend some,but isn’t that what truth is supposed to accomplish? Truth Hurt’s.
    I like the step of faith this man has taken and I would love to see a banner over the street at both ends of town Proudly proclaiming that Jesus is Lord of Clarendon.
    Thank you Mr Griffin for taking a stand for our Lord and saviour Jesus the Christ,be encouraged,keep fighting the good fight. Your brother in Christ.

  3. Larinda says:

    i find it strange that you fail to find the courage, while bashing an
    organization about which you obviously know nothing, to sign your name
    and hide behind some alias. Perhaps you are blinded by your
    ignorance. I find it difficult to believe that in this day and age of
    endless means of information and media, that thinking like yours still
    exists. Yes, the Masonic Lodge, has been shrouded in mystery for
    centuries. I notice the Lions Club, the Elks, the Moose, or whatever
    other fraternal organizations one thinks of, never come under fire
    like the Masons. That being said, I would like to address one
    specific issue that the uneducated such as yourself always seem to
    skim over. To become a Mason, there are a few requirements. Members
    must be of at least the minimum age, believe in a Supreme Being of
    some sort, be of good morals & reputation,plus provide favorable
    references to his character. Please take note of that “Supreme Being”
    part. I am sure that a vast, and I do meant vast majority of Masons,
    refer to their Supreme Being as God, and thereby are firm in their
    Christian beliefs. (Do you condemn alcoholics anonymous for having only to
    believe in a “higher power” and not “God”-just curious)? Thanks to
    movies and popular media, Masons have something of an undeserved
    sinister reputation. It cannot be denied that there is a secret aspect
    to Freemasonry, but when looked at objectively, the secrecy is no more
    than other fraternities. With a little bit of thought, you’ll realize
    that that Masons have the same amount, or less secrecy than many other
    organizations. One of the chief concerns of the Masons is good works.
    You’ll find plenty of Masons involved in activities that promote the
    community and help the less fortunate. Wow. That is so sinister and
    luciferian. I agree, that the devil takes on many forms. I have seen
    him in many places. Typically he takes on the form of hypocrites and
    the discontented. Plant a tiny little seed of evil and look what
    grows. I would suggest that you take a few moments and research the
    Masonic Lodge. Have a fantastic day.

  4. philipp2 says:

    My husband and I came through your town recently and noticed the crosses. My only comment was “Look a town that is not afraid to put up a Christian symbol.” But now I see it is not that different from too many others. How sad.

  5. RobynMcIntyre says:

    A friend of mine drove through your town recently and she did indeed wonder if the Klan had a new outpost or if only Christians were welcome there. It puzzled her so much that she posted about it on FB, which is how I came to find this editorial.

    It’s probably useless to try to be rational with the irrational, and judging by the response to your editorial, there are some seriously irrational people in your very small town. Their version of Christianity is not the open loving arms of Christ, but my-way-or-the-highway and ANY sort of perceived criticism makes them break out their verbal torches and pitchforks. You aren’t ALLOWED to disagree with them. In my opinion, if you can’t allow dissension, then either your faith is weak, or you are.

    Displays of faith don’t make you a Christian, it’s how you treat your fellows that determine that. And – if I’m not mistaken, did not Jesus himself say that people who put their faith on display are hypocrites? Matthew 6: 5-15

  6. Alecta says:

    Mr Estlack is correct when he says that the described signs send the wrong message. But it’s not about religion or unwelcome. Rows upon rows of crosses and signs say that I’ve driven onto the set of a horror movie. Seriously.

    Also: Matthew 6:5 – 8: And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not therefore like them: for your Father knows what things you have need of, before you ask him.

  7. stan says:

    I have lived in this community for over 15 years and have never once written a commentary to the editor. However, I find this string of comments troubling. Two people have used Matthew 6:5-8 as proof that Christians should not put their faith on display. This is a gross mischaracterization of the meaning of Jesus’ words. His lesson was about wearing our religion as a badge of pride. In fact Jesus commanded that we are to carry our faith in a public way in the Great Commission (how can you hide your Christianity and carry it unto all the world?).

    The same Messiah that proclaimed the Love and Grace of God also proclaimed a coming day of judgement. Christians can display their love for others while at the same time displaying an instrument of judgement and torment (the cross). Christians can proclaim the saving grace of Jesus and also warn of the coming day of judgement. We are taught by the Word that the Christian message will not be a popular one. In fact, we have been warned that at times we may be persecuted for the message.

    You may disagree with all of the crosses and signs. And that is certainly your right. But it is not a valid argument all Christians who disagree with your position carry “verbal torches and pitchforks”. I admire Jim’s courage. And as far as I can tell, the crosses and the signs pretty well proclaim what is written in God’s Word.

    • Roger Estlack says:

      I think the question here is, “How much is too much?” I don’t want anyone to feel like they should hide their faith, but I also don’t want people of other faiths to feel like Clarendon is a place for Christians only. A few crosses didn’t bother anyone. Fifty crosses have gotten people’s attention and not entirely in a good way. When City Hall, the Chamber of Commerce and the newspaper are getting calls about the crosses and the signs, that’s probably a good indication that they are having a negative impact on our town’s image and ultimately on its economy.

      Put yourself in the shoes of a Jewish person or a Hindu or a Muslim, would you want to do business in a town that appears that it may be hostile to your faith (even though you and I know it’s not). Or turn it around, if you were driving down the highway and came to a little town with 50 or more representations of the Islamic star and crescent and more than a dozen signs with verses from the Koran, would you feel comfortable to stop at the local convenience store or consider moving there? Or would you push on the accelerator and move on down the road as expeditiously as possible?

      It’s all about perception. If my neighbor flies the American flag, he’s a patriot. If he starts putting up 100 American flags and all kinds of ultra-nationalist signs in his yard, then I begin to wonder if he’s stable. A few people see the signs and crosses and are moved by them. Others are confused, offended, or freaked out by them and just want to move on down the road as quickly as possible and they tell their friends and neighbors about this wacky little town they went through on their journey.

      So again, how much is too much? I think we’ve reached that point.

  8. jbrown says:

    My wife and I drove through Clarendon on March 14, 2013, and were stunned by the amount of religious signage. Being from a small town near Houston, we are accustomed to seeing lots of religious billboards and icons, but we have never seen anything like what we saw in Clarendon.

    Frankly, it was creepy. It seemed intended to intimidate and scare us, and it did … but not in any positive way. We had to stop for gas, and we were very wary of everyone around us. If you have ever seen ‘Children of the Corn’, you know what I mean. We did not feel welcome or wanted. We got out of town as quickly as we could, and are not looking forward to coming through again.

    I am sure that most of the folks in Clarendon are nice, decent people, but your self-appointed public relations agents are not doing you a favor … unless you WANT people to pass through quickly, and tell their friends what they saw.

  9. Anonymous says:

    How sad that all that money went to token expressions instead of ministering to the genuine needs within the community.

    The overkill is indeed unwelcoming, creepy, and uninviting. It also sends a strong message about priorities (and not the one intended).

    One idea would be to start selling the crosses (Craigslist, Etsy, Ebay — plenty of people would want the crosses or the raw materials), and using the money to meet the needs in the community and elsewhere. The Christ of the Bible would probably back away slowly and then break into a run if faced with the weird fanaticism and lack of compassion being displayed here. This type of thing is clearly not Biblical, nor tolerant or welcoming.

    Complaints are not the same thing as persecution. Free Speech runs both ways. Imagine a sign or billboard promoting literally any other faith (or gasp, atheism) being posted on private property here in Clarendon. It would be defaced or destroyed as quickly as possible.

    We are the town who proudly harassed and criminally destroyed property of a gay couple (who were likely Christians!) and ended up “running them out of town”! What a sad way to show love.

    If we are indeed a “Christian” town where only those who conform to a specific set of beliefs are welcome (or at least welcome to express themselves), perhaps the manic amount of crosses and dark and disturbing signs (which as evidenced above, send visitors fleeing v. flocking to our myriad churches) are quite appropriate.

    Perhaps notices need to be sent to all who do not conform so we’ll know to sell our homes and get out of town. How much would it cost Mr. PVC Crosses to send out such notices? Less than the cost of all his ineffective and frighteningly frenzied sign and cross campaign, I am sure.

  10. Boog says:

    The only mistake Mr Griffin made was when he went with quantity over quality! If he had built a 190 foot metal cross, complete with bathrooms & a gift shop (like the cross over in Groom), this wouldn’t be an issue. Millions of people stop every year to check out the cross in Groom. If people started stopping in Clarendon to take pictures & videos of Mr Griffin’s crosses (& maybe buy some gas or an over-priced cheeseburger while in town), some of you people would be wanting to give him a key to the city.

    The fact that some of you are portraying Griffin’s actions as some sort of birthing pains for the coming Saint’s Roost Christian Inquisition is more frightening than a slogan on a billboard or some crosses made of plastic!

    • rev_bob says:

      Actually, I did stop on my way through and took 32 pictures, which I then posted on facebook to show what a creepy town Clarendon is. But I will purposely never, ever spend a penny there. I find the overboard displays to be quite bizarre.

  11. texasmorrell says:

    My first thought is that it was creepy. I assumed the entire town was run by some sort of cult. I decided it wasn’t probably safe to stop there so I kept on driving.

  12. PassingThruEaYear says:

    Dear Mr. Estlack,

    My family and I drive through your town each year heading into New Mexico for the Philmont Training Center. My husband and I are leaders in Boy Scouts and are founders of a Cub Scout Pack. My husband is the Cub Master and I am the Committee Chair.

    I only state this information to explain that we understand diversity and being accepting of other religions.

    Today as we drove through your town we noticed the crosses. We knew there had been flooding not long ago and at first wondered if ppl had died. The sheer number of crosses led is to believe that it probably wasn’t the case. The KKK never crossed our mind. I find that anyone would jump to such a short sighted conclusion without doing research, offensive.

    Common sense should rein here. So, I googled crosses in Clarendon tx. I found one other news editorial and read some of what you had written. Not impressed sir. I find you highly opinionated to the point of not reporting the news but attempting to sway decisions with the unfair use and abuse of your pen.

    I then found this article and found what I was looking for.
    On one hand you state this gentleman has freedom of a peach and freedom of religion… The very next breath you condiment him as being radical.
    You make the gentleman’s argument FOR him.
    Others have stated its self glorification…I never saw his name on any of those crosses.
    No phone number….I’m sure the only way your fair town knows by the most part is by your ferreting out this information and publicizing it. Who is looking for glorification in this now?

    As a passer by each year for the past four years my visitors point of view was FINALLY a town who has the guts to stand up and apart! To many times Christians are told to “sit down and shut up” for the perceived rights of other religions and the perceived rights of non religious groups.

    The ground that we as Christians lose will never be reclaimed.

    I wasn’t offended by the crosses. Keep them up please. They are a symbol of love and hope for our family.

    • Roger Estlack says:

      Apparently, you’re confused about the difference in an editorial and a news story. When this was published in August 2012, there was a page one news feature that interviewed Mr. Griffin and let him give his reasoning for the crosses. It was followed by the editorial, which state’s our paper’s point of view on the matter. (Read that story here: http://www.clarendonlive.com/?p=11652) This isn’t about glorification on my part at all. We gave this story fair treatment, and then I editorialized on it. Simple as that.

      I’m also active in Scouting, an Eagle Scout with the God & Church Award, and the Cub Master of our local pack. You say you understand acceptance of other religions, but you don’t seem to get how 50+ sewer pipe crosses popping up might make a Jew feel uncomfortable. While fundamentalists or evangelicals see all this as wonderful, myself and others see it as overkill and the message of the “end signs” as being scare tactics and bad theology.

      I have yet to hear from a single person who was brought to Christ by seeing 50 plastic crosses or reading a “repent now” sign. But I have heard from many people who are being driven away or even frightened by what they see in Clarendon. And that is the last thing Jesus would want, the last thing the Methodist (and Jewish) founders of our town would have wanted, and the last thing any rural city needs.

  13. tammysp says:

    My husband and I are frequent travelers through Clarendon on our way to our vacation property in New Mexico. We find the sewer pipe crosses creepy and unwelcoming. We will never stop in Clarendon and I would like to remind town officials of the economic boost that Clarendon and other towns on 287 get from travelers. You might want to think about “first impressions”.
    I am a Christian but one who displays my faith by trying to live my life as Christ commanded. If I need to bombard someone with plastic symbols to show my faith then something is very wrong.

    • rayland46 says:

      Tammy……..You are so right. If one needs to erect “phony” plastic crosses to proclaim there love of God there must be something insecure in their relationship with the almighty. God wants only true belief and not artificial idolatry.

  14. adam says:

    I realize this article is fairly old but I could not resist the urge to comment. If for no other purpose, I’d like your town to know what kind of impression you’re giving off. It may not be obvious to the people who see this place daily and enjoy the crosses. I recently drove through Clarendon, TX on my way to and from Colorado.

    My first thought upon seeing so many white crosses was, “Whoa, this is creepy.” I assumed they were memorials for people who died along that road. But then I noticed there were tons of signage for “The End Times” and what seemed like more billboards for churches than actual people in the city. At that point I knew they were intentionally placed there for some other reason. I’m not sure that made it any less creepy.

    It didn’t cross my mind that people in Texas, let alone small-town Texas, needed to overtly expression their Christianity. After all, the vast majority of Texans are Christian. I could have assumed the majority of Clarendon was Christian without seeing a single white cross. This lead me to wonder what could be behind this blatant attempt to go above and beyond to mark the territory of Clarendon as Christian.

    Naturally, my first assumption was that this town does not welcome people who are not Christian. After all, what non-Christian would want to live in a town that looked like that? As my mind wondered, I thought the white of the crosses could be trying to say, “This is a white only town” without actually having to say it. That would be a way to send a message without spelling it out. For all I know that could very well be the truth. It’s not like anyone in your town would confirm it.

    Needless to say, I did not want to stop in Clarendon, TX. I don’t know if your town as any interest in welcoming passerbyers to stop and eat or fill up their tanks but your image certainly does not help.

    In the end, it was such a weird experience I just had to research to see if it really was a racists town. I’m glad that it isn’t. I realize that one (or a handful) of people do not represent the entire town. But I also don’t believe that most people will take the time to find out.

  15. deanajan911 says:

    Well, most Christians believe that it IS the end of times. I commend Mr. Griffin for his efforts. My husband and I just drove through your town on the way home from vacation. We’re Baptists. It didn’t offend us at all! If it was a town full of the Star of David, we likewise would not have been offended. At this time we still have the freedom to express our religious views. Who knows how long that’s going to last in this day and age? The Jewish and the Muslims also have a right to express their beliefs as long as it doesn’t physically harm someone. I WAS offended by your use of the cross of Jesus possibly scaring people into believing that it could be something connected with the KKK. They are a group filled with hate and intolerance for certain peoples. The cross of Jesus symbolizes love and tolerance for us all.

  16. Mscece says:

    I have never heard of this town but had to pass through it driving to Denver yesterday, July 13, 2017.

    When I entered the town, I got a terrible vibe. I was totally creeped out! I drove as fast as I could and did not stop. I told my mom, who happens to be a very devout Christian, about it and she even wondered if it was something to do with the KKK or a white supremecy hate group. I wish i could bypass your town on the way home. It took several miles to shake the lingering negative effects I felt there.

    You can say all you like about this article but the writer has a point, do you realize the negative message you’re sending people? For all those whose praise the town for having the”guts” to show their faith, that’s baloney! Even Jesus called the pharisees, who prayed in the open, hypocrites.

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