An Arkansas church insists that its sign was nothing but strict theology, but the community around it saw only politics.
Springdale Apostolic Faith Church of Springdale, Arkansas, recently put up a sign reading “Heaven has strict immigration laws. Hell has open borders,” Fox News reported.
In a town with a large Hispanic community, the message was interpreted in the context of President Donald Trump’s push for a border wall along America’s porous southern border.
“A lot of undocumented and, just in general, immigrant people live in that area where the church is located and having to pass by that message every day — I don’t think it’s something they should have to go through,” resident Irvin Camacho told KFTA. “This is a welcoming community.”
“To me, it was a slap in the face to put the word immigration on that sign,” said resident Alice Gachuzo-Colin.
A #church in #Arkansas incurred backlash after putting up a sign they insist was meant to be biblical, and not in any way political. “Heaven has strict immigration laws,” the sign read. “Hell has open borders.” https://t.co/yli71fI7DI pic.twitter.com/6wUEQu52At
— FOX 7 Austin (@fox7austin) March 2, 2019
The church insisted that the comment reflects fundamental Christian theology that getting into Heaven is not simple.
“We are a church of love, and no way racial or political motivated,” the church said in a statement, according to KFSM.
“We preach God’s love. The sign was made to let people know that there are steps and qualifications to make Heaven, Hell is easy to make,” the statement said.
“My wife actually came up with it before anyone else,” said assistant pastor Michael Pennington.
“The reason we put that sign up was to tell everybody it is not easy to make Heaven. If you read Scriptures, it tells them the road to Hell is wide and broad, but the road to Heaven is narrow and straight.”
After learning that area residents were unable to view the message without political overtones, the word “immigration” was removed from the sign.
Pennington said that the sign was never construed to be part of the national debate over immigration policy, and that many people understood its real meaning.
“It did sort of shock us with the support we did get … every nationality of people saying we know this is a biblical meaning, we know what the meaning was behind us, we read the Bible, we know what you’re getting at,” he said.
Even after the fuss, Pennington said he could not understand how the sign could be taken in only a political context.
“I can’t say how anything comes across, I don’t know how other people think. But just like the sign is not political, I will not discuss the political part of it now — because that’s not the intention of what it was,” he said, according to KNWA.
Pennington said that the church apologizes for offending anyone and noted that, “Anybody that walks through that door is welcome to this church.”