The curious history of church signs.

Arts, entertainment, and more.
May 30 2007 3:33 PM

Signs From God

The curious history of church marquees.

Click here to launch a slide show

The pun-laden signs you see outside churches have always intrigued me. "Seven days without prayer makes one weak." "Forbidden fruit creates many jams." "We have a prophet-sharing plan." They're funny and a little bit alien, if you're not a regular churchgoer. And it's hard to tell whether they're intended primarily to amuse regular congregants, or to attract soul-searching passers-by.

Whatever the intent, such signs have certainly gained the notice of the secular world at large. There are Web sites devoted to the phenomenon—including one where you can generate your own church sign and another that envisions an amusing "church sign smackdown." And in March, Overlook Press published a book called Church Signs Across America that's being sold in, among other places, the housewares department of hipster-pop emporium Urban Outfitters. The book, by photographers Pam and Steve Paulson, features images from nearly 50 states and shows just how ubiquitous these signs have become. But where did they get their start?

Click here to read a slide show on the cultural history of church signs, illustrated with images from Church Signs Across America.

Thanks to Darren Grem of the University of Georgia, David Morgan of Valparaiso University, Pastor Mitch Caudhill of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, Daryl Black of the Chattanooga Regional History Museum, and Eileen Luhr of California State University-Long Beach.

Doree Shafrir is the executive editor at Buzzfeed.


Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

  News & Politics
Sept. 23 2014 12:43 PM Occupy Wall Street How can Hillary Clinton be both a limousine liberal and a Saul Alinsky radical?
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Head of Security Had a Legacy of Sabotage
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would A Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 2:31 PM 3 Simpsons Showrunners Reflect on New Fans and the “Classic Era” Myth
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 1:50 PM Oh, the Futility! Frogs Try to Catch Worms Off of an iPhone Video.
  Health & Science
Sept. 23 2014 1:38 PM Why Is Fall Red in America but Yellow in Europe? A possible explanation, 35 million years in the making.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.