Monday, November 15, 2010

Bumper Sticker Faith

Call me weird.  Tell me I need to get a life.  Regardless, bumper stickers fascinate me.  I search bumpers for a catchy phrase.  Here are some that make me chuckle, some that generate a grimace.

Hokey Pokey Anonymous                                       
A Place to Turn Yourself Around

Jesus is Coming.  Look Busy.                                   

Make it Idiot-proof  and Someone Will Make a Better Idiot                                                                                         
It’s Been Lovely But I Have to Scream Now         
Jesus Loves You;
Everybody Else Thinks You're a Jerk

She’s Always Late                                                  
Her Ancestors arrived on the June Flower                
Honk if You Love Jesus.                                          
Text While Driving if You'd Like to Meet Him.

Honk All You Want.  I'm Deaf

When the Chips are Down the Buffalo is Empty

I Married Mr. Right.
I Just Didn't Know His First Name was Always

Thank you, Baby Jesus, for a Smokin' Hot Wife

 Bumper stickers often make a statement.  In 1974 (think Watergate) I had a beat-up Chevy van (Peace, dude) and I slapped a bumper sticker on it which read, Honk if You Think He’s Guilty.  KnowhutImean?  In recent years I’ve seen a bumper sticker that a number of Christians display and it, too, makes a statement.  Real Men Love Jesus.  I don’t know what underlies the motives of flaunting that bumper sticker but, I have to tell ya, I hate that statement.  Bear with me and if at the end of this post you think it was a waste of time, feel free to copy and paste this comment-- Real Men Don’t Give a Rip About Bumper Stickers.

I am offended by Real Men Love Jesus. Here’s why—it’s misguided.   It calls into question the manhood of anyone who is not a born again, evangelical, Promise Keepers attending Christian.  The reasoning seems to be, “I love Jesus; therefore, I’m a real man. You, on the other hand, don’t know or love Jesus; therefore, you are a limp-wristed, effeminate, testosterone-deprived excuse for a man.”  That kind of thinking assumes that only Christian men have integrity, only Christian men are faithful, only Christian men are men of courage and honor. It assumes that men who don’t know or love Jesus surely are not “real,” i.e. authentic, caring human beings.

I am offended by Real Men Love Jesus because that sentiment comes off as terribly arrogant as well as judgmental.  It’s arrogant in that it assumes a position of superiority on the part of Mr. Bumper Sticker.  “I’m real and you are not—after all, I, of all people, should know.”  It’s judgmental in that it assumes an inferior position about someone you don’t even know.  It categorically assumes, without even getting to know a man, that he is not a “real” man if he does not know Jesus.  Such a position is both arrogant (prideful) and judgmental—two qualities which Jesus loathes about the religious.  Jesus exercised the harshest judgment upon the religious, the “Christians” of his day, who were consumed with pride or harbored a judgmental spirit.

In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus tells a pointed story “to some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else. . . “   I imagine these were guys who had their chariots decked out with Real men Love Jesus parchment stickers. Jesus contrasts two men—one, a very religious and devout individual who thought to himself, “God, I thank you I’m not like other men,” and a despised social outcast who in his humility “would not even look up to heaven” but simply pleaded, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  And Jesus declares that it was “this man, rather than the other” who received God’s mercy.  The other man, full of judgment, received God’s judgment.

I see myself and much of the evangelical church as often mirrored by the man who was confident of his own righteousness and looked down on others.  We tend to pride ourselves on possessing the truth (as if it were our ingenuity or determination that discovered it)—and doctrine is important—but the ultimate deal maker or breaker will be whether or not we have loved our neighbor and our enemy.  And I don’t think those with whom we disagree are “feeling the love.”  As an example, Brennan Manning, in The Ragamuffin Gospel, comments specifically on the pro-life stance of many Christians and his thoughts sober me up: 

“How I treat a brother or sister from day to day, how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street, how I respond to the interruptions from people I dislike, how I deal with normal people in their normal confusion on a normal day may be a better indication of my reverence for life than the anti-abortion sticker on the bumper of my car.
We are not pro-life simply because we are warding off death.  We are pro-life to the extent that we are men and women for others, all others; to the extent that no human flesh is a stranger to us; to the extent that we can touch the hand of another in love; to the extent that for us there are no ‘others.’”

I fear we may echo the words of Christ, but sometimes fail to embrace the spirit of Christ in our words and actions.  Isn’t it time we embraced a Christian civility?  Civility is defined as “the act of showing regard for others; a courteous expression of esteem; politeness or courtesy in behavior and speech.”  You won’t find that word in the Bible, but you certainly find the quality as one to be embraced by Christ-followers.  The  Scriptures encourage us to act in this manner, “ Do not repay anyone evil for evil. . . if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  Again, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”  We are to be gentle towards other, esteeming them in spite of our differences.  There’s an old axiom by which I think everyone has a right to “judge” us:  “Don’t TELL me what a friend I have in JESUS until you SHOW me what a friend I have in YOU.”

I’m afraid many of our Christian bumper stickers and much of our “attitude” turns off and puts down those around us. Instead, I’m convicted to pursue an attitude of humility which sees and affirms the value in others in spite of our differences.

In the meantime, I’m having this put on my truck:  Real Men Don’t Have to Flaunt the Fact on a Bumper Sticker. 

Let’s forsake flaunting anything! Flaunting is so “in their face.”  May God give us grace to be in their hearts, their homes, and their lives as we love and serve others.

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