Late last month a federal judge issued a temporary order against the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles for issuing a faith-based car tag with the words “I Believe” featured prominently. The judge is of the opinion that the tag unconstitutionally promotes Christianity. The state attorney general disagrees, and so Jesus will have yet another day in court.
The whole thing got me to wondering about the need some people seem to have to advertise their faith on their automobiles. And not just tags ”there is a huge industry devoted to bumper sticker religion. Here are some of my favorites.
“God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”
And then, not to be outdone: “God said it, that settles it.”
“In case of rapture, driver will disappear.”
“Follow me to church.”
I actually saw this pairing not long ago. On one side of the windshield was a sign that read “Jesus died for our sins ”John 3:16.” On the other side was a sign that read, “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hand.”
My favorite is the old standard, “Honk if you love Jesus.” I honked once, and the driver of the other car made an obscene gesture. I don’t know if the car was borrowed, stolen or purchased with the bumper sticker already attached. Or maybe the driver just forgot it was there.
Maybe it’s a NASCAR thing where race cars streak around the track with their numerous sponsors plastered on doors, roof, trunk and hood. Maybe folks are just trying to sell Jesus, or say Jesus is their sponsor.
I worry that it is a form of spiritual insecurity. Unless Jesus is prominently displayed there might be someone who doubts how much we really love him.
Jesus actually talked about that once ”not bumper stickers on cars but about letting people know we know him. His idea was that by showing love and compassion we would convince people we were his followers.
Jesus also had some things to say about religion for show and showy religion. Religion for show is just that ”play acting. Showy religion is a sort of pious bragging. Jesus said both carried their own reward, but did nothing to actually advance a spiritual life.
Not that Jesus wants us invisible or disengaged ”far from it. He said that his followers are the light of the world, and that our lights should shine in the darkness. Do good works, Jesus said, and people will think well of God.
He also said his followers are the salt of the earth. Salt is a preservative and fights corruption ”important roles in a life of faith.
So, does displaying a faith-based car tag or bumper sticker rise to the level of being the light of the world or the salt of the earth? Sort of a cheap and easy way to advertise our faithfulness, don’t you think?
How about this ”instead of having a sign that says “Follow me to church,” why not find some elderly or disabled person who cannot drive, and take them to church?
Instead of a sign that says “God said it, I believe it, that settles it,” why not just do what we know we should do for the poor and the needy in our midst?
As for the gun being pried from our cold, dead hand set in juxtaposition to John 3:16 ”well, some things simply cannot be reconciled.
Honk if you love Jesus, then duck.
James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.