Monday, May 08, 2006

More B.S. (B-umper S-tickers)

I really need to move closer to church. I spend so much time on the road that I probably see every bumper sticker that exists - and then have time to ponder them while stuck in traffic. But for some reason, people seem to resonate more with my rants about bumper stickers on this blog than even my sermons. I'm not sure what that means, maybe there will be a bumper sticker about it some day, and I can disect it. On a side note, a Lutheran pastor [I'm so out of the loop, I have no idea who he or she (just kidding) is], has given me an award, the Ardie (on display here), for my collective rants about bumper stickers. Thanks (whoever you are)!

So here goes again with yet another interesting (and completely wrong) slogan on the back of an automobile. It says: "Jesus was a liberal." This one is misguided on a couple of counts.

First, look at the tense of the verb: "was." The confessor of this mini-creed is speaking about Jesus as if he were dead! This betrays the person's bias and wrong-headed thinking right off the bat. Of course, maybe the person believes in our Lord's resurrection, in that case, he must be saying that "Jesus was a liberal, but he has since changed His mind. " But somehow, I don't think this is the intended meaning.

Jesus is not a liberal, nor a conservative. Not a Democrat, nor a Republican. He is not a monarchist, reactionary, radical, communist, socialist, or any other political-ist. He said: "My kingdom is not of this world." Jesus is no politician. And this is why Christians can, and do, indeed live under many different political systems. Christ's kingdom, the Church, lives under every imaginable kind of worldly polity. God did not take on human flesh in order to overthrow the Empire of Rome, nor did he come to establish a secular theocracy along the lines of Cromwell's England. He did not come to create a Great Society, nor a Republican Revolution. He did not come to teach us the perfect balance between state and federal powers, or to clarify the second amendment for us.

He came to be the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." A world which, for the most part, doesn't get it.

And so, all sorts of political groups make Jesus in their own image. Here is a list of other bumper stickers I found on the web (with my commentary in italics).

Jesus was...

- a liberal (which in classical economics is a person who favors free trade, low taxation, and minimal regulation, in short, what the popular culture calls "conservative").
- an enemy of the state (who, though it was in His power, opted not to overthrow the government)
- a pacifist (who overturned tables and chased out moneychangers with a homemade whip)
- way cool (who was publicly humiliated , tortured, and crucified. Yeah, sounds like the "in" crowd to me, can't wait for the designer jeans endorsement...)
- not a bigot (which these days means favors affirmative action and considers it "normal" for a man to wear make-up, call himself "Georgette," and use the women's bathroom)
- a victim of genital mutilation (this one is from an anti-circumcision group which also has a sticker that says, if you can believe this, "Circumcision is blasphemy." Okay. Nuff said!).
- a black man (no petty racial agenda here...)
- a vegetarian (who ate fish)

All of these stickers (all of which invoke the past tense: "was") are attempting to put Jesus into a political (or social-agenda) bottle, to be invoked like a genie when the debate isn't going their way. Conservatives are certainly not off the hook, as they too claim Jesus as their own personal lapdog. Sorry, guys, it's equally wrong when you do it as when the left does it. "My kingdom is not of this world."

This doesn't mean the Church ought not take a stand on issues that are ultimately settled by politics. Far from it. The Church stands for life, for human dignity, for peace, for justice, and for moral decency as confessed in Scripture - whether these ideas are popular or not. But it does mean that our Lord's life, death, and resurrection are ultimately about something much more profound than politics, elections, campaigning, and making promises to certain constituencies in exchange for their votes. If the Lord wanted to save the world with a political agenda, he could have. He didn't. Neither should the Christian Church. Politicians ought not stump in Christian pulpits - whether they are Jesse Jackson, Carl Rove, Condi Rice, or Ted Kennedy.

In other words, let's not drag Jesus into discussions of taxation, government contracts, congressional redistricting, the salary of public school superintendants, highway speed limits, and the balance of power between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. These things are certainly important in this life, but when compared to the Gospel, when considered against the backdrop of eternity, it suddenly seems pretty lame to try to claim Jesus for your own political affiliation or social hobby horse, and then stick it as a slogan on your bumper. But then again, Jesus cures the lame, doesn't he?

Hmmm. Maybe I need to make my own bumper sticker that says simply: "John 18:36".


Orycteropus Afer said...

Father Eckert can vouch for me. This nom de nette is part of my CYA mode — I've already made more "friends" in high places than any one parish pastor should be allowed. Or you can email me directly (aardvarkalley AT gmail DOT com).

Favorite Apron said...

I'm thinking of getting bumpersticker I saw on cafepress. It says, "Got Liturgy?"

p.s. - an ardie award is a good thing from a good guy I hope to meet sometime.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Fr. Afer - indeed, sometimes one must cover his aardvark. If Dr. Eckardt says you're all right, that's good enough for me. Thanks for the award. Sometimes it amazes me that people actually read my ramblings.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Favorite Apron:

That's a good one! I thought about a T-shirt that says: "Got Jesus?" and has a close-up of the pastor's hands holding a host over a chalice. Let's see that at a Ute Gathering!