Friday, June 15, 2007

Bumper to bumper

The lovely June weather we have been enjoying - combined with my efforts to get out and walk everyday - has grown Søren accustomed to a daily visit to the park down the road. Yesterday brought a serendipitous meeting with the only other mother there and her 3 year old daughter, Hannako. She is expecting another girl next month, and like me, had a VBAC with her daughter. We were able to encourage each other and she gave me more reason to see if I can visit a acupuncturist over the next few days.

I met with a doctor at the hospital and he and I agreed to have a c-section on the books for Wednesday morning at 8. I, of course, hope that we go into labor before then, but in efforts to seem like I am working with the doctors, I agreed to put something down on paper. He was actually very nice, very understanding, and treated me like I was capable of thinking and being a part of the decision making process about my body and labor. The last 3 doctors I have seen related to this pregnancy have not been so wonderful. Anyhow, he even made it sound like they will still keep me as a patient even if come Tuesday I decide I'd like to push the date to Friday, or even later! He said it would be against his recommendation, but that they would still work with me.

Anyhow, the point of all this rambling is that on a rainy, June day like today, my dear son still desperately wants to get out of the house. Singing "rain, rain, go away", does not satisfy him. So, the next best thing in his mind is the mall. Gratefully, my son does not yet understand consumerism, he thinks each mall store is a little playground. He only sees us spend money at the grocery store (hence the familiar chant in our home of "buy them, eat them". Tell that to Nordstroms!) The mall holds untold wonders of large cushy boats to play on with 35 other kids on a day like today, escalators and large, yellow, glass elevators with movie star lights up the sides. The mall has hallways 8 feet wide for running and weaving into unsuspecting rich women who forget that there is such a thing as a 2 1/2 foot tall person. The mall is the happiest place on earth.

So we malled. The unfortunately side effect of travelling to this particular mall is the traffic. It is in Bellevue. Bellevue is for rich people. Rich people who don't know how to drive. No, excuse me, rich people who don't care if their driving creates a nightmare for the other cars on the road with them. Rich people who don't really have to work on Fridays, or at least, more certainly, their wives don't. So, add Nordstrom's half-yearly sale to Father's day weekend at the mall, and well, you can imagine there was a lot of sitting in traffic in store for Søren and me as we awaited the delights of the happiest place on earth. Disney lines, eat your heart out, you've never seen BellSquare.

What is the point of my rambling? Well, the sitting in traffic afforded me a reminder of a blog I wanted to write some weeks ago during the last time I was stuck in traffic in Bellevue - though I don't remember what for. Let's just be honest - there is a LOT of traffic in the greater Seattle metro area, so sitting in it is not so unusual, unless you are like me and try not to get out too much, and only do when you have a toddler with you to allow for carpool access.

Last time I was stuck in traffic I began to ponder the wonderful world of bumper stickers. Now, there actually are not a plethora of bumper stickers up here. This may be relative to spending the previous 4 years in Eugene. Who knows, perhaps if I was from DC or something I would think Seattle was the mecca of bumper stickers, but I know better. The witty political stickers, and sexy band logos are few and far between on the Eastside. What is not lacking though, are those lovely little fish emblems. This is what set me to pondering last time.

First, I should admit, that my first car carried a license plate cover that read "In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned". Clever huh? My next little beater was intact with a subtle little silver fish. When that little car died and was donated - for there was NO value left in it - I bought myself a little red Rodeo that drove me to Eugene and taxied me around until it was more needed for tuition that transportation - for there was some value left in it. The rodeo sported a Gutenberg College banner - but no testament to my faith. I was a bad, unbold christian. I found that people were nicer to me on the road without it and wondered if I was avoiding persecution and slipping into worldliness (note to reader: this is meant to be funny).

Really, what had transpired over the years of car adornment and Christian thinking, was that I was quite curious what true evangelism was, and how a Christian bumper sticker played into that. What is the purpose of the little fish? I have to be honest, the "My boss is a Jewish Carpenter" sticker still evokes a smile from me, but the fish just makes me curious. What are we trying to accomplish with that? Is it like political campaigning? "I vote for Jesus, you should too"? Are we peer pressuring people into Christianity (or churchianity... I am carefully sidestepping a soapbox here)? Is it more sophisticated than that? Perhaps the thinking is that people will be so impressed with what a fabulous and considerate driver I am that they will want to believe what I believe so they, too, can drive with such integrity? Or are we purposely trying to create a stone of stumbling by driving the exact speed limit - to honor and obey God by honoring and obeying the laws of the land - while everyone else understands that the left lane is meant for driving a little over the "limit" such that your sticker and speed combine to crawl under the person's skin behind you and make them hate all Christians more than they do? I am not sure.

Now, I realise there are people who just plain enjoy bumper stickers and self expression on their vehicles. That's fine with me. It is the idea that somehow a fish on the back of a car plays a part in your personal contribution to evangelism and the great commission that really irks me. Evangelism is not so simple, nor certainly so one-sticker-fits-all. If we believers are using stickers and tee-shirts and bracelets to feel like we are broadcasting the gospel into our nation, then hell has won. The gospel, though simple to be sure, is not simple to receive.

Jesus himself was quite choosy about when he would really share the message. Not because he didn't want to be crucified just yet, but because he didn't want to unnecessarily harden people against the truth if he could tell they were not in a frame to receive it. Prodding people towards truth is a delicate thing. You do not do the kingdom of heaven or any individual any good by badgering him with the truth when he is not ready for it.

If the message of the gospel is as crucial as we claim to believe it is, we ought to be very aware of how and when it is explained so as to give the individual the best chance of hearing it and truly facing into making a decision about it. We have to actually, sincerely, care about the person who is going to hear it. It should not be thrown around so haphazardly. The offense at the gospel is a very specific offense. The possibility of that offense needs to be made clear, but if there are too many other non-gospel possibilities for offense, then the actual halting before such a enormous decision (to be offended or not by the actual message) is lost. You either convert someone to a watered down spin-off of the truth (which is no longer the truth), or you harden them so thoroughly against your spin-off that they never have the opportunity to respond directly to the actual possibility of offense.

Anyhow, I still remain confused by the fish. It is certainly not evangelism. So what is it, and why have it on your car? I by no means want to condemn those who have them, but I would really enjoy an explanation of why they are there.


  1. I feel ya! I even saw, I'm guessing an athiest, who turned the fish and made 3 six's out of them. To me, this is him telling the world to pray for him. *:oD As far as simply using the fish...I prefer humorous ways of getting the word out. My old license plate holder said, "There are no atheists at 150mpg." (Yes, I used to be a speed demon!)

  2. I cracked up the other day at a fish symbol with "and chips" in the center.

    It's almost eerie how your thoughts connect with my own today. I've been working on a memoir, and I catch myself preachin' that churchianity. As you said, I must remember "If we believers are using stickers and tee-shirts and bracelets [or memoirs] to feel like we are broadcasting the gospel into our nation, then hell has won. The gospel, though simple to be sure, is not simple to receive."

    For many years I absorbed that cultural "ideal" of basically grandstanding the gospel. It's hard to loosen my grasp. (I may blog more about this!)

    Thanks so much for preachin' truth to me today. May your dear second child make his appearance soon!

  3. this is so right on and I join you in the quest for an explanation for why the I have none to offer myself, if confuses the heck out of me! Well put and I am also inspired by your traffic thinking...It is a bit out of hand out here and I find myself wasting the thinking time on frustration at how stupid the other drivers time I'll remember to stop and think about something else for a change!
    Oh and EI...anytime baby, anytime.

  4. I, myself, do not have a Jesus fish on my car. I've never felt that I'd reached the level of perfection to declare myself a Christian while behind the wheel. I fear those moments of anger, when I wouldn't be seen as a exemplary disciple. However, I do think those who have the fish are using them as an identifying device so that everyone who's in the club knows they are too. I truly hope they don't think of it as a form of evangelism.

  5. You knew I'd respond to a post about bumper stickers, right? This is good stuff, M. Thoughtful. I've always had a burr under my saddle about the fish and don't really know why -well, maybe it's because when I get cut off by a fish-mobile, or see someone get the finger out the driver's window of a fish-mobile, well, I cringe. At any rate, you are not alone in your confusion. I think scatino gave a good explanation, that it's an identifying device. Makes sense. Thanks for providing a forum for a potentially fruitful discussion.

    Oh, and I agree with Summer, El, anytime, baby, any old time!

  6. Mama Knifton - I suspect there is quite a bit of truth to your speed demon bumper sticker. I for one have never traveled more than 120 mph, and that was enough for me to feel a little too close to death.

    Deanna - I am glad for our connection. This shift in my evangelism thinking has been an adjustment for me too. My thesis was on evangelism. It's been a big pondering for me for at least the last 5-6 years. I will look forward to reading your memoir. Perhaps it will not be evangelism, but I am sure it will have much to offer for those who have ears to hear.

    Yes Cherie - this post was in part inspired by you. But I really was thinking about it that day you posted your bumper sticker blog.

    To all - Thanks for all the thoughtful feedback. I didn't think about the fish as a club marker. So it's kind of like a country club pin or something...or perhaps the red sox hat my husband wears when not in the office - instant comraderie with other Boston fans.

    I will have to ponder this further, for I am not so sure it is a good reason for a fish either. I thought we were to be identified by our love, not our emblems.

  7. Well...for some people the fish may be on their car because they bought it used and those darn things have more than an industrial glue adhesive, this glue is like life or death glue. This glue is like "once saved, always saved" glue. Seriously.

    other than that, i have no idea.

  8. Meg - This really made me laugh, and so I shared it with Andrew. He says goo gone does the trick. He removed one from an ex-girlfriends car years ago (I know, it was news to me that I wasn't his first girlfriend too).

  9. I've been really thinking about you and your birth! Since the girls are accustomed to praying nightly for the droves of pregnant women in our church, (and Sera really does a good job of keeping track!) we will add you and baby Elliot to the list for sure:)
    Also, I don't like Jesus Fish as witnessing tools...not on cars, not on business cards, no not at all.