I’ve always loved bumper stickers, especially ones that are sarcastic, satirical and of a political or religious nature. Some of my favorites:
And my all time favorite, though I could not find an image:
WHERE ARE YOU NOW, JOHN WAYNE? AMERICA NEEDS YOU.
Up until recently I had a bumper sticker on my car that had words such as WAR, POVERTY, ABORTION, EUTHANASIA, CAPITAL PUNISHMENT all with red lines drawn through them. The point of the bumper sticker was that one should be consistently pro-life, and not just anti-abortion. Several weeks ago I was driving home and as I got into the turning lane to turn onto my street I noticed a red Subaru station wagon swerving across several lanes of traffic in order to pull up behind me. He tailgated me to my house, then drove away slowly, giving me an angry look. As he drove off I noticed that his Subaru (as all Subarus are) was covered in liberal bumper stickers, several of which seemed to have a generally atheist message. A block away he turned around and came back just in time to catch me walking to my front door. He rolled down his window and yelled, “My father is dying in the hospital right now, and your bumper sticker makes me feel like shit.” He was obviously crying as he drove off at high speed, running the stop sign near my house. I didn’t even have a chance to finish dropping my jaw before he was completely gone.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that encounter. I can only guess why my bumper sticker offended him, but the most reasonable thing to believe is that he was faced with the decision of euthanizing his terminally ill father. To anyone in that sort of situation I’m sure that my bumper sticker seemed coldly black and white (in actuality it is black and white only with those aforementioned red lines). I realized that I had inadvertently fed that man’s personal narrative concerning Christians. He officially believes me to be an uncaring, judgmental bastard. What’s more, and of course this is all speculation, he might even categorize me as of the same ilk of those who shoot abortion doctors and blow up pharmacies for selling the morning after pill. He gave me no chance to explain, or to ask questions, or to listen to his story, so why should he think otherwise?
I also realized that he too was feeding my personal narrative: Here was an atheist sinner (since he was driving a Subaru he clearly condoned lesbianism to boot), about to commit murder, and was rudely confronting me on my doorstep because MY bumper sticker filled his heart with the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
Then my heart was filled with the conviction of the Holy Spirit. This was a man in pain, facing the enormous questions, responsibilities and emotions surrounding life and death, and I was using him to justify my own beliefs and opinions as they are inadequately expressed on a poorly applied 3×8 vinyl sticker. I finally took to heart something that I’d heard a million times and is, frankly, so elementary that I’m a little embarrassed about it: Bumper stickers serve no function besides patting the back of those fellow drivers who agree with you, and pissing off those fellow drivers who disagree with you. Either way it serves a selfish purpose, and one that many times dehumanizes some very important issues.
That man’s story, and the overarching issues of what it means to be pro-life are both extremely complex. The fact is, you simply can’t boil down all the complexities, the emotions, the politics, the morality and ethics of the pro-life debate into a bumper sticker; because for all of the polemics and sterile moralizing that goes on on either side of the pro-life debate (and other battlefields of the “culture wars”), at the end of the day we’re dealing with human beings, and in the process of defending our beliefs we sinfully ignore the humanity of others (which is ironic in my case since I am pro-life and talk about the sanctity of life and all that).
Advertising moral claims on your car to people that you have a slim chance of developing a relationship with, of explaining yourself to, and especially of genuinely listening to their side of things is counter-productive at best. We must acknowledge the image of Christ in our opponents and allies alike, and that’s really hard to do when the entire debate is fought with bumper stickers.
So, I covered up my politically charged bumper sticker with another one. It says:
I’VE KILLED PEOPLE FOR LESS, MOTHERF#$@&*, SO BACK OFF!