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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Douchebag by Any Other Name

Here's a charming little piece from the website of the United Church of Christ. A so-called daily devotional, if you will...

"In the beginning was the Word." - John 1:1
Here's a middle-aged complaint: a bumper sticker offends me. It isn't "Vehicle Insured by Smith and Wesson" (I don't like that one either, but given the forum, it probably goes without saying).
It says "COEXIST." The "C" is a crescent moon, symbolizing Islam. The "x" is the Star of David representing Judaism, and the "t" is a cross representing Christianity.
When I see the cross I see my faith in an ordered universe shot to hell. The world I thought I lived in, and the God I thought I lived with are exposed as an illusion. We live in a senseless, treacherous world. That's what the cross says.
And then I blink and I see the cross again and it says Easter; it sings God's victory over all despair, including my own. And then I blink again and I see the Word through which all that is came into being.
That's what I see when I see the cross. I don't see a consonant letter.

I assume Muslims and Jews have similarly wonderful feelings when they behold the symbols of their religions.
Of course we ought to coexist, but employing the symbols of different religions to spell out a bland appeal for tolerance does damage to the religions themselves. You can't subsume the funky particularities of different faiths into a larger whole without silencing them. I wish I could fit this onto a bumper sticker: "Stop playing with the cross. Stop assuming you can get on top of all these different religions. Quit moralizing from the sidelines. Either get in the game or get out."
Dear God, give me patience. Amen.

First of all, Matt, a bit of stylistic advice. If you can manage to string related thoughts together before the very end of your article, you might write something called a paragraph. Of course, that requires well developed thought, and that may be asking a lot. Also, the construction "consonant letter" [sic] is redundant, and presumably as a pastor you are a professional communicator. Of course, I understand that you are an angry white liberal and so may not be able to calm down long enough to write effective prose. Also, it's a good idea not to undercut your thesis in the one paragraph you do actually construct by admitting you realize the bumper sticker is about religious tolerance - something of which you demonstrate you are in very short supply - rather than syncretism and so not seeking to "do serious harm" to your religion.

All of that notwithstanding, I do have a few questions:

  1. What kind of an effete religion can be seriously harmed by a bumper sticker?
  2. The cross says we live in a senseless, treacherous world? Funny, I thought the cross was about Jesus having overcome the world...
  3. Since you assume Muslim and Jews feel the way you do but don't mention actually having checked with any real, living Muslim or Jewish people, may I assume you don't know any? Or does your bigotry and Christian Triumphalism prevent you from speaking with any?
  4. Regarding your "get in the game or get out," instruction, have you looked in the pews lately? People are getting out of your Christianity at a frightening pace. More than eighty percent of America is gone, and by 2024 projections are that ninety percent will be gone. Ironically, they didn't wait for people like you to tell them to go - they smelled you at a distance and left on their own. What's more, they don't miss you, and they don't miss either God or Jesus because - and this may come as a surprise to you - you don't have either of them tied up in your church, unable to escape.

I'm always amazed at this kind of piece, which comes out of all denominations from time to time. Do people really believe this is an effective evangelization tool? Do they expect people to say, "Holy cow, this guy with an anger problem says we need to get with the program! We'd better see where his church is and get out butts in the pews next week?" Of course they don't. This is the sort of piece that is supposed to make those who are still clinging to the insane hope that doing the same thing over and over will have different results this time feel less foolish about their choices. This is the result of denominational leadership that is too damn scared to try anything new for fear of alienating the handful of people left in the pews, even if doing something new would bring hundreds of people back into their echoing, empty sanctuaries.

One last point, Matt. You do realize that the symbol below, which admittedly uses "consonant letters" [sic], is part of the great heritage of Christianity. Should we ban it, too?

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