A reader wondered a couple weeks ago why I had not posted a “More Cowbell Award” in recent days. The fact is that there are entire sites that have sprung up in the last few months that do nothing but assault harebrained practices in the Church, so I felt like all the good commentary was already being rendered up for bloggers. Why add more?
But in the last couple weeks I’ve noticed a theme coming to the fore. So the award no one wants to win is back with a vengeance. Though the winner of this week’s More Cowbell Award is widespread and well-known, it has nearly vanished from our perception because we now take it for granted. Having had some awful encounters with this recently, I hereby bestow the uncoveted More Cowbell Award III on
I would guess that just about everyone recognizes the Ichthus symbol, be they Christian or not. It has a long history dating back to the earliest days of the Church. A story broke recently that archaeologists unearthed a third or fourth century church and found the symbol on everything. The Ichthus fish has even been co-opted by Darwinists by adding legs to it, and of course the Christians countered by having an Ichthus fish swallowing a Darwin “pseudo-fish.” Can’t miss the obvious point there, can we now, folks.
I’m venturing a guess that at least a third of the people who read this post will, in reality, have an Ichthus or some other Jesus ID on their vehicle. I think about three-quarters of the folks at my church self-identify that way, but I’m sure that’s countered by all the Presbyterians out there who would rather die than affix anything so kitschy to the Lexus. (Ha, ha! That’s a joke. Don’t flame me.) So, I’ll stick with the one-third guesstimate.
If you’re one of those in that singular third, you may hate me for what I have to say, but here goes:
Why? Here’s a sampling of what I’ve seen in the last four days:
- A guy with an Ichthus fish on his car goes hurtling past me doing over eighty in a sixty zone.
- A car with a prominent Ichthus fish on it, filled with revelers, dumps all manner of trash out the window after passing me on the highway. (I witness this about once a week anymore.)
- A couple whose car not only has an Ichthus fish but about ten other Jesus-related stickers on its back end also sports a large “High on the Hill” logo in the rear window. High on the Hill is a notorious head shop in my area.
- A car sitting in the nearby grocery store parking lot not only has an Ichthus on its rear, but also a “Does not play well with others” bumper sticker and another with a stylized grimacing face whose meaning is lost on me. (Hey, it took me about a year to realize that the large italicized number on some people’s cars and trucks corresponded to their favorite NASCAR driver’s car number, so what does that tell ya?)
To be perfectly blunt (and when am I not perfectly blunt?), I can’t see what having any kind of Jesus fish or bumper stickers gets us except another reason for unbelievers to be hacked off at our lousy driving habits or the sheer hypocrisy of the plethora of other stickers we might have on our cars that cancels out that Ichthus. If a nut goes screaming past me doing twenty miles over the speed limit, he’s just a menace. But if he’s sportin’ the old Ichthus and doing it, well then he’s now a Christian menace.
- “Will ya take a gander at that car with the Jesus bumper stickers weaving all over the road right in front of us? Better get around this fine driving example and—oh, she’s not only talking on her cellphone, but she’s putting on the face paint at the same time. Martha, is my bazooka still in the glove compartment?”
“Well, lock and load, woman, and hand that thing over here….”
It’s hard to demonstrate Christian charity to someone else while driving. Other than signaling to another person that it’s okay to merge in front of you—in which case they never see your Ichthus on the rear of your car anyway—or perhaps letting an elderly person take the parking spot closest to the store while you park farther away, the only thing that can be accomplished by having Christian adware stuff on your car is negative. (I take that back. There is one “positive” thing. Back in the days before Internet porn, I think a few guys with Jesus fish and stickers on their cars may actually have thought twice about driving into the “adult” bookstore parking lot with a car advertising the fact they were about to do something really stupid. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.) Otherwise, like the four cases I cited above, what we get through Christian adware instead of a life-chaging profession of Christ is a soul-killing anti-witness. By advertising the fact that we’re Christians and we can’t obey the law, can’t drive rationally, or can’t figure out that Jesus and the great prices on bongs at the head shop don’t mix—well, you don’t have to be R.C. Sproul to see that it’s just not worth demeaning the Lord via a plastic fish slapped on our cars.
With just three chords—Em, Am, C— it was the first song I learned on the guitar. “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love” says it all. That great chapter of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, says that only one thing speaks the true language of the Kingdom of God. Not fish. Not bumper stickers. L-O-V-E. And it doesn’t come through pithy sayings above the exhaust system on our cars, nor through “This Blood’s for You!” T-shirts, or any of that other “here today, burn tomorrow” kind of junk that’s already passing away even as it’s rolling off a Chinese conveyor belt in Shanghai.
We need to ask ourselves what does more for our neighbor, showing her the love of Christ by being there for her in her time of need -OR- showing her the Ichthus symbol on the back of our Chevy when we pass her on the road?
That ancient church they just dug up had it right. If we want that Ichthus symbol in our churches, let’s go for it. But when we go out those doors into the world, we’re ambassadors for Christ. We should never give anyone a reason to think less of the Lord because we’re having a bad day; when we put big old Ichthus fish on our cars, we’re just asking for someone to find fault with us—and too often our fish-labeled stupidity gives people the ammo they need to not take Christ or His Church seriously.
Why do we have all the Ichthus fish, the “You sinned, but Jesus got nailed for it” bumper stickers, and the “His Pain, Your Gain” T-shirts? Do they advance the cause of Christ or merely give others a reason to find fault with it? Doesn’t Christian adware do little more than trick us into thinking we’re somehow evangelizing other people when we’re really not—or worse, driving them away from Christ instead?
Isn’t it time to scrape the fish off the car?