I walked past a car with “Adonai” on the license plate the other day. I was annoyed. Probably more than I should have been, because Idaho is the capital of vanity plates. One in six people here have something other than the randomly generated combination of numbers and letters on the front and back ends of their cars. It goes without saying then, that some Jesus person would do this.
Frankly, this is no different than Jesus bumper stickers. Those might be worse, because unlike license plates, they have no limitation in characters and therefore, they have more room to say something stupid or offensive. Not that I mind offensive. I guess I mean stupidly offensive.
Still, the vanity plate feels similar to sweats with writing across the butt. Or even like a lower back tattoo. By the way, has anyone else noticed that every slang term for lower back tattoo is pejorative? The thought of it nearly makes me feel bad for Jesus and all the people out there who’ve done some ink back there (it’s not just women). But who am I to talk crap about Jesus tattoos? I have two of my own. I did the hipster thing and got the script tattoo with all the flourishes across my chest- it’s part of psalm 34, if you’re wondering. Then I went simpler and got half a verse from psalm 126 in some lovely san serif on my forearm.
A close friend of mine laughed at me when he saw the second. He didn’t know me when I had the first done several years ago. He asked, “Does it make you more spiritual? Was it to help you memorize that verse? Are you more spiritual now?” He launched questions at me until his wife told him to stop. Not that she was defending me. We were at a party and she thought he was making an ass out of himself.
That left me wondering, why do we have Christian stickers, shirts, hats, tattoos etc. ad naseam? Does this have less to do with spirituality and more to do with recognition? Do any of us actually desire to be recognized as Jesus people?
Thankfully, I live in a place where I have little to fear while walking around wearing a shirt with a enormous ichthus emblazoned on it, or sweats with “Jehova Jireh” bedazzled across the back. Admittedly, I sometimes want to attack people in Jesus attire, but more than anything, that has to do with my overwhelming sense of commitment to my faith and a slight notion of good taste (any chance that’s a product of reverence? I hope so).
If we want to mark ourselves as believers, shirts and stickers are the way to go. We can’t just wear a simple little cross necklace, because even the Bieber, the Kesha and other celebrities who don’t profess the faith do that. But what are we doing to ourselves when we make it so obvious? Scaring people away? Inviting discussion, or perhaps just asking for public scrutiny?
I would imagine that I might be more pleasant if I’d marked myself out as a believer in Christ by some obvious attire, but how sincere would that be? Of course, I could tell myself that if I pretend to be nice, it might become a habit. First the natural, then the spiritual– am I right?
I actually can’t tell what the motivation is. People are complex. Mine was vanity. I think my tattoos make me look a little more awesome than I did before. Of course I have a special place in my crooked little heart for the verses I had inked into my skin. They’ll be there until I die or decide that I have to get them removed. That’s much more permanent than any article of clothing, license plate or sticker, just like I want my faith to be. See how I ended that on a positive note? I’m getting better and better at this.