Florida is positioned towards the right pocket, just below the Bible Belt. We’ve a strange mix of Jews, Gentiles, and Cubans down here, and while everyone usually keeps their distances from one another, they can’t help but advertise their faith. I tend to view this with amusement, afforded to me because I don’t really care what people think about mythology, but something about the branding of Jesus disturbs me deep-down inside.

The amount of proselytizing that goes on down here on the bumpers of cars is amazing. I had no idea there were so many clever ways of saying that I’m going to hell because I’m not Christian. I was out of the house and on the road for all of 15 minutes today, but that’s still enough time to be asked “Got Jesus?” by a bumper sticker. “Why that’s a play on a well-known advertisement by the Milk Council of America! How amusingly apropos,” I didn’t say to myself. Sure, Jesus is as necessary for strong bones as milk, but does He need a catch-phrase to entice me into salvation?

Well, according to another bumper sticker, He does: “Real Men Love Jesus.” That’s right. All you beer-drinkin’, women-lovin’, gun-totin’, hairy-chested men can burp in relief, because you too can find eternal bliss in the love of God. Phew! Of course, the correlation of this strikes me as a bit odd, which is “all non-Christian men must be wimps.” This of course maybe true in America, where all non-Christians are emaciated and must stay out of daylight for fear of getting run over and/or shot by the big bullies with their steel Bibles, but I don’t think that your average Sumo wrestler would agree with that statement. Another interesting thought about the “Real Men” who love Jesus is why they felt they had to tell the world that they were, in fact, real men. Unless I’m mistaken, we all stopped picking on Christian men a little bit after the Visigoths sacked Rome.

But part of being a Christian, apparently, is believing that the whole world is against you, as opposed to being part of the collective that has actually been running the world for several centuries. I assume this is an homage to the Jews’ famous collective guilt. So in this regard, we’re given this ponderable on yet another bumper sticker: “If you don’t believe in God, you’d better be right!” The “you’d better be right!” part is on its own line in a devilish-red typeface surrounded by comic-book flames. Ah, the inscrutable logic of believing what most everyone else believe, too. Sure, why take chances in believing that there’s nothing after this life? Believe in God, so He’ll allow you into Heaven, and if you’re wrong in that case, and there is no God, hey! no big deal, you won’t know it. Best to hedge your bets.

“Oh, dear. What if there is a God, but it’s not your Judeo-Christian one?” I think to the driver of the car in front of me. “Doesn’t that mean that you’ll have to answer to that god just the same as I’ll have to? Isn’t there the slightest chance that the other 4/5ths of the world may be right in their crazy beliefs, too?” But, sadly, my psychic questions go unanswered as the self-righteous Christian blows a red light, leaving me to ponder such mysteries alone in the left turning lane.

The fish that represents Jesus and Christianity is more popular here than those “My Child Is An Honor Student” bumper stickers are in New York, which means there’s a lot of fish. I don’t know whether this is to imply that the cars are believers, or just the occupants, but it has spawned (pardon the pun) a cottage industry of responses. The most well-known of these, of course, is the Darwin-fish, which is the Jesus-fish, except it faces to the right and has cute little legs and feet. Now, as any believer in evolution will tell you, Darwin and his theories did nothing to dispute the sanctity of Christ. Evolution may put a damper on some of the earlier Bible stories, but that’s it. But, still, Christians tend to be a sensitive bunch, and we’ve now got ourselves a bumper sticker that has the Jesus-fish with teeth eating the much smaller Darwin-fish. The accompanying text says “Jesus is still Lord, and fish don’t have legs.” Well, I can’t dispute the second part.

The most unexpected fish is the Linux-fish, which, like the Darwin-fish, faces to the right, but it has a shark fin on the top. I like the idea of the Linux-fish. It reminds me of the early Christians, who would eventually topple the degenerate, decaying ruling classes of Europe. Evangelizing and proselytizing are definitely needed to topple the degenerate, decaying ruling class of operating systems, so, whether or not it was intentional, the Linux-fish makes a wonderful statement, rich in symbolism and history. Will some misunderstanding, but enterprising, Christian design a bumper sticker with the Jesus-with-teeth-fish eating the Linux-fish? What could the tag-line be? Ah, I know, “Jesus is still Lord, and owns Microsoft stock.”

I know at the core of Christianity, especially the evangelical-flavored version that we have here in America, it is part of your life’s mission to preach the gospel. But is preaching the same as advertising, or, truly, sloganeering? Or is it yet another sign of the dullness of modern-day Americans? With so many Swooshes and Golden Arches all around us, must we take all our information in small, symbolic chunks, or else we can’t parse it? Will all religions bow down before the god with the best ad agency?

No answers from any of the drivers, because we all keep to ourselves. No one really bothers to confront anyone else, but we all want to live as if we’re subversive, that the world is against us, and the only way to strike back is to wear our messages on our Web pages, our t-shirts, or on the back our cars. Non-believers beware. And so my Darwin-fish may anger the driver behind me, but I’ll never know it, leaving us both to go to our final destinations in peace.

One thought on “If You Can Read This, You’re too Close to Heaven

  1. Great Jon, simply brilliant. Although I may be a bit biased. Anyway, I’d love to see this Linux Fish you mention.

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