Monday, September 27, 2010

Stupid bumper sticker tricks

From time to time in this space, we’ve pointed out some of the dumber bumper stickers that we've seen in our various travels (like this, for example), pondering the thoughts, vacant though they may be, that go through the minds of those who display them. Naturally, people could say the same about the stickers that adorn our bumper. (Of course, they’d be wrong.)

One we’ve seen for some time offers this pithy observation: “God is not a Republican or a Democrat.” That last part, about Him not being a Democrat, is in lettering so small that for a moment I thought I was at the eye doctor being asked to read the last line on the chart. It’s such a desperate attempt to be even-handed, they might as well not even bothered. We know what they mean. (Of course, that’s one of the problems liberals often have: they don’t know when to leave well-enough alone, so they wind up pushing otherwise neutral people right into the opponent’s column.)

Anyway, what does this saying really prove? Of course God wasn’t a Republican or a Democrat. For that matter, neither was George Washington. (Or John Adams, come to think of it.) You know why? Because the Republican and Democratic parties didn’t exist back in those days, and they don’t exist today, at least in God’s plane.

This bumper sticker, which has a sense of humor,
is in my opinion much more effective
God, I’m afraid, doesn’t belong to man-made organizations. Rather, it’s the other way around. Which is why the Catholic Church constantly reminds us that Jesus Himself founded the Church, with Peter and his successors as her head.  It is said that God's time and ours run on two different cycles, and I think it's safe to say that the same holds for sporting events, political parties, and other kinds of social organizations.*

* That's not to say, however, that He does not care about such organizations.  I think He cares quite deeply about them, and those who belong to them.  How much He cares is something we're likely to find out at the Last Judgment.

You know what else? I don’t think any serious Republican (or conservative, if you will) would make that argument – that Jesus was (or is) a Republican. I know, there are at least a couple of you out there who will immediately come up with a statement from someone (say, Pat Robertson) purporting to say just that – but remember, I said serious.  On the contrary, I think many of them struggle with Lincoln’s famous concert: not whether God is on our side, but whether we are on His. For God, as Lincoln reminded us, “is always right.”


There’s another one out there – perhaps you’ve seen this, too. It reads “War Is Not the Answer.”

Well, if you say so. Personally, I’d rather find out what the question is first. If it’s “What is 2+2” or “Name the capital of Honduras,” then I’m pretty sure the answer is not war.* On the other hand, if you were to ask “What word do the Great War, the Civl War, the Revolutionary War, and the Thirty Years War have in common?” then you’d be wrong. Playing Alex Trebek is not as easy as it seems.

* However, if you were to ask what horse won the 1937 Triple Crown, you’d only be half right.

This probably sounds flippant, because it is. But I’m also giving these sayings all the gravitas they deserve. In trying to be cute, they’ve become too clever by half. There arguments are beyond banal, approaching specious. And while it may be difficult to reduce a complex question such as war to a five- or six-word catchphrase, perhaps what that tells us is that we shouldn’t be so glib about something that’s so serious. Maybe it even suggests that substituting clever badinage for actual thought is what’s gotten us into these messes in the first place. That’s what grownups used to do, anyway. I’ve rarely seen anything truly constructive come from snark, which is what sayings like these really amount to.

Make no mistake: I’m not against bumper stickers, and there are some truly inspired ones out there, both serious and humorous. But please, try to make it stand up to at least three seconds of examination. Logic teachers around the world will thank you.
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