Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Sometimes Christian bumper stickers let us know more than they want us to know.

Today I was following a van with a bumper sticker that read "Fear" and "Not" separated by a simple line-drawing crucifix. I began to contemplate the occasion of this admonition. To whom were they appealing with their fear/not message? Certainly not to me or mine. My fears are mostly necessary and reasonable, like the fear of stepping in front of a moving vehicle or jumping off a thousand foot cliff without a parachute on. Also a more distant yet healthy fear of religions that might want to turn my America into a theocracy ruled by one or other dominant religion. No, they certainly weren't appealing to me with that admonition.

Then I realized she was signaling to other Christians with her message. And I felt pretty certain she wasn't talking about the fear of jumping in front of moving cars or off high cliffs. No, she was telling her Christians friends not to be afraid of something else. What was it? What is so big a fear that she had to constantly assure other Christians not to be afraid?

I continued contemplating and, then, it came to me, and, simultaneously, I realized why we all must feel sad for the average Christian life. She was telling her friends not to fear life, the fear that lives at the center of their lives. They live in fear, I realized. What kind of fears so haunt them that they must go around telling one another, "Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid." Like children whistling past the graveyard? What is so scary about the Christian inner view of the life we all share that they sound so miserable with their bumper stickers while the rest of us see a normal, sometimes happy, sometimes painful and always funny reality?

Soon I had a host of things that obviously make their lives miserable to them so that they often wish for death or say things like, "If I didn't have god I wouldn't want to be alive." Or "Without god I'd go crazy, run mad and kill and rob and rape." They certainly do fear life. Their god must not be any real comfort to them if they feel those things I've heard them express. Here's this all powerful friendly loving god who lets their lives fill up with fear. Or gives them a brain so full of awful things that they're afraid to live in it. Go figure.

Anyhow, I believe they fear things like god catching them sinning and going to hell for it. They fear their fellow churchgoers might discover at any moment they are as phony and fraudulent as most people in all faiths are much of the time. They must think they are surrounded by evil demons everywhere just waiting to snatch their frequent flier miles to heaven away from them. They must feel personally responsible for all the suffering they see in others all around them. They must feel driven to convert as many people in the world to their way of thinking so that they won't feel so all alone. Yet in America, surrounded by so many like themselves, they don't feel safe. The bumper sticker itself testifies to that. Why would they feel any safer if all of Africa went Christian? Would anything really change inside their heads or out in the world since the world out there is only their projection of the world inside themselves? The world is only as bad or as unbearable as it feels like it is inside their heads. How they feel has nothing to do with the way the world is. The Cosmos just is and it will keep being as it is until the cows come home, or at least until the sun engulfs our planet in a fiery embrace.

Let me tell you—I'm not up on a soapbox, mouthing platitudes here. I'm just as flawed as your average Christian. I've learned what I've just said from personal experience. I've see my own view of the world flipflop in a second's time from happy to fearful. So I don't go around with bumper stickers telling everyone to become an atheist and they'll stop having the occasional fear. No, there is no magic wand for happiness. All I can say is that life is a mixed bag and there's no escape from the terrors, even if you believe that Santa Claus is up there in heaven, waiting with golden wings to attach to your shoulder blades. Because if you can't actually see Santa up there (or the Spaghetti Monster) with the actual wings with your name tag on them, then, no matter how hard you deny it, you'll still have doubts and fall into fear and put little bumper stickers on your bumpers in an attempt to make yourselves feel better.

Hey, that was longer than I meant it to be. When I go riffing, I tend to riff it up.

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