Bumper sticker theology

Last month, the Episcopal Cafe reported that the Diocese of Delaware has made Episcopal license plates available (not plate-holders – actual license plates!) – http://www.episcopalcafe.com/lead/dioceses/episcopal_plates_1.html

The Cafe also sampled a blogpost, “Automotive Evangelism,” by a driver of the plates, Elizabeth Kaeton – it’s at telling-secrets.blogspot.com/2012/09/automotive-evangelism.html

Kaeton wrote,

I love the interest shown by neighbors and random folks in the parking lot at the grocery store – or post office or retail outlet or gas station – who ask questions. Which is the point, right? I’ve only had the license plate since Saturday and already I’m finding myself in conversations with people about my church and my faith

– and I found myself a little jealous. The plate just states the car’s denomination, and apparently it is the ultimate evangelistic conversation starter! I drive around religiously with a bumper sticker that explicitly invites comment: “I am Episcopalian, ask me about God,” and the most reaction I’ve ever got is the odd funny look from the car that’s pulled up next to me at a red light. Although, to be fair, that could have more to do with my singing along with the radio or making faces at my daughter than with my bumper stickers.

My own Episcopal diocese, the Diocese of Ohio, produces the bumper stickers and also displays them on yard signs and billboards around the region. My favourite billboard, which I don’t think we have in bumper sticker form, is “If you’re looking for a sign from God, here it is,” because I like that we have a sense of humour. My children’s favourite, which we have as a bumper sticker, on cinch sacks, and on the youngest’s latest youth event t-shirt, is “God loves you, no exceptions.”

Putting up a billboard – from the Diocese of Ohio website, www.dohio.org

I love seeing the billboards, because I love my church and its mission to proclaim the universal and abundant love of God. I am reassured when I pull into a parking lot and see the bumper stickers, because it often means I’ve arrived at the correct place to meet whomever I am meeting. I like the opportunity to wear my religion on my sleeve; it seems like a fairly easy and innocuous way of spreading the Word (although it does make me obsequiously apologetic of my errors on the road, concerned as I am that my one wrong move will turn the drivers around me off the entire Episcopal Church). But in the few years that I have been advertising, I have never once been asked, complimented, insulted or otherwise accosted about my church of choice.

Then, today, it finally happened. I was wearing my Bishop’s Bike Ride cycling shirt at the local library, emblazoned with “Love God, love your neighbor, change the world” on the back, and the janitor turned off his vacuum cleaner to ask me, “What’s the Bishop’s Bike Ride? Is that an English thing?”

So we had a brief chat, and I sauntered out with a slight swagger in my step, having had my very first evangelical encounter as the result of Episcopalian attire, personal or vehicular. (Unfortunately, I don’t think that I came across as having a whole lot of wisdom, grace or poise, having seriously mistimed my exit to coincide with a torrential rain and hailstorm which nearly knocked me off my bike; but at least that was an act of God.)

On the way home, once the hail had subsided and numbness from the sudden temperature drop had begun to set into my fingers, I thought, “Why did he think it was an English thing?” As my shoes filled with rain I realized, “It’s because I have a fairly pronounced British accent.” Then, as the sun mockingly broke through, I remembered: I spoke first.

Turns out, the shirt had help from a direct, personal invitation to conversation. Perhaps the blogger’s license plate did too, and she’s just being modest about her friendliness and general outgoingness to all humankind.

At any rate, here’s my takeaway from the whole license plate/bumper sticker theology thing:

1) Keep it simple, keep it positive; a sense of humour helps.

2) Don’t cut off traffic if the Episcopal shield (or your religious emblem of choice) is on your rear bumper.

3) It’s not a conversation-starter. You are.

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