Bumper Sticker Theology

As I’ve pointed out before, bumper sticker theology is incredibly shallow. Oh, I understand that bumper stickers are supposed to utilize short, cute, overly simplistic messages to convey a deeper meaning.

I get that.

christianliberal1.jpgBut a problem with short, cute, overly simplistic messages is that they often are ineffective at leading the reader to the accurate deeper meaning. In fact, I think an argument can be made that they actually perpetuate more shallow thinking.

Since thideology is the study of the relationship between theology and ideology my interest is naturally drawn to areas where politics and religion intersect. Please consider a series of bumper stickers I recently ran across.

“Christian Liberal”
“Christian Democrat… and proud of it!!”
“Another Proud Member of The CHRISTIAN LEFT”
“Jesus Would Have Been a Democrat”
“Jesus is a Liberal”

These sort of slogans reduce the identity of Christ. He is a mere plank in their party platform. It seems to me that the person sporting stickers like these is first concerned with politics, public policy, and the “direction of the country.” To them God and His Word are tools to utilize in an effort to achieve their desired end.

And, lest you think I’m picking on liberals exclusively, let me just say I’ve seen any number of conservative versions of bumper stickers that make similar appeals to God as a means to their desired political end. This is not a party problem it’s a national one.

No, I take that back. It’s a Church problem.

And the bumper sticker that best illustrates my point is the one that reads, “Christian by Choice, Democrat by the Grace of God.”

How offensive that must be to our Lord. It is by the Grace of God alone that we are included in His Kingdom. It is only by an act of God’s sovereign Grace that any of us can come to faith in Jesus Christ and thereby claim the name “Christian.” That wretched bumper sticker has it exactly backwards.

christianliberal5sm.jpgAs subjects of the King our first allegiance is to Him. It would seem, when considering the incredible price God paid for our redemption, that maintaining proper priorities with regard to our place in the Kingdom and our place in the world would be easy. But, as the bumper sticker so adequately demonstrates, our priorities are easily skewed.

Perhaps it would help if we reflected on Scripture. When Jesus stood before Pilate He made it clear that His Kingdom was not an earthly one.

“Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” — John 18:33-36

As the body of Christ our primary objective is to bring glory to our Lord not persuade Him to bring glory to us…or our country.

I’m reminded of all the things God’s people had to endure that ultimately brought God glory. They were slaves in Egypt. They wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Their land was conquered by one invader after another. The temple was destroyed.

When I think about how much effort we invest in trying to get God to bring glory to our country I wonder…

How receptive to God’s will would we be if the utter destruction of our country would bring Him glory? If it is a thought that makes us cringe, then maybe we need to consider our priorities. Are we members of His kingdom first? Or is our “Christianity” just another aspect of our political identity?

About Chip
Chip is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, AR and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. He served more than five years on the staff of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana as Director of Communications and Public Relations, editor of the Indiana Baptist newsjournal, and regular contributor to the Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. He currently earns his living as a writer. He serves his local church as a teacher and deacon and his local Baptist Association as a Seminary Extension instructor and supply preacher.

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