Faithful readers will remember I love my bumper stickers. I like them to be provocative and parabolic, like Jesus was, encouraging people to think, but not offensive just for the sake of offending. Thus, in a liberal area like Seattle, I had a sign saying "Jesus is a Liberal", to reach the liberals. But in a conservative area like the Waunakee countryside, I removed that sticker, as I felt it would be offensive without being provocative. Were I living inside Madison itself, it wouldn't be an issue.
So imagine my surprise today, when I experienced my first real persecution for following the Light with my stickers. I've had many people read the stickers. I can tell in my rear-view mirror- even what sticker they're reading. Some like them, and even shout out encouragement as they drive by. Others frown in distaste. In the past one woman complained directly to me, about the above bumper sticker, saying that it shouldn't have said "Jesus was a liberal," because Jesus was alive. I thought she made a good point, and so changed it in future versions. Today, I have the obligatory Obama stickers, an IXTHUS fish with legs, a Free Palestine sticker, and two self-made ones, stating "When Jesus said, 'Love your enemies', he didn't mean al Qa'ida, did he?" and "There is that of God in everyone. Even George Bush. Even Osama bin Laden." All very right Quakerly stickers. And seemingly suitable in a city like Madison, if anything redder than Seattle.
On the freeway, a guy was honking at me, and I turned around, probably too wrong, wondering if I had cut him off in some manner. But we were traveling too fast, and I thought nothing more of it. Then at the off-ramp, the same guy was to my left, motioning insistently for me to roll down my window. I did so, and he stated, "Do you know how stupid you are to have those bumper stickers?"
I must say, I wasn't prepared for this. I had expected something more congenial. Had I more time, I might have said something more parabolic, like, "Perhaps. But I am obligated to follow Jesus, no matter how stupid that might seem." Or "Love often is stupid." But all I got out was, "God be with you," with a smile, as I rolled up the window. Just in time to hear him say something along the lines of, "You know if you have those stickers, you're just like the terrorists, don't you?"
And that got me to thinking. I hope so. Because my stickers were all about love. All about how much God loves everyone, and how we need to emulate that love. So the only reasonable implication by this gentleman was that he was advocating that terrorists love too much.
Of course, he was suggesting nothing of the sort; it was only his words that suggested it. He was actually suggesting that I was in some manner providing "aid and comfort" to "America's enemies". But it is precisely this love that is offensive. It is that part of the cross- the part that causes such offense. Many have accused Christianity of being too violent and too power-hungry- and of those who have claimed the name of Christ, our accusers have too often been right. There are others who think it horrible that any religion, including Christianity, would condemn others to hell, for how could a good God do this?
And yet, when we get to certain peoples, suddenly the ground shift. Those same accusers, complaining of the lack of liberality in traditional orthodox Christianity, think nothing of condemning Hitler and the Nazis to hell, or even as we saw recently, condemning to hell any one who denies the full scope of the Holocaust. These are certainly great evils, and never to be supported, but there is a certain offense to claim, or even consider, that a good God could love such people. Indeed, how could he? He is good, they are evil. How could it be that God could love us while we were yet sinners? And how could the Christians claim that we happy chosen few are in the same league as Hitler and Osama bin Laden? How could the Quakers claim that, yes, there is that of God in those two as well, for they are also in His image?
Oh, I have no answers. I don't know. I do know that, forget the Trinity, and the manner in which Jesus is both divine and human. The real mystery of it all is how can God love those who do evil, when he claims that we all do evil? How can there be such love present in the universe, so outpouring.
And how can I come to see that, even in those I despise the most, even in those I like the least, there is that of God in them, and they have something to teach me of God? For this is why Christianity is by far, the most offensive of all the religions.