Am I a Christian Now?

You make the call.  Last week I bought a used car from my neighbor and it has this on the trunk:

I am surprised to find that it is difficult to decide whether to leave it there or take it off.  On one hand, I don’t think religion translates well to bumper stickers, t-shirts, or license plate holders.  I cannot count the number of times I’ve been cut off in traffic by somebody whose vehicle announces to the world that she’s not perfect, just forgiven, or that his daughter and his money both go to BYU.  Witnessing FAIL.  Please people, learn to drive, then learn that the interstate at rush hour isn’t the place for testifying about your religion.

Then there is also the question of boundaries.  Do other Christians feels a sense of ownership about this symbol?  It offends me a little when anti-people use pictures of the Salt Lake temple or president Monson for their own purposes.  My neighbors know I’m LDS; if I leave this on the car, will I inadvertently be stepping on some toes?  There is also a question about my own people.  If I park this car at the temple, is that like wearing a cross on a gold chain?

The endless back-and-forth about whether Mormons are Christians often comes down to this:  Mormons claim to be Christians because we try to behave in a Christian way.  Other Christians say Mormons aren’t Christians because we don’t make the right outward confessions.  I know a Methodist who also believes in VooDoo.  Why can’t I like the Jesus fish and Nephites too?

I’m leaving it up to the readers of this post to decide for me, and I would appreciate your vote in the comments below.  So far, these are the choices I can think of:

1.  Take it off the car.

2.  Leave it as is.

3.  Take it off and replace it with a bigger one.

4.  Take it off and replace it with one of those Darwin fish with legs.

5.  Leave it, but right below it put a bumper sticker that says “Discover America – Read the Book of Mormon!”.  Then go drive around the campus of the Jimmy Swaggart Bible School and World Ministry and watch the heads explode.

Comments

  1. aloof observer says:

    Prophetic counsel against Jesus bumper stickers! Quote from President Monson’s 1999 address on the very subject below.

    Today, the challenge which we face and must meet is not that we should go forth on the battlefield of war and lay down our lives. Rather, it is that we, on the battlefield of life, so live and serve that our lives and actions reflect a true love of God, of His Son, Jesus Christ, and of our fellowmen. This is not accomplished by clever signs printed on bumper stickers affixed to automobiles.

  2. I vote to take it off.

  3. aloof,

    It could be argued that this is not a “bumber sticker,” but more like a CTR ring.

    Mark,

    While my gut says that you should replace it with the Darwin version, I would think that just removing it would be best. Of course, you should replace it with a sticker against gay marriage and therefore emphasize the beautiful common ground between our faiths.

  4. straight talker says:

    “Mormons claim to be Christians because we try to behave in a Christian way…………..”

    Nice spoof, but why feed ridiculous bigotry against us? Mormons are Christian because they have faith in the risen Jesus as Lord and Savoir.

    As far as the truck, I’d replace it with a plain fish. It’s a good Christian symbol w/o the swearing of throwing the Lord’s name on a truck for no good reason.

  5. #4 Darwin fish.
    There is no reason that you should leave the head explosions to just the Jimmy Swaggart people. This is America, stand up for equality!

  6. Latter-day Guy says:

    Can you replace part of it? I was thinking it might be appropriate to change (JESUS) to (JONAH), as he probably had more “in-fish” experience.

  7. I tend not to like the casual use of Jesus’ name, so that particular emblem bothers me in a way that a wordless fish would not.

    I do like the symbol of the fish to represent Jesus, though. The only problem is that it has become associated with a certain variety of Christianity, a variety that isn’t my own, and that’s why I probably wouldn’t keep it.

  8. As I believe Mormon Christians ought to disassociate themselves with the Born Again Baptist/Pentecostal/Evangelical types, I vote to remove it. But I also don’t care either way, so it doesn’t matter what I think. :)

  9. Aaron Brown says:

    Mark,

    FWIW, if I were driving past you and I saw the jesus fish on your car, the only thought I’d have is, “Gee, there goes another loser who thinks it’s cool to tack silly messages on the back of his vehicle. What a dork.”

    Doesn’t matter if it’s Jesus, Baby on Board, Darwin, I Love My Family, or “The Goddess is Alive, and Magic is Afoot.” It’s just lame, regardless.

    AB

  10. Aaron Brown says:

    On the other hand, you could put up a sticker of Satan gone fishing, with the Jesus fish caught in the hook.

  11. Take it off the car, get a big gold chain and wear it around your neck. Bonus points if you also wearing a clock.

  12. Leave it on AND put on a Darwin fish. I’d like to see more people embrace both science and religion, plus it would blow people’s minds.

    Seriously, though, if it were me, I’d take it off. While it’s nice to show you are a witness of Christ, it’s classier and more respectful to Him to show it by example than with a message on a dirty bumper.

  13. Speaking of wearing your religion on your sleeve. I was in a Walmart in southern California and standing in a long line. They opened up the register next door so I walked over all happy to be in front. When a lady comes up behind me (who was previously in front of me in the other line) and says, “excuse me I was first” in a pretty pissed off tone, and visibly angry toward me.

    I was more than happy to let her have the spot because we all know how it feels like the entire world is conspiring against you when you pick the wrong line, etc.

    I’ll never forget she was wearing a bright pink sweatshirt with metallic gold “Jesus Saves” in huge script letters across the front. After I said, of course she could go in front of me, she said the Lord loves me and will bless me.

    I told her I agreed and smiled back.

    While I am glad there are millions of people who confess Christ’s name all over the world like that, it really does rub me the wrong way to have something so sacred thrown out there in such a confrontational or at least unholy way.

    But she’s just following in the example of others. It’s certainly not evil, it might not even be bad, but I think like most Mormons, seeing Jesus Saves shirts (especially not pink with Gold letters, come on) and seeing a Jesus fish on a car (not nearly as awkward as the shirt) just seems like taking something so holy and personal and throwing it out there.

    It’s ironic we feel that way considering the rest of the world views us as aggressive religious types who beat down your door to talk God at you. Imagine how they’d think about us if we really did talk and wear Jesus all the time!

  14. Left Field says:

    I’ll look for your Jesus car next time I’m at the temple, Mark. How else will I know it’s you? You could’ve recognized mine by the Obama sticker, but I eventually removed it.

    I’d say leave it on for a few weeks, and then you can take it off. That will let your neighbor know that you weren’t so offended by it that you had to take it off the moment you signed the title. And it will get the tongues wagging at church. And then after you take it off, you can start cutting people off in traffic again. Win-win-win.

  15. #12. Rrgh, you stole my idea! I’ve always wanted to put both on my car. Except that it requires like an $11 investment, and I’m not sure I’m that committed to the idea.

  16. I vote leave it on. It sounds like a pain to remove… and what’s the big deal? We all love Jesus too.

    Although I do agree that, generally, religious bumper stickers are tacky. That said, I would focus my efforts towards removing Stick Figure Families (with names attached) rather than Jesus Fish. The stick figure families are 3000 times more offensive to me.

  17. Do whatever makes you feel the most comfortable. I’ve had a wordless fish on my car the entire time I’ve owned it, and nobody at church has ever batted an eye.

  18. I vote take it off. Show “Jesus” with your actions.

  19. nat kelly says:

    I’ve seen big Darwin fish with an wide open mouth preparing to eat the Jesus fish in front of them. Like this: http://newheights.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/darwin_fish.jpg

    So that’s an option too, though I think you’d probably make lots of people unhappy with it.

  20. Mark, I vote take it off. Cars are not the place for political messages or evangelizing. You might get “keyed” or cut off in traffic by an atheist. (JOKING!)

  21. Keep it and affix around it the “WWJD” poker chips I saw in a bookstore. The funniest thing is that many people wouldn’t see the irony in that combination – or the chips on their own.

  22. Could you get a Darwin fish and place it lips to lips with the Jesus fish?
    I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time, but my wife and I still just have just one car, and she won’t allow it. Wouldn’t even allow my Obama bumper sticker.

    There’s a great song about trashy Christian materialism,” by a Christian rock band (or at least Christian influenced): Atomic Opera: “Jesus Junk.” Google it for the lyrics.

  23. Mommie Dearest says:

    If you remove it does it leave a big bolt hole? Or just adhesive residue. I’d be inclined to remove it because I like my car plain. I also don’t like the auto dealer using my car for their sales pitch.

    I think we all swagger our beliefs and opinions around more than is useful*, and having that out there on my car would be a problem when it came time to keep my beliefs to myself.

    *bloggernacle exempted

  24. It’s too bad you don’t live in a place where not owing a car is an option–car ownership is so twentieth century.

    So, my advice: move to New York and sell the car. Put the fish in your apartment window.

  25. nat kelly says:

    Mark B. FTW.

  26. Peter LLC says:

    I say take it off but only if you replace it with an Our Lady of Guadalupe sticker.

  27. I vote to keep it on. Taking it off would only confirm to a lot of non-LDS people that we aren’t Christian.

    To me, there is nothing wrong with a Mormon driving around with a Jesus fish on their car. After all, we do believe in Jesus, right? Making silly distinctions about which religion has which symbol seems petty and childish.

  28. 0 — Leave it if you want to associate yourself with Jesus. But it would be cooler if it was the Greek one, because Greek is always cooler than English.

    19 — I like the one that has the Jesus fishy ready to take a bite of the Darwin fishy with the text “Survival of the fittest.” But I laughed a lot when I saw my first Darwin fishy — both are clever.

    I’ve wanted to make one that has a viking helmet that’s drawn in clear silicone that says “Lutefisk” in the body. And maybe one with a yamulke that says “Gefilte”. A whole ethnic series (one with a katana, and/or manga style, that says “Sushi,”…) just sounds cool to me.

  29. Kevin Barney says:

    Replace it with an ichthus fish. This keeps the authentic ancient Christian symbolism, but avoids the cheesy use of “Jesus” inside the fish.

    The fish became a Christian symbol because the Greek word for fish is ichthus, which was taken as an acronym for “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior,” as so:

    I Iesous
    CH Christos
    TH Theou
    U hUios
    S Soter

    (We’ll see if this long link works):

    http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://z.about.com/d/graphicssoft/1/5/h/s/4/ChristianShapes-Fish.gif&imgrefurl=http://graphicssoft.about.com/od/photoshopdownloads/ss/christianshapes_3.htm&h=400&w=400&sz=13&tbnid=qzTXkeX7aR_xQM:&tbnh=124&tbnw=124&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dichthus%2Bfish&usg=__ngVeHj86oxI0zd8F3rgSLv_6kjI=&ei=FlLTS6juHYH_8Aay9aG1AQ&sa=X&oi=image_result&resnum=1&ct=image&ved=0CAsQ9QEwAA

    Other than that, I would personally be influenced by how much of a pain it would be to remove/replace it and what damage would be incurred by doing so. Personally I don’t like bumper stickers and prefer a clean car.

  30. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    Find yourself a nice Wilford Woodruff decal that includes a rod to connect with the fish.

    You know that somewhere at a Deseret Book or Seagull, it has got to be available.

  31. tkangaroo says:

    The last one, but only if I can witness it. Priceless!

  32. Wow I’m glad I don’t have a car so that I don’t have to make difficult decisions like this.
    My brother, who is very much not a member of the church, works at the nuclear site in Los Alamos. One day he was talking to a lady who had on a wwjd key holder around her neck. He asked her what it meant. She explained that it stood for what would Jesus do? My brother burst out laughing and asked her if she really thought that Jesus would work at a site that manufactured weapons of mass destruction.
    Pretty hard to be perfect to carry off one of those for sure!

  33. Last Lemming says:

    Take it off. Even a positive message on a bumper is the mark of an aggressive driver.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/15/AR2008061501963.html?sid=ST2008061600110

    (But if you are an aggressive driver and want everybody to know that, add the Darwin fish.)

  34. If it’s bolted on, leave it on.
    Glued on, take it off.

    Or you could draw a cartoon bubble to it and put up funny/strange/offensive sayings in it.

  35. I had a Jesus fish on my mission bike. The bike made it home, and then got stolen outside my apartment during Halloween a year later. Very sad.

    I vote that you keep it.

    While I was on my mission, I came up the idea of a Moroni fish once, but never figured out a way to market it (or even design it). Surprised that I haven’t seen one at any of the Mormon bookstores.

  36. I say decide for yourself–to heck what anyone else thinks. But maybe that’s because I’m leaning towards keeping it on. Away with “Mormon homogeneity”!

  37. Which reminds me of one of my favorite Brigham Young quotes:
    “There is too much of a sameness in this community. . . . I am not a stereotyped Latter-day Saint and do not believe in the doctrine . . . away with stereotyped ‘Mormons’!”

  38. This is a tough crowd. We bought our home from an observant Jewish family who was kind enough to leave a mezuzah on the front door frame. I liked it. A couple of years later when my wife repainted the door and frame she took it down and did not report the mezuzah. We disagreed about that–I am glad I did not put the question to this tough group or they would have agreed with my wife that we should not put the mezuzah back up! She did not discard it, though, and I keep it in my top drawer. As you can tell, I vote to keep the fish and Jesus. I would vote the same way if it were an Islamic crescent. Or maybe a different compromise is to add one of those “coexist” stickers, with a variety of religious symbols.

  39. DavidH,
    Mezuzahs are cool, though. Jesus fishes are kind of tacky IMO.

  40. Scott B–I used to think that about having a cross in the house. I’ve done a 180 on that.
    See: Glorying “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”

    http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2009/04/glorying-in-cross-of-our-lord-jesus.html

  41. I would only take it off if removing it required a minimum of effort. If anything more than a minimum of effort is required, it must stay on.

  42. Clean Cut,
    I see crosses and mezuzahs as being in an entirely different class than Jesus fish. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I do, at least in part because I see the action-reaction-rereaction nonsense between Jesus fish/Darwin/Truth people as little more than political statements.

  43. if she really thought that Jesus would work at a site that manufactured weapons of mass destruction.

    He might, if he had to work for a living. But then again, would Jesus work for a living?

  44. StillConfused says:

    I would leave it on, but then again, I am too lazy to do anything about it.

  45. You’re a Christian. Leave it on if you want to. You are the one who gets to drive it. As my DD grandmother would say, “If you don’t know, then who the hell does?”

  46. This calls for a Seinfeld clip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qi0edrAOGAw

  47. Steve Evans says:

    You live in the South, right? Take it off — but take off the entire rear bumper as well.

  48. I would vote for adding a “Satan” fish next to it, and then some kind of third sticker or ornament to show they are brother fish.

    Actually, I agree with Aaron B. (#9) about car ornamentation in general, and I appreciate Last Lemming’s (#33) link indicating that maybe I have a good reason not to like it.

  49. I’d take #12’s suggestion a step further and put both the Darwin fish, and the “Discover American” bumper sticker on and for good measure, add a “I Brake for Temples” license plate frame.

    All kidding aside, I would take off the Jesus fish.

    After my later-in-life baptism, my aunt (not LDS) celebrated me becoming Christian by giving me the Christian fish/cross on a pendant. I was touched by the thought but appreciated that part of my new faith was not using the traditional Christian iconography. I kept it for the memory for a number of years but did not wear it.

    Since your jesus fish doesn’t have such meaning, there’s nothing stopping you from turning it into scrap metal. You could probably recycle it and do something good.

  50. Thomas Parkin says:

    A real symbol – a symbol with numinous power to invoke, such as the cross – cannot be contrived, can’t have emerged from a silly little political fight. Maybe after it gets decades or even centuries under its belt. Take off the fish. It isn’t really a symbol, it’s a sign, and it points to something that you aren’t – at least that I’m not. ~

  51. One indicator of the differences between LDS and creedal Christians is the number and forms of the identifying symbols that each group adopts.
    .
    Creedal Christians’ symbols are concentrated on the two lesser manifestations their triune god, Jesus and the Holy Spirit: cross , descending dove, fish, fire. Their one well-known symbol focused upon believers’ part in God’s plan is the letter grouping, WWJD.
    .
    LDS do not have a corresponding unique symbol for Jesus, except for one that I’ll note momentarily, or for the Holy Ghost*. But we have our own set of images for believers’ responsibilities: colors of YW values, CTR, RWH, yellow or white vests with Helping Hands logo, temple pendants.
    .
    Interestingly, neither group has developed a group-specific image that recalls Heavenly Father.
    .
    To me this reveals a major difference between the emphases of the two groups. The workings of the creedal Christians’ churches seems to be focused upon God’s grace, upon which LDS also depend, and generating adoration for God and Christ with personal accountability sometimes acknowledged but not emphasized. So, they equipped themselves with an array of group-specific images about God but only one pointing to the believers. On the other hand, LDS have many symbols that focus on the believers’ part in God’s plan. A further indication of this difference is that the creedal Christians’ sole believer-focused image asks a question, “What Would Jesus Do?” but the LDS images presume clearer understandings in their declarations to “Choose The Right” or to “Return With Honor.”
    .
    The one** symbol that LDS use to remember Jesus also points to a significant difference between the two groups: the sacramental service. We assert that Jesus personally restored and now leads our Church. For me this is reflected in our singular use of the one symbol of which He said, “THIS do in remembrance of me.” That we use only the symbol Jesus said to use to recall Him reflects our acceptance of, and dependence upon, His leadership in contrast to what I view as the self-made and -led creedal-Christian religions. The similarly-appearing usage of the cup and bread by others differs from the LDS usage in two significant ways: for them, it is another symbol among many that they devised and the LDS service focuses participants upon their responsibilities (take His name, obey, remember) as well as promising the constant companionship of His spirit.
    .
    Given all this, I would not keep the fish symbol because Jesus did not say to use it, so it breaks from the philosophy of actually doing “what would Jesus do” and it implies acceptance of the diminishing of our responsibilities in God’s plan.
    .
    —–
    * Occasionally I’ll play with the ward librarian’s mind by joining the post-sacrament-meeting rush at the materials center and breathlessly asking for a poster of the Holy Ghost.
    .
    ** I recognize that GBH said that the members’ lives are our symbols to remember Jesus. I believe that keeping the promises made during our sacramental service to always remember Him creates the lives that sustain GBH’s statement.

  52. “Given all this, I would not keep the fish symbol because Jesus did not say to use it, so it breaks from the philosophy of actually doing “what would Jesus do” ”

    This might be an argument against the car itself, and not just the fish.

    Mark, you should walk (wearing sandals) and ride fishing boats.

  53. 52.
    The difference that I see is that Jesus said to use the sacrament for this particular purpose but He did not tell his followers which forms of transportation or clothing to use.

  54. Turn it into a Jesus fish pissing on Calvin.

  55. “He will not raise high who jeers at sacred things.” (Emerson and McKay). Nothing good will come of talking down other’s important symbols. Take it off if it does not speak for you. But don’t attack others for giving meaning to it.

  56. Mark you know what I would do.

  57. Always learning says:

    You’re considering a Darwin fish? I know this is kind of a bigoted, close-minded thing to say, but… I had no idea Mormons could be that hip.

    And then with the “Discover America” bit, my cognitive dissonance only grows more… ;)

  58. Mark, I think you should replace it with an Ichthus fish, as Kevin mentioned above. The fish actually predates the cross as a symbol showing Christian self-identity. In many ways, a Latter-day Saint could see therefore see the Ichthus fish as a sort-of pre-apostasy Christian symbol that fits in well with identifying with the primitive, pre-creedal Christians, as we do in the Church.

    But I also agree with Steve that if you take it off, you should probably also remove the entire rear bumper just to fit in.

    Or better, yet, remove it but paint “Country and Western is rubbish” on the side of the car instead. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/topgear/show/episodes/series9episode3.shtml)

  59. Steve G. says:

    When I was younger I thought the fish was an elongated alpha as in Alpha and Omega. I was disappointed to discover it was actually a fish. What a lame mascot.

    When I was a kid during the 80’s my grandparents thought a rainbow would be a good symbol for our family. So we had rainbows on all our cars. Sometime in the 90’s the rainbows were removed, never to be seen or talked about again…

    I frequently see the mormon equivalent of the fish; cheap mailbox stickers in the window spelling LDS. I suppose a Mormon redneck derivatives could be a Samuel the Lamanite silhouette with those fake bullet hole all around him.

  60. Instead of the Jesus fish and the cross, we have CTR rings (for kids) and the garment (for adults). I’d probably take it off just because I think they look tacky.

  61. I think you should make everyone happy by adding a bumper sticker or logo for every potential group out there. Add the Darwin fish, the Darwin fish being eaten by the bigger Jesus fish, the dead catfish, the Mormon stickers, a few pro-Zionist bumper stickers, stickers for both pro SSA marriage and against, and also a bumper sticker quoting Stephen Hawking warning us to not get in contact with God or any other aliens….

  62. See, if it were me, I would take it off because I find them tacky. However I don’t know whether or not you are a tacky person, so it’s hard for me to suggest whether or not you should take it off.

  63. Your first mistake was buying a car from your neighbor. But since there is no undoing of that deed, I like #5.

  64. “While I am glad there are millions of people who confess Christ’s name all over the world like that, it really does rub me the wrong way to have something so sacred thrown out there in such a confrontational or at least unholy way.”

    This probably explains why Christian Rock music creeps me out so much!

  65. I would take it off because I think they look icky.

  66. I have a darwin emblem on my car. I also have magnetic stickers and swap them out every week to so. As a politically liberal member of the Church I tend to express some sentiments in other than Sunday School (grin)Some include:

    God
    The Greatest Liberal of all

    Bin Laden Supports
    School Prayer

    I’m not a Liberal Pinko
    I Prefer Teal

    Proud Member of the Religious Left

    Sacred Cows Make the Best Hamburger

  67. I guess most of the post-ers here would hate my car b/c it’s covered in Duke decals, & 1 anti-UNC decal that was sold as pro-UNC until I transformed it. ‘if God is not a Tarheel, why is the sky Carolina blue ?’ Now it just says ‘God is not a Tarheel’ ! But it is on a different part of the car from my ‘LDS’ decal that came from the local Deseret Bk affiliate ! :) No, they’re not mailbox letters, #59. Definitely do # 5. Hilarious !

  68. If it was just a fish I would say keep it because then it would be a simple symbol. Since it has the “Jesus” in it I find it goes from admirable to tacky.

  69. Take it off.

    Christian fish symbols with ‘JESUS’ written inside them are vulgar at best and condescendingly assume cultural illiteracy at worst. You should replace them with an ichthus symbol that does not have ‘JESUS’ written inside.

    Jettboy is right.

  70. nailbanger says:

    I look at it this way, The easy thing to do is take it off and forget about it. the toughest (and possibly the most rewarding) thing you can do is leave it on and try to live up to what it implies. So I guess the question is are you up to it?

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