Everyday on my way to school, I pass a place called Inside Out Auto Detailing. It’s on Oak Ridge Drive, in a building next to an automated Quarles fuel stop. The location is one of those spots that seem cursed, because everything that sets up shop there seems to fold in a matter of weeks. There are quite a few spots in Washington County like that; for instance, the Applebee’s on Wesel Boulevard that then became a Big Bats and now sits there totally empty; or the old Exxon station on Virginia Avenue that closed down fifteen years ago and has been reopening as a used car lot under new ownership every two weeks since. Inside Out Auto Detailing seems to be doing all right so far. It’s been there about a year, I guess, and hasn’t gone under yet. Strikes me as a fairly ordinary place, except for this one little detail on the banner, down in the bottom right corner. It says: OWNER: JESUS CHRIST.
I am no fan of public religious displays. I find them obnoxious. I find public displays of Christianity the most obnoxious because here in the good ol’ U.S. of A, that’s mostly what I get. When I worked at Pilot, every so often groups of Muslims would stop in on their way somewhere. Usually they would walk around to the back of the building, lay their mats down, kneel in the right direction, and hop to praying. That never seemed as obnoxious to me, probably because I’m just not exposed to it very much. One time, an entire bus of Muslims came through, and they kneeled in formation in the parking lot at dusk, and went through this entire elaborate worship ceremony. I felt like I was intruding by watching it, but it was beautiful. I bet if I had to watch it every day, though, I’d find Muslims just as irritating as Christians.
What’s worse than public religion is pointless public religion. If you’re a Christian, and you think God is going to visit his wrath on America for letting gay people marry each other, for instance, and you decide to gather in front of town hall with a bunch of your fellow Christians and hold hands and beg the Lord to deliver the United States from the unspeakable hell that would follow if the government began indiscriminately sanctioning the relationships of consenting adults in love, at least you have a purpose. It might be a totally ass-backwards, bigoted purpose, but it’s there, you have a goal. When people put little fish symbols on their cars, or “My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter” bumper stickers (while I’m at it, any bumper stickers), or claim that Jesus owns their auto body business, I just don’t get what they’re trying to accomplish.
So you’re an auto body man. So you love Jesus. By advertising your Christianity on the exterior of your business, do you hope to attract business from within the lucrative market of Christian car-accident victims? I don’t think that’s it. There really is no practical motivation. There is only ego, the “Hey everybody, look at me!” syndrome. It’s the reason for tattoos and bumper stickers, loud-ass cars and motorcycles, and shitty music cranked up to glass-shattering volume. Making it even worse where Christianity is concerned is this Great Commission bullshit. Have you heard about this? In the Bible, somewhere in the back, Jesus tells his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel. To most evangelical Christians, this amounts to divine permission to be as loud and repellant as they want, as long as they avail themselves of every possible opportunity to proselytize. It’s all good, because it’s what God wants.
Most Christians won’t care about this last part, because the actual teachings of Jesus are of about as much interest to them as the Bhagavad-Gita, but Jesus specifically spoke against the kind of in-your-face public religion that modern evangelicals are constantly throwing at people. Check out Matthew 6:5:
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
That’s the old King James Version, in case you couldn’t tell. For a real kick in the balls, check out the same passage, in the Contemporary English Version:
When you pray, don't be like those show-offs who love to stand up and pray in the meeting places and on the street corners. They do this just to look good. I can assure you that they already have their reward.
That’s Jesus talking. You folks who claim to love him so much ought to listen to him. He knows his shit.