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Bumper Sticker Wisdom: For Catholics, Too!

July 7, AD2015 10 Comments

nature, renewal, resurrection, easter

Most of us have had one on the bumper of our car at some point- a sticker that states an opinion or belief we find important or humorous. In an age when we like to share about ourselves more than ever, a bumper sticker gives us yet another opportunity to tell a stranger something we think is important, but in a way that is non threatening compared to how it would go over in real life.

One of the many great things about a bumper sticker: it’s safer than Facebook, and no one will lock you up for using it.

Seriously, folks, if I came up to you and said, “Save the Baby Humans!”, even if you agreed with me you’d want to see me committed to the nearest rubber room. But we can do it with a bumper sticker, and the worst we’ll really have to deal with is a comment in the parking lot, or a rude gesture from a stranger on the highway.

But therein is the first reason we Catholics ought to get involved in putting bumper stickers on our cars. Think about it: Where else can you say things about politics, religion, or human life without fear of any kind of truly hazardous reprisal? Where else can you say a truth of our faith, and people are considered loony if they retaliate against you? At the average cocktail party, people feel obligated to tell you you’re wrong these days if you espouse the Catholic viewpoint. If they try to do that on the highway in a half-ton, four-wheeled hunk of metal and fiberglass, they are considered the weird ones, not you.

Still, there are some folks for whom the fear of any sort of reprisal for stating the truth is a real issue. Some of us really, really don’t like to have others mad at us for any reason.

My response if people give you rude gestures if they see your pro-life, pro-Catholic, or pro-authentic marriage bumper sticker?

First, Luke 6:22.

Next, I want to say: ‘Really? You’re going to let rude gestures from a stranger on the highway shut you up? In a world where Christians are being gunned down, beheaded and set on fire just a few thousands of miles away, you’re worried about a stranger giving you a rude gesture and saying something unintelligible at your through a quarter-inch of glass while speeding away from you at over sixty miles and hour?’

A second argument I’ve often heard in opposition to bumper-sticker evangelism is that no one has ever been converted by a bumper sticker.

This may be 100% true. I won’t deny it. I don’t know anyone who actually switched from being pro-abortion choice to pro-life, or from being an anti-Catholic-Hellfire-Baptist to being Sainthood material by reading a bumper sticker on the subject.

But a bumper sticker, like any form of evangelism, doesn’t have to make an instant conversion in order to be effective. It may just have to plant a seed that someone else will water and help nurture and grow.

Besides, quite frankly, I see the ‘it won’t convert’ line as a lie and a red herring: The purpose of a bumper sticker isn’t to cause an instant conversion to a political or religious viewpoint, necessarily. As I see it, there’s a bigger, better reason why we ought not be afraid to put our faith and its wisdom on the back ends of our cars:

It lets our fellow soldiers in the culture war know that they are not alone.

Let’s be honest: being a faithful Catholic can be a lonely job these days, even if you have eight kids and are well connected to ten other similar families at your parish. There are reminders every time you pick up the newspaper, watch TV or read the Drudgereport how far the world is from the ideals set down by Our Lord, and how vastly outnumbered we are by those on all sides of the political aisles who are in opposition to our faith, or what they believe our faith to be.

Me, I like to recount this story when I someone tells me how useless bumper stickers allegedly are:

I’ve lived most of the last twenty years in the Pacific NorthWest, a region as hostile to the Catholic viewpoint as any you’re likely to find in the North America. Years ago I was driving home from the grimy, day-labor job I was doing to save money for grad school when I saw it:

It was a contractor’s truck. A standard, white pickup truck with an ad on the back, ladders strapped to the side, and a bunch of various tools great and small neatly stacked and strapped to the truck’s insides.

But what caught my attention wasn’t the contractor’s truck, but the bright yellow bumper sticker in the lower left corner.

 “PRO-CHOICE? THAT’S A LIE!” it said, “BABIES DO NOT ‘CHOOSE’ TO DIE!”

It was a phrase I’d used many a time when I was in high school, picketing the abortuaries with my friends in Metro Toronto Students For Life.

What else could I do? I drove up, honked my horn at the fellow, pointed behind me at the back of his truck and gave him a ‘thumbs up’ sign.

When I told my wife about this, she said (as she lovingly says about many of my idiosyncrasies) that doing that is weird. But on this day, the fellow not only gave me a ‘thumb-up’ back; as he left the highway on the exit, he leaned on his horn and pointed his index finger upwards.

Was he saying God was number one? That there was only one way to stop abortion? I don’t know for certain. But what I do know was that on that particular day, he and I were united in a common cause. I was and still am a faithful Catholic, and he may have been a tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorist who felt anything other than home churches as a form of Christian worship open the way for Satan and the Illuminati to get a foothold in your community.

Yes, they are out there.

But on that day, it didn’t really matter. What mattered was that we reinforced to each other that the stand we took was the right one, and that we may be outnumbered, we are not and never will be alone. And over two decades since that day on a Portland, Oregon highway, when I get discouraged about the Supreme Court, the President, or some of my children’s (ahem) reluctance to do more for their faith development, I think of that day. I think of how one simple gesture from someone I never met and never will know inspired me, and how it continues to inspire me.

And all from a bumper sticker.

Now you go and get yours. Inspire someone, and do your unintentional bit, too.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

John McNichol is a Catholic, Husband, Father, Teacher, Writer and Speaker living in the Pacific NorthWest. He is the author of three published novels: Books 1 and 2 in the Young Chesterton Chronicles series ('The Tripods Attack!', and 'The Emperor of North America'), as well 'The King's Gambit', an adventure novel for the 9-12 year old crowd. Email John to have him as a speaker at your parish or event!

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