I've had a co-worker's car in my driveway all week while she's away on a trip, and she is definitely a bumper sticker advocate. Since she and I share most convictions, her bumper stickers don't offend me, and one of them actually made me think.
Generally, I'm not a bumper sticker fan, although once in a while one of them gives me a good chuckle.
But most of the time, those little signs plastered on the back of dusty cars seem like sound bites people shout at you right before they peel off when the light turns green.
Sometimes a bumper sticker will make me nod in agreement. Often, they make me angry, and frequently I want to say, as the driver speeds away, "Wait. Let's talk about that."
I guess that's part of our modern culture: We proclaim our opinion, but we're unavailable to listen to the response.
Although, maybe it's just as well not to talk to those Smith and Wesson bumper sticker types. However, I've had a co-worker's car in my driveway all week while she's away on a trip, and she is definitely a bumper sticker advocate. Since she and I share most convictions, her bumper stickers don't offend me, and one of them actually made me think.
This is hopefully what most people intend when they condense their convictions into short phrases on the back of vehicles. Remember the old bumper stickers that said, "Honk if you love Jesus"? I haven't seen many of those lately, but my friend's sticker turns that old adage on its head.
"If you love Jesus," her bumper sticker reads, "seek justice. Any fool can honk."
Now, if I were inclined to be a bumper sticker user, that's one I'd use.
In truth, I probably collect my own private bumper stickers, filling my journal with short, pithy sayings that cause reflection.
The older I get, the more I quote the little aphorisms my mother used to share with me. As a kid, I suppose I shook my head impatiently at them, but as I get older, I see those kernels of truth as words to live by.
Maybe it's not bumper stickers I object to, but the fact that they are in my face without any opportunity for discussion. Any fool can honk. Yep, even Jesus said something like that: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven" (Mt 7:21).
It's one thing to say we believe in Jesus, and that our faith will save us, but demonstrating that we actually have faith is far more challenging.
This has been a rough year: Religious persecution, including horrific treatment of our fellow Christians; children fleeing death and rape coming to our borders to be shouted at by unwelcoming mobs; an airplane shot from the sky by lawless thugs and victims' bodies left to rot in Ukrainian fields; thousands of innocent residents of Gaza suffering the violence of a cruel war pursued by two sides who pay little heed to civilian casualties.
Any fool can honk, and yet we are called to seek justice, and most of the time, we don't know where to begin. The world has so many problems.
But we aren't called to solve all of them. We may not solve any of them, and the message of the cross is that sometimes we come to apparent failure. Yet we continue to seek justice.
I heard a homilist say recently, "Ministry is not about a quid pro quo. You can't expect something in return for ministry."
The cross suggests that often we see little return for our efforts, but we move forward in kindness in our little corner of the world nonetheless. Leave the honking to others.
EFFIE CALDAROLA IS A COLUMNIST WITH THE CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE.
- Effie Caldarola is a columnist with the Catholic News Service.