Bumper Sticker Wisdom

My new bumper sticker reads, “Be careful who you hate. It might be someone you love.”

It is a reminder not to categorize people or to assume that “all” of “those people” are somehow the same. As soon as we try to clump a group of people into a tidy category or description, we will miss someone’s amazing individuality.

“Gay people make me uncomfortable,” we might be tempted to say. Until we realize that our neighbor or neighbor’s beloved child fits that description.

 “I don’t understand transgender people,” we might declare. Until we get to know someone who has fought for their identity and who advocates honesty in self-expression.

 Although my bumper sticker has a rainbow stripe on it, I don’t think the concept is limited to LGBTQ issues. When we start talking about “all” people of color or “all” immigrants or “all” women who have had an abortion, we are missing something crucial. We are overlooking the sacred individuality that exists in each person. We are ignoring their personal stories. We are missing the unique child of God, created in God’s image.

 I believe this bumper sticker invites me to look beyond the “packaging” of a person to see the individual. I believe I am urged to have a holy curiosity about each person so I can resist the temptation to dismiss someone as “one of them.”

             It is easy to hate groups of people. A group is faceless. A group doesn’t have parents who love them or children who need them. A group doesn’t have emotions and lacks feelings that can be bruised or rights that can be trampled.

It’s when we look beyond the faceless crowd that we begin to recognize individuals with stories and backgrounds, journeys and struggles that have brought them to this time and place. Perhaps then I will not be as quick to dismiss “them.”

 Instead of disregard, could I offer respect? Instead of turning away, could I listen? Instead of assuming I know their story and circumstances, could I be willing to wonder and learn?

A bumper sticker is such a simple thing – but it can teach an important lesson.

Bumper Sticker Wisdom

Bumper Sticker Coexist

I love bumper stickers. Those short, pithy sayings that can make me laugh – or think.

One of my favorites questioned, “Where are we going?  And why are we in this handbasket?”  It makes me smile whenever I think about it.

Or the bumper sticker that reads, “Knock, knock.  Who’s there?  Doctor.”  Coming from a family of “Doctor Who” fans, I like the subtlety.

Or the sticker that I saw in traffic the other day, “I’m not lost.  I’m exploring.” It’s a good attitude, even when it isn’t true.

I know people criticize what is often labelled “bumper sticker theology,” the temptation to define complex subjects with the briefest phrase.  But sometimes a short quote can provide much food for thought.

Here’s one that I like:

Love God. Love your neighbor. Save the world. (Episcopal Church)

Now, I know you could argue with that. You might say, “It makes it sound too easy.” If you could engage the bumper sticker in conversation, you might want to raise topics like multi-cultural differences or gun violence or even about that annoying woman who sat next to you on the bus.  But bumper stickers aren’t about dialogues.  At their best, they remind us of what is true.

With just 8 words this bumper sticker describes an entire way of life.  Love God.  That’s first. Then – Love your neighbor. Because that is what God tells us to do.  If we do those two things – which are not easy and which we will fail spectacularly at many times each day – we will change the world.

Try it. Express your love for God through gratitude and thanksgiving.  Take a few moments to think about your blessings today and give thanks.

Try to love your neighbor – not just someone next door, but also the person you live with, or the sullen store clerk, or the over-worked waitress, or micro-managing boss, or your petty cop-worker, the relative who calls too often or who never calls at all…you get the idea.

Those actions, given to God, will change the world. Notice – we don’t have to change the world ourselves (that would be a lot of responsibility). We need to live the way that God tells us and trust that God can use those actions.  God will change the world, with us and through us.

Or – to use another bumper sticker to say it another way:

To believe is to care. To care is to do.  (United Church of Christ).

Let’s not make faith more complicated than it is. Let’s allow God’s love to move us to action.