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  • February 2008
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Killing Our Enemies One Bumper Sticker at a Time

I don’t know about you, but I have a love-hate relationship with bumper stickers; in that I love to read them, but would hate to put one on my own car. Especially when it comes to so-called “Christian” bumper stickers. Or even Jesus fish. I would never think of putting one of those on my bumper. It’s not that I’m ashamed to tell people I’m a follower of Jesus – I’m just not convinced that displaying my faith or religious beliefs on my bumper is an effective way to communicate. And when it comes right down to it, I’m not sure my driving is worthy of the gospel stamp of approval.

Christian bumper stickers are probably, for the most part, inocuous. Take for instance “No Jesus, No Peace. Know Jesus, Know Peace.” Cute, but I doubt it has led too many people to a deeper walk with Him. Or, “My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter.” Again, possibly clever if you’re a Christian who knows what it means. I’ve seen non-Christians have varied responses to this one – from simply puzzled, to wondering if it was a strange form of antisemitism. Of course the Jesus fish is a good way to identify other Christian drivers so we can contain our road rage when they cut us off in traffic. Other than that I think it was responsible for starting the highbrow bumper debate of the century – Jesus Fish or Darwin Toothy Amphibi-thingy?

Most Christian bumper stickers are really pretty much forgettable in my book. That is until I saw this particular one on a very innocent seeming bumper in the parking lot of a very nice church in Florida. This one put me over the edge. And not in a good way. I should add a disclaimer here: the bumper sticker I am about to describe was not necessarily of the “Christian” variety, but it was surrounded by so many sticky-backed Christian platitudes that it was guilty by association.

“Do not hesitate to, or apologize for killing America’s enemies.”

I did a quadruple take.

Right there on a bumper in the church parking lot. Surrounded by smarmy Christian bumper stickers. Don’t hesitate to kill your enemies. Oh – and don’t apologize for it either.

Yeah that sounds like something Jesus would say.

(editor’s note: re-read that last sentence with a sarcastic tone if you did not already)

I am the first to admit that I may be incredibly naive when it comes to national security. Some Christians have pointed out to me that Jesus wasn’t talking about national security when he told his disciples to love their enemies. Funny, that. I thought the Romans were some of the most brutal occupying forces in the history of the world. Sounds like national security to me.

Is it naive to “give peace a chance” as John Lennon once crooned? Admittedly we are mired in a war right now, and we can’t just pull out of it. But I’m thinking of the longer term picture. Let’s say we some how wrap up the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan – America is still going to have enemies. Probably even more than we do now. What will we do then? Continue to kill our enemies? Kill lest we be killed?

But hasn’t history proven that violence begets violence. The Bible says that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. Isn’t that why Jesus said, “You have heard it said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you love your enemies.” I know that’s a tall order. And I’m not even sure what that looks like in today’s context.

But what about Gandhi? He was faced with an impossible situation, resolved himself to fight by peaceful means – and he prevailed. What about Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu? Did they take up arms to fight and kill their enemies? Did Martin Luther King, Jr.? The violent/militant factions of his time did not prevail, but rather the tactics of peace, including self-sacrifice, won out in the end. These are world class leaders whose place in history cannot be argued.

But think about it for a moment. What if MLK had been the kind of leader who said “do not hesitate or apologize for killing our enemies.” And what if his followers had been so crass to put the slogan on a bumper sticker. That would have been insanity.

Why isn’t it insanity today?


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