You shall not pass.
My dinosaur ate your stick family.
If you can read this, you’re too close.
I hate bumper stickers.
According to several experts, you have a man named Forest P. Gill to thank for seeing these statements in public. He noticed self-adhesive paper used during World War II would hold screen printing ink. With that, the Kansas City, KS native is credited with being the man who invented the modern bumper sticker. With that little stroke of marketing genius, people began advertising tourist locations (Rock City, Panama City, New York, The Grand Canyon), political races and ideals (the earliest was for the Eisenhower campaign in 1952), and general opinions on life (we now know who doesn’t like Mondays). People apparently love them because we still see them all over the place. Although many are now made of magnets and no longer permanent, they are a permanent fixture of culture.
But what is a bumper sticker really saying? I’m not talking about the text or the picture or the political opinion on it. I’m talking about using the sticker itself.
Bumper stickers, like many other personalized items in our culture, are a means of defining ourselves. They say something about who we are, think we are, or want to be. They speak of our aspirations, our understanding of the world, our desire for the world. They also speak of our fears, our insecurities. Often, they tell people more than we think they do and more than we want them to. They reveal those triggers within us that can create our discomforts and express our most negative self. The are unintentional declarations, statements we make without making them.
Declarations, whether we realize it or not, are expressed in everything we say and do. The field of semiotics deals with something called meaning making. It examines these declarations, these pieces of meaning we give to others. Everything from the kind of clothing we wear to the way we style our hair (or don’t) to the way we stand communicates something. Think about it. Haven’t you ever looked at a person and gotten one set of signals by their appearance but then spoke to them and found them to be nothing like what you expected. The signals, the signs, the declarations didn’t match.
Christianity is a story, a tale filled with meaning making and declarations. That story has within it a way of life and being, a way that can change the narratives and declarations of the world around us. What are we declaring to the world? In the things we do, the way we act (or fail to act), the way we speak (or don’t) what are we telling those around you? Odds are, we aren’t telling them what we think we are.
So how do we change our narrative?
Maybe the question is, do we want to?
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