Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Eccentricities of Evangelicalism: Symbols

Having looked at the strange, conference-oriented nature of evangelicals, we turn to examine their propensity for symbols.

Evangelicals have long felt the need to litter their lives and spaces with all manner of symbols. The cross, the icthus (the little fish thing), and the trinity symbol are just three examples of symbols popular among Christians today. Take the fish for a minute. For some reason, we put the fish everywhere we can. Now, obviously I know that we do so because we want to be a witness, and we think that putting a little fish on our car makes this happen. While this is fine, it is kind of funny to think about. "Okay, so there's a Caravan, and there's a Christian driving it. Excellent." Not exactly a life-changing revelation for the non-Christian highway driver. And why do we feel the need to self-identify when no one else does? I suppose because we're very passionate about our faith. While that's true, it's still funny that no one else does besides angry evolutionists who affix the little fish with legs to their cars. I mean, there are other very passioante people out there. Yet there are no, umm, little symbolic books on professor's cars, or little symbolic basketballs for basketball coaches, or little symbolic hamburgers for fast-food franchise owners. There's no transcendent little buddha thingie for Buddhists, and no symbol of a man in a celestial virgin paradise for Muslims. It's pretty much just us and our rather angry friends, the evolutionists.

We also do the cross, which has been co-opted by rappers, basketball players, and the urban set. It's actually to the point in popular society that many have a cross tattooed on their arm who may not know even the most basic facts about the symbolic meaning of the cross. It's really very ironic, if you think about it. Christians wear the cross, which was a torture device, around their neck. Then rappers do the same. They wear a little torture device around their neck and think it's cool. Yet no one wears a little stretching rack on their neck. No one wears a gallows. "Yo, did you see that PHAT platinum gallows Eminem had at the Grammys? It was hot!" No, it's the cross that has staying power in culture, largely because of Christians and the trend-setting crowd who likes their symbolic jewelry. Perhaps we can hope that in days to come it will be not simply our jewelry that will influence culture, but our faith.

This isn't a blog against Christians wearing symbols. I have a fish on my car, albeit a fish with one little fin missing, which I suppose might seem to symbolize I have a foot disability. (I don't.) I've long had the fish on my car, and don't mind it being there. I also don't mind at all wearing a cross. That's not something I choose to do anymore, but there's nothing wrong with it. I suppose it's better to wear it not simply as a jewelry piece but as a commemorative piece by which one signifies one's faith. That said, there's nothing wrong with remembering. That's not to say, however, that we evangelicals aren't eccenctric for festooning ourselves with symbols. But then again, eccentricity is part of what makes us us.


Post a Comment

<< Home