Bumper Sticker Values

Although a vast majority of cars don’t sport bumper stickers, there are still a number of us who do. Some are for candidates or issues, while others tell us where the occupant has been. And then there are ones that express a joke or vulgar suggestion. The common thread is that each one tells you a little something about the owner. As for myself, with the exception of a pro-life sticker, all of mine have been for our political representatives (no great surprise there huh?) Campaigns tell us that a bumper sticker is typically as valuable as a several hundred-dollar donation to the candidate. After all, visibility and name recognition are a critically important component of victory.

Anyway, while driving to work yesterday, I traveled behind an otherwise forgettable car. Although the vehicle in front of me expressed a handful of messages, one and only one of them stuck in mind. It was a simple black and white one, which read, “America Bless God”. It is a twisting of the more traditional “God Bless America”. At first glance, I thought it a call to a renewed spirituality. So many professing Christians believe that the nation as a whole has lost its moral bearing and we are awash in moral relativism, the premise that morality is fluid and personal, rather than fixed and universal. This idea is troubling to both Christians and conservatives alike.

Upon further reflection though, I discovered a whole different shade of meaning. Think about it. America bless God? Does that statement make sense? How can America bless God? I suppose it depends on how you define “bless.” Typically when I think of blessing something or someone, it is to grant some sort of special favor or to make holy. Obviously America can do neither of these two things to God. According to my Microsoft Word dictionary the word can also mean “to declare approval and support for somebody or something” or “to express heartfelt thanks to somebody”. Regardless, the phrase “America Bless God” jogged my memory of a Bible verse. Hebrews 7:7 reads, “And without question, the person who has the power to bless is always greater than the person who is blessed.” (NLT). Applying this verse to the bumper sticker leads to some rather unsettling conclusions. If America can bless God that means that America must, by this definition, be greater (more powerful, holier, etc) than God. I doubt (or at least hope) that the owner of the car doesn’t hold America in higher regard than God. In my mind, the whole “America Bless God” rhetoric harkens back to the McCain campaign’s slogan “Country First”. Don’t misunderstand…I love this country as much as anyone else, but if you were to strip away the ideological and religious foundations you will invariably be led to blind patriotism, worship of the state, and totalitarism. Although they both sound good on the surface, their deeper meanings place America above principles, above God, über alles. Is that the kind of bumper sticker values you have plastered on your vehicle?

6 Replies to “Bumper Sticker Values”

  1. Well, I wouldn’t have applied building the meaning of that verse to the “America Bless God,” since in context the author of Hebrews is building the argument that Jesus is our great High Priest, and is superior to the Aaronic priesthood.

    I would love to have an “America, bless God” sticker on my car! For me, it is a reminder to look at all our abundance, our heritage, the men and women who have been outstanding leaders, our freedoms… All these are gifts from God, and we would indeed be churlish to take them for granted.

    That is how I take the meaning of the sticker: America, God has given us so much. He has guided, protected and prospered us, and we need to remember that and give Him our gratitude. If we forget to be thankful to Him for His kindness and blessings, then we will (have) turn away from Him. If we cast Him off, He will cast us off and hasten our judgment.

    Don’t forget (yeah, I’ve been reading the Psalms this week) that the OT is full of exhortations to the people to praise God, to ascribe power and glory to Him, to bless His name, &c. – and none of these commands carry the implication that we are “greater” than God. Rather, they are reminders to us to esteem God for who He is and for all He has done, and not to forget any of His mercy, love, kindness, deliverance, provision and so on.

    Just my $0.02.

  2. Closest thing I have to a bumper sticker is my AAA badge.

    You hit also on a very salient point with me though. I was most appalled recently to hear the Vice President say, or insinuate that it was unpatriotric to not want to pay taxes. WOT!

    Freinds, let us never confuse love of country with love of government.
    I love my country dearly, all that it stands for, and all it has done. However, I hold my government, at all levels, with a respectful but healthy sense of wariness.

    Let us also never forget that we were established largely on the idea that a government while necessary, should be limited in scope, power and authority, and under God.

  3. Unfortunately, I think the idea of taking one verse out of context from Scripture to evaluate a bumper-sticker idea reveals much more about the poor state of critical thinking in our world than it does about the validity of either idea. As Kat pointed out, Hebrews 7:7 is used within a larger context that is ignored in this post. Picking out one verse amidst many can lead to very interesting conclusions. Many people don’t accept a call to give up our material goods so easily (Luke 18:22, Luke 18:25), nor do very many (Protestants) regard divorce (Matthew 5:32) or resistance (Matthew 5:39) as a sin. Indeed, considering Jesus’ comments on giving to those who ask (Matthew 5:40, 5:42) and taxes (Mark 12:17), maybe paying taxes is more holy than patriotic!

    Both bumper stickers and proof-texting attempt to boil down a lot of truth into a bite-size nugget. This is a fool’s errand. To think that we can condense the wisdom and witness in something like Jesus’ ministry into a few catchphrases disregards the context and complexity of Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. Proof-texts and cute sayings don’t make much of an argument. A phrase like “Jesus accepts knee mail” usually does more to make Christians nod in agreement than change the mind of someone who believes differently. Even a phrase like “under God” can be made to say what we want – we are physically ‘under’ God, we are under some ‘God’ (since words such as Christian or Triune are seldom used), etc. Bumper sticker theology ignores the need for relationship and discussion about important issues.

    How does the driver of the car define America, bless, and God? We’ll never know. Even when the founders mention God, there is very little that they have to say about Jesus or the Holy Spirit. “God” is most often used by the founders as a reference to some powerful creator and judge who watches us from a distance and occasionally dispenses blessings and curses. America is defined [to begin with] as white, land-owning, educated men, and blessings (such as “blessings of liberty”) are something that apparently need to be “secured.” Words as broad or deep as “God”, “liberty”, and “life” need to be defined carefully rather than used as a blank canvas where we can toss our ideas (evangelical, postmodern, etc.) into past terms (deist, enlightenment, etc.).

    One good thing about this post and the comments that follow is that it attempts to avoid the problems of bumper sticker thought and theology. There is an opportunity for extended, thoughtful comments and continuous discussion. It is here that there is hope that we can go beyond clever sayings and angry quips to dialogue that pursues truth in its complexity and fullness.

  4. Virginia Conservative:
    The phrase has come into use because many citizens of this blessed land have done what God (the One True God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob) commands all peoples of the earth not to do. Forget not the Lord and all His benefits. Do not go into the land and say “by my hand have I gotten all this”, and others. America is unique in the same respect as Israel is. They are the only two nations in mankinds history to have been birthed by His hand. Any nation can receive the Blessing of God or His curse. It is all wrapped up in His promise to Abraham. “Those who bless you, I will bless. Those who curse you, will I curse.” Notice that He does not put a condition on it that the nation must be good or evil. Their choice. At this time America is, quite possibly on the road to cursing Israel. It already curses God in many ways, yet He withholds His judgement for now, giving America time to repent. Americas choice.
    Meditate on these verses when you can: Judges 5:9; Ps.103:1-5, 20-22 & continued in Ps.104:1-5; Ps.34:1; best of all Ps.145:1-2, 21. Many citizens in this land are in the process of violating Isaiah 48:11 unawares and our President, by virute of accepting their adulation is also violating this proclamation of God.
    Blessing in the name of the Most High God,
    John

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