What would be your first thought on seeing the word “CHRIST,” in all caps and quotation marks, plastered across the rear windshield of a pickup truck? If your answer falls more along the lines of “Someone is apparently swearing at me” than “Jesus take the wheel” or “Would you have a moment to talk about our lord and savior,” you’re not alone.
I know you’re not alone, because that was the first thought that entered my mind when I saw the picture taken by Twitter user @beth_any_two and shared in a private Facebook group, which I then tweeted with her permission:
Sure, sure, I understood that the driver presumably didn’t intend to take the lord’s name in vain, just like he (I’d bet big money it’s a he) probably didn’t intend to go his entire life without learning the first thing about standard rules of capitalization in the English language. (“GOD’S Way TO HEAVEN,” though? Seriously?) But what you intend to communicate and what you are actually communicating can be entirely different things.
And if you want to spread the message of Jesus–you know, the message that abortion should be banned in all circumstances, LGBTQ people should have no rights, and putting brown kids in cages without their parents is just fine–you should probably work on your communication skills. Just ask the “hip” pastors. They know that they’ve got to “reach the culture” if they’re going to reach young people, and young people these days pretty much universally agree that TYPING IN CAPITAL LETTERS IS THE PRINTED EQUIVALENT TO YELLING.
Speaking of which, sorry for the yelling.
Of course, your first thought about the “CHRIST” truck pictured above may not have been about the yelling. It may well have been about the curious quotation marks. When someone is swearing at you loudly, it’s generally useful to know who.
And so we are faced with questions. Precisely whom, inquiring minds want to know, is the driver of this vehicle quoting? Himself? If so, what’s the point? Someone else? But then who would that be? Unfortunately, unless the driver sees and responds to this post, it seems that the answers will remain a mystery.
But can we take a moment to consider the odd correlation between radical Christians and erratic quotation marks? I’m not saying we should commission a study, although I’m also not not saying that. One thing that I certainly am saying, though, is that radical Christians sure do seem to love them some unnecessary quotation marks.
Take the McDonald’s franchisee in McCordsville, Indiana, a town that is about as cultured as it sounds, who decided to “spread the gospel” by means of a glass sculpture with an etching of, you guessed it, Ronald McDonald. The lovable fast food clown stands with his arms outstretched, Jesus-like, while the accompanying text informs potential patrons that “‘FAITH’ AND ‘BLESSED’ WELCOMES YOU” [sic.]. (I have been told that the installation has recently been taken down for reasons unbeknownst to me.)
Grant that, inasmuch as metaphor is endemic to human language use, abstract nouns may be said to welcome people. We are still left with a grammatically impossible use of a past participle as a noun, as well as the incorrect conjugation of the verb “to welcome.” Unless of course, very generously, we imagine that whoever designed this masterpiece, realizing that “BLESSED” cannot be a noun unless accompanied by the definite article, decided that “FAITH” was the only legitimate subject of the sentence.
But put all that aside. Why are “FAITH” and “BLESSED” in quotation marks? Are visitors to this suburban McDonald’s receiving fake blessings with their hamberders? Is the faith that ostensibly greets them just phony faith after all? But then, why would any obviously upstanding citizens–as surely “real Americans” must axiomatically assume any small-business proprietor to be–essentially proclaim to all comers that their faith is phony?
Well, if you’ve been familiar with me for long, you probably know how I feel about the careless use of the phrase “fake Christian.”
In this case, though, if the “CLOWN” shoe “FITS,” well…