Thursday, May 19, 2011

Recipe for Happiness, and Bumper Sticker Theology

My wife picked up a book at a rummage sale the other day. Nothing unusual about that. Our household picks up quite a bit that way. Most of my shirts, for example, are second-hand items my wife found.

This book had a three-by-five card in it, with a "Recipe for Happiness" on it: written in red ink.
"Recipe for Happiness

"One full measure of Kindness

"A dash of Laughter

"Equal parts of Work and Play

"A generous heap of Love

"Bind together with Faith

"In each other

"In God"
(found in a 'rummage sale book' (May 2011))
I rather liked that - and have it propped up on my desk for now.

But this blog isn't full of sayings and slogans, and there's a reason for that.

Slogans, Sayings, and Me

I don't focus on 'bumper sticker theology' all that much. Slogans like "Jesus is the answer" tend to remind me of the fellow who responded with "what's the question?"

I realize that my Lord occasionally compressed a great deal of meaning into a few words: Matthew 22:36-40, and Matthew 5:3-12, for example. But even there, He said more than just "Blessed are the merciful...." Besides, Jesus was - special, to put it mildly. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 456-478, for starters)

That said, once in a while I'll post a pithy saying I run across. (August 22, 2010") I don't see a problem with slogans. Or bumper stickers. Although I've yet to put one on a vehicle I drive.

I recognize that some folks have been helped by seeing a meaningful slogan. I also realize that all of the billion-plus Catholics living today aren't supposed to be just like me, with my needs and abilities. (August 26, 2010)

On the other hand, I've read someone opine that 'bumper sticker theology' misses important points.

Interestingly, he used the following five terms in just four sentences, which is positively pithy writing:
  • "sound bites"
  • "sloganeering"
  • "stereotypes"
  • "junk food"
  • "inane"
    ("Bumper Sticker Theology," Nod, Catholic Dads (February 27th, 2009))
And that's another topic.

Bumper Stickers and Unintended Consequences

The example Nod gave was of the reasons that I don't 'do' bumper stickers. I hadn't run into "we are spiritual people having a bodily experience" before: but I've seen many like it.

The problem with that slogan, as with so many others, is that it misses an important point. Several important points, actually.

And that, I think, is a problem with bumper stickers: they may not deliver the intended message.

Even relatively a clear, declarative, statement, like "abortion is not health care," may have an unintended effect.

I agree with that the implied beliefs of that statement, although I acknowledge that today's America often regards killing people before a particular age as a "medical procedure." Which means that, as the terms are used in contemporary society, abortion is health care. Sadly.

What harm could that bumper sticker do? I've spent a sizable part of my life around folks who are convinced that pro-life people hate women and may be terrorists. That last point is not hyperbole, as response to Dr. George Tiller's murder showed. (June 1, 2009)

A simple slogan, like "abortion is not health care" would, I fear, run the risk of reinforcing someone's conviction that 'those people' don't care about women. There are counter-arguments to that position, of course.

And I'm getting off-topic.

Eschew Obfuscation

I take the Great Commission seriously. (Matthew 28:19-20) I also think that if we're going to "make disciples of all nations," we need to learn how to communicate. Which I am pretty sure will demand that we use clear, accurate, words that the other person understands. (April 21, 2011)

Oddly enough, I think a bumper sticker said it best: eschew obfuscation. And I've used that one before. (July 8, 2010)

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.