Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Signs from God

Evangelicals who whine about being marginalized in America have not taken a road trip lately. Drivers on the nation’s highways are smothered in a steady cloud of religious exhaust. Sitting behind the wheel, you can choke on the toxic fumes from all the Christian gas.

As you travel through the South, from Florida to Kentucky, you learn one important fact. Billboards, road signs, and bumper stickers tell you again and again that “Jesus is Lord.” Considering the impeccable sources, the statement must be true. My favorite version is the one painted on the outfield fence of a baseball field in a roadside sandlot that abuts I-4, not far from Orlando. I’ve passed this site dozens of times, at all hours, and have yet to see a single kid playing there. Jesus lords it over emptiness.

Other billboards sport alarmist verses from the bible. A faux U-turn sign tells motorists that Christ urges them to “change direction,” even though traversing the median on the highway is illegal. One gigantic message warns—ungrammatically—that the wages of sin is death. (Someone other than Jesus must be Lord of English Usage.)

In case the continuous print barrage doesn’t nail you, crosses of all sizes practically smack you in the face from the edges of the interstate. The crucifixes are user-ready in case Jesus-is-Lord decides to come back and get hammered up again. He has a number of appetizing sites to choose from nestled amongst the Fireworks! and Boiled Peanuts! signs. My guess is that he’d favor the huge metallic eyesore that casts its shadow about 100 feet onto Tennessee’s porn-again landmark, XXX Adultworld XXX.

Another symbol of Jesus-is-Lordness is the ubiquitous fish. All kinds of variants propel themselves along the backsides of cars and trucks. On some of these finned friends, the word “Jesus” leads you to the truth—just in case you mistakenly think that the vehicle’s owner works in the tuna business instead of angling for soul. On others, a cross is planted like a sloppy kiss on the swimmer’s cheek, so that the fish seems to be looking forward from the point where the horizontal bar meets the vertical beam; the creature is cross-eyed.

Interestingly, the people who cart around the portable marine life often festoon their autos with ribbons that urge other drivers to “Support Our Troops.” Apparently, Jesus-is-Lord does not offer sufficient assistance to our men and women in uniform. While evangelicals believe wholeheartedly in him, he apparently does not believe in them—or at least in their war effort.

And that’s something they should be whining about.