I’ve always been uncomfortable about evangelism.
Whether it’s a throwback to squirming adolescent encounters or not, I can’t be sure.
A rather down-at-heel, middle aged gentleman, dressed in dowdy, old-fashioned clothing, used to hold a battered leather-bound Bible aloft in the High Street, shuffling from foot to foot as he proclaimed his message in a quavering, sheep-like monotone, to a world safely bastioned behind a portcullis of indifference as they went about their business, eyes glazed, skirting a parabola around him.
It amused me to read a tag in the New York Times recently about a fuss in South Carolina last year over license plates. It appears that one may advertise one’s allegiance for environmental causes or pastimes like bicycling, fishing, golf, square dancing and NASCAR by a suitably modified license plate. The new kid on the block is one proclaiming ‘I Believe’.
"There's a fundamental difference between these (other) plates and the 'I believe' tag," wrote Rob Boston, the Assistant Director of Communications of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "South Carolina can endorse NASCAR and even name it the official state sport. It cannot legally endorse Christianity."
The state has already endorsed a plate intended to appeal to atheists. The "Secular Humanists of the Low Country" plate mimics the existing "In God We Trust" plate but substitutes with "In Reason We Trust".
Oh, dear. What, I wonder do the ‘I Believers’ believe in, or, indeed, the Reasoners trust in? For the former, there’s a tasteful cross and stained glass window, so I suppose we conclude that it’s something more tangible than the Tooth Fairy, but I rather doubt that many will receive a Damascus Road experience on the Interstate having been overtaken by a car so faithfully adorned. Ah, well, ‘tant de bruit pour une omelette…’ as they say in Paris, Texas.
It does, however, raise another issue. It would seem that the humanists are Coming Out and much like our dowdy friend from the High Street doing a little evangelising. For those who like a little sauce with their pasta, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a persuasive opponent of dental caries and intelligent design. Enjoy. But not too much.