Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bumper stickers 4 Jesus revisited

Last year I posted my reaction to a “Real men follow Jesus” bumper sticker that I saw on the back of a combie. As it turns out, my post came to the attention of the church group responsible for the distribution of these stickers in the Gauteng area. One of organisers promptly emailed me. He has allowed me to post up his email below, and I've also included my response.

----- Original Message -----

From: ----
To: Kevin Parry
Sent: Thursday, March 20, 2008 11:59 AM

Hi there

Hope i am with right person now

We are the poeple that started the real men follow Jesus stickers.I can assure u that total unbelievers have changed their lives because of this. It is intended to help poeple to reach their own and full potential. Its not just a sticker but it is backed with a hole proses of restoration.

I would not allow this to judge u I would rather like to see u regain your relationship with Christ .I dont know but maybe its because of your relationship with your own dad that u cant trust God, maybe you got hurt in church. I know we can help u and i believe that sticker didnt offend you but the Holy Spirit is drawing u in with love

Pls contact me if u need to talk or just ignore me But remember you not an ex christian.


I now have a better understanding of the motivation behind the stickers, and that no offence was intended. My response is below, and I only now see how long it is! If the organiser who wrote to me is reading this post, I apologise for my rambling :-)

----- Original Message -----

From: Kevin
To: -----
Sent: Friday, March 21, 2008 11:52 AM
Subject: Re: bumper sticker

Dear -----

Yes, you have contacted the right person :-)

I first want to say thank you for emailing me, and sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate any feedback regarding what I write on my blog. And I also want to congratulate you on a successful campaign with regards to the "Real men follow Jesus" bumper stickers. Over the last year or so I've noticed more and more cars (in the Pretoria area especially) with this sticker, and I can say to you that people are starting to notice. So in terms of marketing (I'm a marketer myself) you are doing a good job in getting your message out there.

If the bumper stickers have changed lives for the better, and allowed people to reach their full potential as human beings, then I have no problem with your campaign. In fact, I encourage any work that aims to improve the lives of individuals in a positive way. What I was trying to get across in my blog post (and I must apologise if the post seemed somewhat hostile) is that there is a danger that the bumper sticker might convey the wrong message in the minds of some individuals. The message "Real men follow Jesus" seems to implicitly imply that if you don't follow Jesus, then you are not a 'real man'; that without Jesus you cannot become a fully functional male figure in society.

I guess all this hinges around the definition of what it means to be a 'real man', and many people have their own definitions. But I would think that if a specific male honours his wife, loves his family, is honest, and full of integrity, then I would think many people would consider him to be a 'real man'. I've met Hindu and Muslim men who far outstrip me in terms of honesty and integrity, and I know of agnostic and atheist men who love their families and honour the relationship they have with their wives. They are living positive lives, but they are doing it without Jesus.

What I'm saying is that Jesus, and religion in general, is not an absolute prerequisite for being an upright and moral man (or person) who makes positive contributions to society. I'm not saying that the concept of Jesus is necessarily bad; I know if many people who have become better people because of Christianity. But there are also people out there who are upright and moral without Jesus, and live fulfilling lives without religion. A man can be a 'real man' without Jesus.

I hope I haven't misinterpreted your sticker or your email in any way, and forgive me if I have done so.

By the way, do you mind if I post your email (and my response) up on my blog? It will provide 'the other side' of the story regarding the bumper sticker. I won't include your name or email address. If you don't want me to post up your email, I will refrain from doing so. It's no problem at all.

All the best, and keep well. And I wish you luck with your campaign.



Anonymous said...

Hi Kevin and all,

After hearing from a number of atheists and agnostics and other non-Christian religious folk that people can become whole persons and live moral and fulfilling lives, I would like to pose a question that I think is worth pondering:

Can a person realize his/her full potential as a person without being fully and unconditionally loved? And can someone be loved like this by someone other than God? I ask this because the Christian message is that only God's unconditional and perfect love for us can free us and empower us to love others and live a fulfilled life. Now this is a process in each Christian's life; it doesn't happen in a snap (as some of you know full well from your encounters with shall we say less-than perfect Christians). I would appreciate your thoughts on this.

Steve said...

I commend the tone (and content) of your response to this email you received about the bumper stickers. As an ex-evangelical myself, I know it is easy to become derisive toward one's old beliefs--and that helps no one. This blog mirrors many of my own experiences and conclusions, and I look forward to reading more.

Lui said...

You responded much more gracefully and patiently than I would have. I would have descended into sarcasm and acidic retorts - hilarious ones, but acidic nonetheless.

"Can a person realize his/her full potential as a person without being fully and unconditionally loved?"

Perhaps not. The people who provide such love, however, are widely known as "mothers". And unlike God, they have the benefit of being demonstrably real.

"I ask this because the Christian message is that only God's unconditional and perfect love for us can free us and empower us to love others and live a fulfilled life."

Then the Christian message (or that part of it) is plainly wrong, and we shouldn't be afraid of saying so. If by "fulfilled" you mean "serving God", then this message must be true by definition, but I don't see why we would necessarily need or want to abide by such a conception of fulfilment.

Gareth said...

It's not much of a theological contribution (brains pretty fried at the mo) but, but i had to laugh out loud at the typo in his email:

"We are the poeple..." (sic)

(hint: think Afrikaans)

Cool blog... hope to read more.

Anonymous said...


I have long argued--on my blog postings--that the only people who find "Joy in Jesus" are those who are already happy to start with.

There are several types of Christians, but at the two extremes we find the fun, loving, forgiving ones. At the other we find the lonely , socially awkward, and relationship "challenged."

It so happens that in church, the latter are singled out as non-spiritual, and the reality of their Christianity is even questioned.

Upon closer examination, however, we find that this socially inept individuals are the ones who try harder to follow Jesus. They pray much, read the Bible constantly, and attend church every time the doors open. All in the hope that they will feel the love of Jesus, that their Lord will change them, so that one day, they'll wake up loving, sweet, and socially adequate.

That never happens. Jesus never changes them. Because they were never loved unconditionally in their early years, they have a hard time "imagining" the love of Jesus.

So, I contend, the sweet loving Christians did not receive the gift from Jesus, they received it in early childhood from adults who loved them unconditionally, took care of them, and showed them how to engage in successful relationships.

Anonymous said...

Excellent email response. Not one bit of hostility, yet you make you're point so well. It's inspiring! Hearing this kind of dialogue is comforting to an anxious agnostic like me. I never was a Christian even though I was raised to be one. I had to go to Sunday school, take communion, the works, but I never really believed. I didn't see what all the fuss was about. "I am the mighty God. Praise me! Praise me! Look how I suffered for you miserable, sinning brats to save you. I'll only save you if you believe every word I say, because if you don't you're going to be tortured brutally forever. Do you want that? No? Then come with me. No again? You want proof? Forget it! Logic?! Forget it!

Guy said...

I just want to put my two cents worth in here.
Where do you all come with this "unconditional love"? Neither this term nor the concept are found anywhere in the Bible. It is a term used by many evangelicals as a "carrot" to convince people to turn God and to accept Jesus as Lord.
God's love is in fact conditional. God may love us, but He loves Righteousness more. This is why we cannot be with Him unless we become Righteous ourselves. He cannot tolerate Unrighteousness the same as similar poles of two magnets cannot tolerate each other. We are all born into unrighteousness and we cannot become righteous by ourselves. The punishment for sin is death so we have to die. Only through Jesus, who died for us, can we become righteous again.
Ok, so maybe this was more than two cents worth, and it may also be off the subject of Real Men, but it needed to be said. God's love is not unconditional. He loves Righteousness more than He loves us.

Anonymous said...

When the Lord God made the earth and heavens, neither wild plant nor grains were growing on the earth. For the Lord God had not sent rain to water the earth, and there were no people to cultivate the soil. Instead, springs came up from the ground and watered all the land. Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed life into the man's nostrils, and the man became a living person. [Genesis2:4-7]

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not ruse, it is not self-seeking,it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.[1Corinthians13:4-8]

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." [John3:16]