Context is everything, isn’t it? You take one detail out of context and the whole story changes. Out of context a stolen handkerchief becomes all the evidence Othello needs to believe Iago’s whispered machinations. A half-heard conversation is the plot device in half of all romantic comedies. Religion certainly suffers from contextual conflagration. I am initimately familiar with that one.
We end up with cards and door-talkers on our front porch all the time, advertising this or that service. Lawn, handyman repair, babysitting, you name it. I don’t pay much attention to any of them, but the surest way to get me to throw a business card or flyer away is for me to spot an Ichthys (Jesus fish), cross, or dove on it.
I’m a Christian. I am just wary of people who use symbols of faith to advertise their business. I know that the various emblems are supposed to signify trustworthiness, or solidarity, or make me feel comfortable doing business, but I can’t help feeling that if you are willing to take something holy and full of meaning, something that should inspire reverence and awe, and slap it on a piece of colored copy paper as a means of recommending your ability to snake my drains, you aren’t taking it as seriously as you should. So, my brain connects the dots to the conclusion that you don’t take the message of Christ seriously, and therefore don’t take me seriously, and won’t mind trying to charge me $500 for a new toilet when all I need is a $3 orange plug thingy. No thank you!
Think about that. Do you think Moses would have had an image of the Ark of the Covenant stamped on his business card? Why, or why not?
The why-not is easy. The Ark of the Covenant belonged in the Holy of Holies, and all it was was a container for the Ten Commandments. How much holier the image of the cross, the fulfillment of every other commandment and the symbol of our salvation? It’s not just a throwaway. It means something other than that people should shop at your knick knack store. I say this as someone who used to have an Ichthys on her car. Reformed whatevers are always the worst, aren’t they?
But I digress. I was talking about context and had in mind Matthew 6:19, which reads from the NIV: “19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Usually, when we hear this scripture, it is in reference to monetary wealth or ownership of things, but when you look at the verse in context of its chapter, we are actually talking about prayer and charity, and whether we prefer God’s reward for our acts of righteousness, or the praise of men.
I think this is why the use of holy symbols for personal gain bothers me. A cross on your business card is shorthand for set of very detailed and defined characteristics. What you are asking me to do, when you have that dove of peace stamped on your card, is make a connection between your business model and Jesus Christ. You are asking me to make a mental connection between the service you are offering, and the service Jesus offered. And as much as I need my air conditioning, it is a stretch to assume that your ability to fix my leaking coolant is akin to Jesus’ ability to save my eternal soul. The context of the symbol means everything.
More, you are enticing me to give you my business based on a public show of your religion. This means you are asking me to give you my business based on your having trumpeted your righteousness in the streets–exactly what Jesus warns against in Matthew 6.
I should know your business is christian in its practices by reputation and living example, not by a logo that any thug can draw.