Would it Help If I Said I was a Christian?

May 19, 2010

I think my mechanic is ripping me off.

My wife and I just took her car in yesterday.  We can’t seem to get out of there without spending a few hundred dollars.  Last month, I took my car in for an inspection.  An inspection is twelve dollars.  How much did I spend?  Two-hundred…on something that the car “needed” in order to pass inspection.  Funny, I had been careening wildly down the highway in a speeding death trap for a year and didn’t even know it until I spent two-hundred bucks to fix it.

The worst part is, the auto shop advertises itself as being “Christian.”

It got me thinking about something.  Most Christians kind of wish that everyone would become Christians.  Something about a Great Commission or something.  It’d be great to know our kids’ teachers were Christians.  But there’s some groups of people that it’s just really inconvenient if they advertise themselves as Christians…

Four Inconvenient Christians

The mechanic

I know what you’re thinking.  It’s really tough to find a reliable, honest mechanic.  I should jump at the chance to do business with a Christian mechanic.  I am highly suspicious of mechanics as it is.  I laugh at people who go to the dealership for auto work.  George Costanza and I are a lot alike at the dealership.  But I just feel like I’m being gouged at this place.

First of all, he’s not a certified Christian mechanic.  I know an owner of a Christian bookstore that I don’t think is a Christian.  (His use of the word opportunist to describe himself as a businessman kind of sent up a red flag.)  Point being, just because someone calls himself a Christian, or puts a Jesus fish on his truck, that doesn’t make him a Christian.

Plus, it creates an additional problem.  With any other mechanic, I assume they are ripping me off, and I have no problem saying so to their faces and taking my business elsewhere.  With the Christians, how can I be so sure they’re ripping me off?  I should assume that Christians are being honest and fair, and it just makes it tougher to judge if I’m paying too much.  It’d be so much easier to know if I was being bilked if they were a bunch of heathans.

The creators of Family Guy and South Park

Here’s two shows that Christians love to be offended by.  Probably because the creators of both shows love to offend Christians.  That’s a win-win situation there.  Both depict Jesus in pretty irreverent ways on a semi-regular basis.  Though at least South Park is an equal-opportunity offendor, and for that reason seems better in my book.  Any show that will depict Muhammad wearing a giant goofy bear costume (thus the prophet is never seen) is pretty gutsy.  Family Guy goes for the easy offenses, because Christians are a convenient and generally non-violent target.

I wondered if it would soothe us Christians at all to find out that the creators of these shows actually love Jesus and are just doing a bunch of self-depreciating humor, or a sly commentary on what society has done to Jesus.  Or would we hate their shows even more because they should be shining their Jesus light, not making irreverent cartoons?  Well, there’s almost no chance that Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane is a Christian.  But Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park have strong connections to Utah, and there may be some slim chance that they consider themselves Mormons.  I know, not quite Christian by many Christians’ standards, but it’s still Jesus. 

Any kind of salesman

See, flashing the Christian card is a two-edged sword.  On the one hand, I appreciate the fact that this nice gentleman trying to sell me a car loves Jesus, because we now have something in common.  On the other hand, I now feel obligated to support a “brother in the Lord” even if I hate his cars.  Somehow, it feels harder to say “No, I hate everything you’re saying to me and your aftershave is too strong,” to another Christian. 

I go to art shows once in a while.  Ever go to an art show and see the one Christian artist there?  It’s really hard to walk away without some Jesus art.  Once you start pretending to be interested, just try walking away.  The artists just sit there, looking at you with those doleful eyes, wanting to share their faith with you through mediocre, over-priced “art.”

When I’m engaged in some cut-throat bargain hunting, it’s no time for touchy-feely Jesus to sway the transaction.  My parents were looking for a handyman to do some little jobs around their home a few years ago.  So a couple in church suggest their adult son who is a “handyman.”  Christian?  Check.  Know the family?  Check.  Big mistake?  Check.  The guy had no skills, work ethic, or tools.  Except that he was a tool.  He messed up the job, wouldn’t fix it, and his parents demanded that my folks still pay him.  Thanks a million, Jesus freaks.

Clowns or ventriloquists

I am still baffled at the existence of The Jeff Dunham Show on Comedy Central, even if it was for only seven episodes (though they still enjoy reruns.)  How does a ventriloquist land a series on a major cable network in the twenty-first century?

See, Christians have this hang-up about God having a grand plan for our lives.  Once we get saved and dunked and we get the Holy Spirit, God gives us his plan for what we’re supposed to do.  It needs to be really awesome, and make a huge difference in the world, or it doesn’t count.

Now, I have nothing against clowns.  Clowns can be helpful…I guess.  It makes perfect sense for some people to be clowns.  But say you’re being entertained by a clown making balloon animals, or a “statue man” or a guy with a wooden friend.  First, I would question how entertained you really are.  But then, lets say you happen to see a Jesus fish on the clown car.  It just seems like that would be a bit of a disappointment.  In all of God’s wisdom, his grand plan is for you (and the twenty-six other people in the car) to be clowns.  Maybe if God was sending clowns to African slums, I could get that.  But I hear the extreme heat just wreaks havok on their puffy rainbow hair.

Does dealing with Christians make it better for you in any of these situations, or does it make it worse?  What other inconvenient Christians can you think of?

24 responses to Would it Help If I Said I was a Christian?

  1. I learned at a young age from my parents’ misfortunes that it’s best to never, ever (Ever!) deal with Christian businessmen, because chances are you will get done over one way or the other. As my parents commented on one time, it’s best to just deal with heathens, since you know what’s coming and will be happier when they do treat you right since you won’t be expecting it. Frankly it’s a sad state of affairs when you come to that realization. It, of course, is one of the zillions of reasons why people have such a problem with Christians.

    But most importantly, how could clowns be Christians? They are 100% pure USDA Grade-A evil, after all.

  2. If a business goes out of its way to advertise the faith of its proprietors when it has nothing to do with the service they provide, there’s a reason for it, and probably not a good one.

  3. The problem with “Christian” businesses is the same as with “Christian” everything else: Anyone can *say* he or she is a Christian; anyone can hang a cross around his or her neck; anyone can buy an ad in the “Christian Business Directory” that is always on display at my wife’s church. It’s all meaningless; only actions count. I’d much rather do business with an honest vendor who doesn’t brag about what a fabulous Christian he is. (Also, experience teaches that when one starts to tell you how great a Christian he is, your best bet is to keep your hand on your wallet and run quickly in the opposite direction.)

  4. The artist thing made me think about pet adoption days at Petco. Try walking out of there without buying that sad-eyed puppy! Actually, this article made me think of the old Steve Taylor song, “Guilty By Association”. There’s a verse that kinda talks about things like the Christian Yellow Pages. “You say you’re keeping all your money/ In the Kingdom now/ And you’ll only drink milk/ From a Christian cow”. Very funny song and very good post, Matt!

    • I love Steve Taylor’s take on life – really makes you think, with a good beat. I now have that song in my head, which makes a change from ‘I want to be a clone’ which had been in there this last week.

  5. I don’t trust Christian businessmen. It’s nothing personal. It’s just a risk I’m not willing to take. I don’t personally dislike piranhas, but I’m not going to stick my hand in their fish tank. It’s just smart business.

    Also, I don’t trust clowns – Christian, heathen, or anywhere in between.

    And the most difficult Christian to deal with is the Christian neighbor, whether you are a Christian or not. Your church probably isn’t as good as theirs, giving them plenty of reason to harass you, too.

  6. In my on fire days, faith was written into my business plan and my company names reflected that. We did business, made a profit, gave to the poor, had honest books including the cash, treated all customers the same, made relationships and on occasion prayed with a troubled client. Some of it was good – especially the woman healed of melanoma in the office! You can read about it in yesterday’s blog on fireandgrace.com.

    I don’t think there is a “Christian business ethic” that can be defined by the word Christian any more than we agree on theology.

    I don’t trust Christian presidents either (I know you wanted to say that, Matt.)

    For the most part, I find Christians to be clowns – some are saved clowns – but most are still clowns.

  7. You have a point,

    In an earlier episode of South Park, it’s revealed that only the Mormons get to go to heaven….and they annoy God to no end.

    But then, they make an episode a few years later completely revealing the ridiculous holes in Joseph Smith’s story.

  8. This is precisely why I took my Jesus fish off the back of my car. People got offended when I cut them off and when the dust settled all they see is “Got Jesus?”

    In a lot of other countries, Christian means just doing a good thing. “Thank you for holding the door for me, that was a very Christian thing to do.”

  9. You’re like George Costanza at a dealership? Do you come armed with Twix, or try to fly by the wind and get one out of a machine?

    You know, considering Seth McFarlane is an atheist (or agnostic, whatever), he is scarily fixated on Jesus. Ever catch his “American Dad” Rapture episode???

    Clowns are evil. They are from Satan. I don’t know where I stand on ventriloquist dummies, but I suspect they would be fighting against Stan and with the Anti-Christ on that aforementioned “American Dad” episode.

    Yes, I watch too much TV, but as usual, great post. :-)

  10. We’re not supposed to like Family Guy? Dang it. I’ll be back…I have to go make some changes on my DVR.

    My State Farm agent is a Christian. How am I supposed to say no when he assures me I need more auto/home/life coverage that adds up to another $150 a month?

  11. Maybe I’m cynical, but just because a business says it’s Christian doesn’t mean a lot to me. If I know the person and know this is true, then I would feel more inclined to visit them (or feel the twinge of guilt if I don’t).

    Clowns are weird and scary for the most part. I would like to see a Christian clown get famous if only for the biography potential. Who wouldn’t like to read “Redeeming the Clown”? That would be awesome! But no pictures please…

  12. Let’s see…Christian politicians don’t seem to shine the light on Jesus very often.

    Now I’m starting to wonder about Christian bloggers… Oh, my. That’s a scary thought. Can we talk about something else now?

  13. There seems to be a major disconnect between someone’s personal faith and how they include God in their daily working life. Our entire ministry (www.icta.net) is aimed at bringing God into the workplace, especially in business and technology—not by printing a fish on a business card, but by seeking God’s direction and inspiration in everything from programming a computer to defining success. If we truly submit our entire lives to God, we won’t need to advertise that we’re Christians.

  14. A few years ago i was looking for an acupuncturist. Only one very close to me, & advertised as “Christian.” So i called in advance to ask how much $$ it would cost. New patient appointment? Free.

    Now, the free part didn’t necessarily attract me. I just needed to know how much to budget. I got there & spoke with the “doc.” He then said, in order to assess you & estimate what you will need, you need an exam which will cost $90.

    Well, i was there, wasn’t i? So i did it. And kicked myself later. I was really angry. Not that it cost me $90, but that i was not told that a “consult” which would be free was just to get me in the door & then they’d begin charging. I only wanted to be told that UP FRONT so i could plan on it.

    I know this isn’t a new story. I think part of our culture’s concept of “Christian” comes from these very visible “Christians” (& others too). I think that because many of the folks in the US define “Christian” by what is done, i have a hard time identifying myself as one.

    “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

    More accurately, they will know we are Christians by our actions, & the actions of “Christian businessmen” frequently say they are NOT.

  15. uh. i love family guy o_O *doink*

  16. Maybe advertising one’s business as “Christian” is the modern American capitalist way of putting the money changers back in the temple – or would that be the temple around the money changers?

  17. My dear MIL, who turned 90 in March has often said “don’t hire someone from the church” for whatever: odd jobs, gardening, repairs, etc. Always followed by “Sad to say, but true”. And she’s been a “real” church-going Christian since the age of 35 after attending during childhood years and up. (book of Romans is what opened her eyes, she says). Plus if you don’t hire said Christians or CINOs you can remain friends with them/be a light, so to speak…just my opinion there.

  18. you should ask them questions to see how serious they are. I might start doing that, just to see what they say. “Hey I see you’re a Christian, and I was wondering what it takes to get to Heaven?” or “Tell me about the time you met Jesus?”

    you get to see what they say, and if they seem unsure you get to witness to them, too!

  19. whichever way it plays out, you will know them by their deeds. Unfortunately that is an after the fact realization. I can’t say that I have been at the wrong side of a Christian business deal.
    It is sad that the Christian Businessmen can be grouped into a general category of untrusted individuals. sad indeed.

    btw, Jeff Dunham rocks, he’s coming to my town in September – I must watch his show.