Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Case for Public Transit

Living in Europe had many pros and cons. Obviously I felt like living in the US had a better pro/con ratio than living in Prague or I woudn't have moved back. However, tonight I'm not so sure I made the right choice.

I think what I miss the most about living in Praha is not having to drive a car. I tell people all the time how much I hate driving. I mean the biggest reason why I won't spend a lot of money to buy a new car is that from the moment I get in a car, my main thought is how quickly I can be back out of that car. Driving just annoys me. I'm not even a fan of passengering. I know that sounds crazy to most of my friends, but I just don't like the whole car part of my existence.

Life in Prague eliminated that concern for me. I could get anywhere I needed in that city without a car. If it was close enough, I walked. If it were farther I'd either take the tram, the metro (that's subway for you Yanks) or occasionally I'd slum it on the bus.

I loved the year I spent in Europe if for no other reason than it offered me a car-free existence. The benefits even trickled down. I had no car payments, no insurance bills, no deductibles, and no outrageous gas prices to deal with. And best of all, the extra walking I had to do helped me drop about thirty pounds in about nine months. It was win-win for me, and I loved every minute of it.

Why bring this up now? First of all, I must confess that I was in an accident about ten days ago. I rear-ended a Nissan Sentra that seemed to manifest out of nowhere at a traffic light where it decided to sit still when the light was green. Still, the law says my bad because I didn't exercise due caution by stopping in time. C'est la vie. My driver discount disappears from my insurance. My bill goes up about $24 a month. I'm totally bummed.

Fast forward to tonight. I go to my friend Graham's house in Nashville for some casual hangout time. I go to my to car to leave at about midnight only to discover that I was the recipient of a nice hit and run. I was parked on the street across from a driveway, so I'm sure they backed into my car and drove off. By the time the police showed up at about 2 a.m., the car in their driveway had a tarp draped completely over it. Oh well... nothing they can do. Now I just sit back and hope that the insurance company doesn't stick it to me royally because someone backed up into my car without my permission.

I can't wait to move back to a place with comprehensive public transportation. Anyone want to buy my house?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Maybe it's just me. Probably not. But maybe.

I might be the only one, but I cannot understand why so many people engage in bumper-sticker evangelism. Don't get me wrong; I believe in bumper stickers.

I think bumper stickers are great. When my brother and I were younger, we saw a bumper sticker that said "Don't tailgate me, or I'll flip a booger on your windshield." We still laugh about that bumper sticker regularly, and I could kick myself for not buying him one when I happened to see it in one of those cheesy tourist shops the last time I was in Manhattan.

I mean I've seen some phenomenal bumper stickers in my day. There's the classic "I brew the beer I drink" sticker that a teacher sported on his Caprice when I was in middle school. There's the "Rugby girls make the best hookers" one. I'm also a fan of the "my kids aren't smart, so I'll come up with some quasi-witty remark about beating up your nerd-ass kid" series. Seriously, there's no shortage of classics when it comes to bumper stickers.

Why some Christians feel the need to ruin the fun with their no-maintenance, preaching propaganda is something that I might never understand. Don't get me wrong; I believe in propaganda.

I know that people will believe just about anything. The money is out there. It just takes the write message to get someone to hand it to you. Propaganda serves that job well. It's also provided for some great laughs over the years. Seriously, you've got to love a media culture in which a product like Alpha Hydrox can successfully market itself as a cosmetic breakthrough when its moniker actually refers to the chemical name of portions of the animal fat used in creating the lotion. It's genius. I saw an old lady at Wal-Mart not too long ago who was hocking her wares of yogurt by reassuring the customers that it contained twenty-five different antioxidants. I'll bet you that woman couldn't even proffer a simple definition for antioxidants. In fact, I'll bet she doesn't even know what they are good for. Nevertheless, in Redneck Central, she's got a million-dollar catchphrase. So propaganda has earned its due respect.

What I still can't get behind, though, is the idea that I'm sharing the message of Christ on the bumper of my car. Don't get me wrong; I believe in sharing the message of Christ.

But is someone actually going to make a real change in his or her life because they drove by your car and were warned with this:

"If you die tonight, do you know where you will spend eternity?"

I guess I just think that there are better ways to spread the Gospel than through a sticky piece of plastic on the back of a Cutlass. I guess I wouldn't have such a problem with it if I actually saw more spreading of the message of Christ. But mostly I see only spiritual terrorism. Do people actually think that it does any good to attempt to scare someone into salvation? How many strong convictions does anyone have that are born of fear? And it's not just salvation matters either.

Case in point. I spotted a bumper sticker about a year ago that made my stomach turn.

"Abortion doesn't make you unpregnant. It makes you the mother of a dead baby."


What kind of backwards logic allows someone to think that this makes a strong case for the sanctity of life? These people certainly didn't have in mind the sanctity of life of the young woman who regrets her decision to abort her child ten years ago. A decision she may have felt was right at the time but that she now carries with her as unbearable guilt. Does her sanctity of life not matter? Do we risk the hurt to these people, perhaps a hurt that will further repel them from the too often hateful glares of Christians looking down their noses, because it's all worth it if just one person changes their mind? Can we think of no better way to combat abortion?

It might take a little more effort, but perhaps actually spreading God's love instead of posting ridiculous paraphrasings of his words would serve better. Why do we think that we can change the world from the bumper of our car? How about using the driver's seat to take you to a planned parenthood clinic to work the phone lines for a while? How about using the steering wheel to turn your truck into the parking lot of a young single mother's apartment where you plan to drop off the baby crib and supplies you bought her to help with the enormous costs of having a baby? Perhaps you could use the dashboard of your car as a hard surface for writing out the check to the young couple at work who just don't think they can afford the baby? How about using the passenger seat to take them out to dinner or to Starbucks for a cup of coffee and a warm conversation with an attentive ear?

Don't get me wrong. I have no problems with using your car for evangelism. Obviously your six-cylinder can mobilize the advancement of God's Kingdom in many ways. Just be more creative than using your bumper.

Oh yeah, and stop complaining about the Darwin fish. That thing is hilarious!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I do this all the time...

I have a $400 Gary Fisher hybrid bike in my garage. It's really great. It sits there, taunting the garage door all day long in an on-going staring contest. The bike always wins. Invariably I come home in the afternoon, push the button and play Frogger as I attempt to cross my busy street while the garage door leaps to a senseless defeat. And that ends the day for my Tiburon. In truth, the wheels on my gas grill see more mileage than my bike does.

But I had great intentions when I bought it. You see, the theory works like this. I don't do something. I decide I want to do that something. I buy expensive pieces of equipment that can be used to do said something. I rest assured, knowing that because I dropped so much money on this something that I will in fact do it. Otherwise, I'll be an idiot.

So here I am. Resting assured. Resting assured that I am an idiot.

I wish I could say the bike fiasco was an isolated incident. I wish I could say that I play my $3600 bass a lot. I wish I could say that I regularly dominate my friends in paintball. I wish... well, I think you get the point.

I obviously haven't. So here I sit tip tip typing away on my brand new Apple keyboard. Here I sit resting assured that now that I'm typing on the beautiful piece of QWERTYUtopia, I'll be writing every day, working on a new blog, forging away on my new never-to-be released novel, even freelancing for the local paper.

Secretly I know the truth, sense the futility of every keystroke. It's all wasted effort. Delaying the inevitable–byte by byte.

Then again... this keyboard is luscious.