Sunday, September 10


If you live around here, you know these bumper stickers, shiny red with white letters. The original ones said, simply, "WE STILL PRAY." We all knew right away that this bumper sticker indicated that the car contained good Christian, Bible-believing folks, who don't hold with all this modern confusion about life. It's simple: the Bible tells us so. And "WE" still pray, no matter what bizarre practices YOU might engage in. It always bothered me, though, that the implication was that unless you were in the red-sticker club, you most certainly did NOT pray. Clearly you were a secular humanist liberal who holds mankind in the highest regard and has no need or thought for any numinous quality to the universe, for any suggestion of a Mystery beyond what our senses perceive daily.

Then we started seeing variations of the message. The more irreverent ones declared "WE STILL SPAY," while book-lovers who frequent Malapropr's independent bookstore in downtown Asheville could declare simply "WE STILL READ." Let the passerby by on the street put that in his pipe and smoke it, anyway he cares. The message was not, "We don't pray," but simply, "We like to read." One who reads might well read the Holy Bible, or the Pentateuch, or the Qu'ran, or Nietzche, or Dorothy Day, or "Bread and Jam for Frances," or Dashiell Hammett. We might read Danielle Steele, or Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Book of Mormon or "Good Night Moon." Whatever it is, we (those who still read) leave room for the imagination, for entertaining the thoughts of others, for the consolations of poetry and the satisfaction of a well-plotted mystery, for deep thought or for simple refreshment. But we do like to think and ponder the world as it lays itself out before us in all its splendid complexity.
So around here, this bumper sticker might be variously interpreted, but folks recognize it, as one part of a conversation in the public arena. But this summer I went up to New England, where my red sticker provoked only "Huh???" Apparently, the good folks in RI and Massachusetts aren't telling us whether they pray, or read, or spay, or at least they're not displaying this information ont heir cars' bumpers. Leave it to those reticent Yankees to keep us all guessing what it is they do. They're not wearing red stickers to proclaim their preferences to the world. Down here in the South, we let it all hang out -- on our bumpers.

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