There are several reasons why I've never bothered with a fish symbol on my car. Yes, I think they're tacky. They also do a disservice to persecuted Christians of centuries past who used them as a means of covert identification.
But the biggest reason I don't have a fish is that my driving is less than ideal. What if I accidentally cut off another car that's in my blind spot? Worse, what if I'm angry and impatient about an unrelated matter and it shows up in my driving? I'm not setting a real good example out there and don't want to drag down God's good name.
Which brings me to Sarah Palin, and her all-too-self-assured assertions that she is the embodiment of the average, faith-filled American. I don't know what's more reckless -- her statements attempting to link Barack Obama with terrorists or John McCain's hasty, uninformed selection of her in the first place.
The scary thing about Palin is her willingness to say just about anything -- and the outside chance that she might actually believe the verbiage she's spewing. Scarier still is that she does it as a so-called Christian with no sense of shame.
I say these things as a so-called follower of Christ myself, one who's grown increasingly concerned with the notion that Sarah Palin somehow speaks for "Main Street" and speaks for Christians everywhere.
She doesn't speak for me. And she doesn't speak for many people of evangelical faith that I know. What is clear is that she is a politician first, second and third, and a person of faith when it suits her agenda.
A person of faith doesn't spend tens of thousands of tax dollars decorating her office. A person of faith certainly doesn't use the power of an entire state in a personal vendetta against their former brother-in-law. And a person of faith doesn't drag their pregnant teenage daughter into an overwhelming national spotlight by choosing a political race over family at such a vulnerable time. And as the parents of a special-needs child ourselves, my wife and I are skeptical about her ability to devote the necessary time to her baby son's situation regardless of how many nannies she could afford on a vice president's salary.
I don't expect perfection from people of faith. Most of us have enough skeletons in our closets to stage a chorus line of "Dem Bones" at any given moment. But in my years as a journalist, most of the hate mail I've received has come from allegedly evangelical Christians, whose venom and vitriol usually has had a lot more to do with politics than piety.
They wanted to solve the world's problems by controlling its governments, especially the one in Washington. And God help anyone who got in their way.
By the time I waded through their verbal assaults, I wasn't convinced their faith was all that authentic or, ironically, that it could withstand the fire and brimstone of the judgment they were sure was going to rain down on their adversaries.
I am also troubled by Palin's inexperience in governing as much as her quest to wear her faith as a self-righteous badge, just as I am troubled by Obama's relative newbie status and his ties to Tony Rezko and the Chicago Machine. Just as I am bothered by his mouthy former pastor, the one who lives in a mansion his church built for him. (The Son of Man, Jesus noted, had nowhere to lay his head.) And I wonder, too, about McCain's dreadful military record, his ties to special interests and his age.
Beyond Palin, one has to question if most Christians even know what "conservatism" means any more. It certainly has nothing to do with an out-of-control national debt. The idea that government governs best when it governs least has been tossed aside by an executive branch that treats the legislature and the judiciary like a czar treats his peasants, that goes to war over nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, that is arrogantly disdainful of the world community, that in recent weeks expanded the treasury's powers beyond anything we've ever seen.
All these changes were wreaked on us by a man, it should be noted, who made similar claims to faith. But these deeds deserve no praise.
Jesus himself never had much use for politics. He paid his tax with a coin found in a smelly fish's mouth. Some of his closest friends were hoping he was heading into Jerusalem during his final week to lead a political insurrection, not a revolution of the heart. He had the chance to pursue earthly power but wasn't impressed and turned away. Too bad some of his self-proclaimed modern followers have less self-control.