South Carolina is facing a lawsuit over the proposed production of specialty Christian license plates with the imprint, "I Believe." While opponents are asking whether or not this law constitutes state endorsement of religion, I have another important question: Why do people want these license plates, anyway?
I've often wondered why some Christians wear "Jesus" T-shirts and cross necklaces. I'm not sure what people hope to convey with bumper stickers reading, "In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned."
I suspect many believers think their T-shirts and the like will attract non-believers to Jesus. I've heard Christians refer to their inspirational paraphernalia as "conversation starters" for the purpose of evangelism. But do these things actually serve as icebreakers for real conversation? Or do they just make us feel we've witnessed, without ever saying a word?
This "secondhand evangelism" doesn't seem very effective. A couple years ago, my husband and I were enjoying lunch at a café when another couple plunked down at the table next to us. The man began speaking to his female companion at a level audible to every diner in the quiet café:
Him (almost shouting): What a beautiful day the good lord has given us!
Her (nearly whispering): Yes, it's beautiful today.
Him: We certainly are blessed! yes, our god is good!
Her: Uh … yup.
Each time the man would make a comment about his faith, he'd give us a sideways glance to estimate our reaction. And each time, his companion also would sneak a peek, her eyes full of apologies to us. Before they'd received their beverages, we knew which church the man attended, how long he'd been a Christian, and what he prayed for every day. All without his speaking one direct word to us. Their food arrived, and, suddenly, the man broke out like a preacher on Easter Sunday: "Oh, What would I do without my savior? My life would be in utter shambles, yes, it would. Glory to god for the difference he's made in my life! There's power in the blood. I can't imagine how anyone can live one day without Christ!"1