Thumbs Ups & Peace Signs

Sometimes you read a bumper sticker and without hesitation, your mind and body unequivocally assent it to its worldview. It seems somehow beyond rebuttal, beyond argument, beyond question. The other night, while driving home from work, I saw this adage on the back of a compact car:

God is too big to fit into one religion.

Every single thing inside me aligns with this philosophy. My mind, my heart, my life experience. It rings true in the deepest part of my being. Here are a few of the internal premises (speaking only for myself) that make this adage reverberate for me.

No religion has God figured out. Each one represents a well-meaning attempt to pierce the veil. Every religion, and the millions of adherents of those religions, simply make a mortal attempt to unravel the ultimate mysteries of the universe.

But God is not a being that can be figured out or unraveled. There will always be a veil — a thick, gauzy one — over our understanding of the infinite.

I resonated so much with the bumper sticker’s ethos that I immediately wanted to thank the owner of the bumper in question. As I pulled up next to the car, I could see that the driver was a young woman, probably about 25, and she was looking at her smartphone. I gave her a big, cheesy thumbs-up. She saw me and I think may have initially interpreted my gesture as a sarcastic critique of her phone usage in the car. But as we then pulled up to a stoplight, our cars were adjacent. And I smiled again and pointed toward the back of her car. She immediately seemed to understand and smiled back broadly, holding up two fingers in a peace sign.

Because she was a young female, and because of the fraught world we live in, I also immediately felt self-conscious that she or some other random motorist might somehow, absurdly enough, think I was flirting. So I faux-casually (i.e. self-consciously) rested my left arm on the rolled-down window, tapping my wedding ring on the chrome of my Caliber, just to make it abundantly clear to passing drivers that I am a very happily married man.

Virtue signaling is a funny thing. Sometimes we’re signaling our virtue to ourselves more than anyone.

When the light turned green, I gave the young woman a peace sign of my own, luxuriating in this small gesture and its residual connection to the peace movement of the last century. And I savored this tiny moment of connection, based as it was on a shared affinity for an inclusive, world-expanding view of the creator of the world.

But here’s the thing about this simple epiphany. I can envision friends of mine who are evangelicals and friends of mine who are atheists both bristling at that bumper sticker slogan. In fact, I hesitated to write about this for that reason.

I can immediately hear the likely rebuttals in my mind’s eye (mind’s ear?) and as a rule, I have an allergy to discussing religion. No conversational waters are less navigable — not even politics — and many seaworthy vessels have capsized from trying.

While all of that is true, it is also true that if I hesitate to share an epiphany as simple as God is too big to fit into one religion, then I am essentially censoring myself. So I’ll put this rumination out there in hopes that it will be meaningful to someone.

But even if you don’t resonate with the adage in question, for whatever reason, I’ll give you an alternate adage to take away from this anecdote — one that is both more specific and more universal. I’m not sure it will fit quite as easily onto a bumper sticker, but here it is:

Make tiny connections with passing motorists whose bumper stickers you find meaningful. After all, life is short and a work commute can feel quite long. And whether or not we remember to act like it in 2019, we’re all connected.

Plus, being on the giving or receiving end of a peace sign, or a wave, or a smile, just feels really good.



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