Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

A better bumper sticker

with 6 comments

Liberals, believing strongly in the virtues of a secular government and the clear separation of church and state, are easily caricatured as hostile to religion—by Conservatives and by false “friends” (e.g., Joe Klein and the like).

This caricature has led to the creation and courting of the Religious Right by the GOP, with regular pandering in preparation for elections: government display of the Ten Commandments, the “war on Christmas,” homophobic positions and amendments, and the like.

It’s difficult to fight attacks of this sort without sounding defensive or even (worse) adopting the frame set by the Right, covertly accepting that Liberals are somehow anti-Christian. Barack Obama, for example, fell into that trap.

The Second Daughter suggested a superb bumper sticker that finesses all that:

Values Voter: Matthew 25: 35-40

For those, like me, whose memory of scriptural references is rusty, here is Matthew 25: 35-40 from the American Standard Version translation:

35 for I was hungry, and ye gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in;

36 naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or athirst, and gave thee drink?

38 And when saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 And when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me.

This bumper sticker has several excellent characteristics.

First, it is “inside out,” rather than “outside in.” That is, rather than pounding on the opposition in a (futile) effort to convince, it allows the opposition to internalize the message and ponder it—and perhaps to change a view here and there. Note that the bumper sticker has no words or labels that will trigger automatic barriers: it doesn’t say “Democrat” or “Liberal” or “GOP” or “Religious Right.”

Instead, it simply states, by reference, a set of core values: that we’re all in this together, so that our government could work to enable us to help one another, the more fortunate working together to assist the less fortunate to make a stronger country and a better union, to protect the weak from exploitation by the strong, the individual consumer and the individual employee from avaricious and uncaring corporations.

After all, by helping one another, we achieve the benefits that should come from living in a larger society. The new attitude of YOYO—“You’re on your own”—reflects living alone, not in a community.

That these happen to be, in my view, the core values of the Democratic Party is left as an exercise for the reader.

So rather than being defensive, or on the attack, the message on this bumper sticker simply invites the reader to think about the values that a “value voter” would embrace and offers no signals or signposts that would lead the reader to reject the message before considering it.

A reader from the Religious Right, who perhaps already views himself or herself as a “values voter,” will readily recognize the referenced text, and perhaps start to think about it—about the core values of Christian belief, as stated by its Founder—and perhaps begin to realize that those beliefs are not reflected in the modern-day GOP.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2006 at 10:01 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Government

6 Responses

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  1. As a sort of footnote, I offer a comment on my earlier suggested bumper sticker:

    I’m a Christian and I Vote Democratic

    Note the limitations: first, this bumper sticker fights on very narrow grounds, simply stating that Christians can be Democrats, too. In a word, it’s defensive and unambitious. (I guess that’s two words.)

    Moreover, this bumper sticker puts up labels that trigger automatic responses, negative for some positive for others: “Christian” and “Democratic” — while the bumper sticker in the main post sidesteps those responses and simply asks some implicit questions: “What values drive you as a voter?” And, following that, “Which party expresses those values?”

    And—very important—this bumper sticker doesn’t allow the reader to decide the answers him- or herself. Instead, it tries to answer for the reader. The bumper sticker in the main post in contrast has the reader consider the statement and draw his/her own conclusions.


    30 June 2006 at 10:14 am

  2. Someone on another blog objected to the term “Values Voter” in the bumper sticker, on the grounds that the term had been co-opted by the Religious Right, and suggested “Democratic Values – Matthew 25: 35-40”. Here was my response:

    Yeah, I had the same thought: that “Values Voter” is a red flag (much as are “Liberal” “Democrat” “Republican” “GOP” etc. — those words will automatically raise barriers for some readers). But what I thought this wording did was to sneak under the radar of the Religious Right (who see themselves as Value Voters, I believe) and get them to start processing and evaluating the values before realizing the direction those values led in terms of politics and government. Putting a big “Democratic” on the sticker gives away the game and keeps the reader from coming to his/her own conclusions—those being so much more convincing than conclusions pointed out to one. Maybe this would work:

    Govern by Matthew 25: 35-40

    What do you think?

    I think the bumper sticker is, indeed, addressed to Christians and Bible readers. We do want those people voting Democratic, right? And it’s hard to get one bumper sticker that will appeal to ALL. Different strokes for different folks, as we used to say here in California. 🙂


    1 July 2006 at 8:54 am

  3. It occurs to me that bumper stickers are of two sorts: First are those meant to proclaim one’s identity or allegiance, without regard to convincing others (e.g., “I’m Pro-Choice and I Vote”)—bearing witness as it were. The others are those intended to engage and convince the reader, getting past their normal defenses so they can consider the idea. And that’s the sort that “Values Voter: Matthew 25: 35-40” is. The idea is exactly to appeal to “Values Voters” and have them absorb the meaning before their natural defenses are triggered.


    1 July 2006 at 11:26 am

  4. Dead cool. I’m not a Christian so I wouldn’t bother with it myself, but as a strategy it’s prime. “Values Voters: Matthew 25: 35-40”. Dead cool.


    3 July 2006 at 12:38 am

  5. hey, you see, the slip of an s. “Values Voter: Matthew 25: 35-40”.


    3 July 2006 at 12:42 am

  6. The phrase also reframes the discussion — why let the social conservatives claim that they are voting on their values and we are not?

    But I wouldn’t go with Govern by… I still support the separation of church and state — while my faith governs who I am and thus how I operate (vote, act, etc.), that is a personal decision. While I am all for governing by the values contained in those passages (and paralleled in other religious canons and ethical texts), I wouldn’t want to suggest governing by a particular religious canon or parts thereof.

    It is ironic that originally the separation of church and state was more strongly supported by religious conservatives — they were worried about how corrupting politics could be on religion and desired to protect their faith by removing it from that realm.

    2nd daughter

    3 July 2006 at 6:37 am

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