Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Vanity Plate Theology

Indiana, like most states, long ago figured out a way to extract more revenue from its license plate monopoly. The "vanity plate" is an established status symbol in the Hoosier state. You can learn a lot from a person’s "tags" as our southern brothers call them. "IAM4IU" means an Indiana University hoops fan is behind the wheel. The driver of the Buick with "IN D CAR" on the bumper would rather be whirling around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway than stuck in traffic on I-465. Or there is my personal favorite (which belonged to my brother-in-law): "4U2NV". And I did, by the way.

I’ll never own a vanity plate, partly because I’m too cheap, but mostly because there isn’t enough room to say what I want. If there were, my plate would read, "RU WHO U SAY UR."

I’ve pondered that question several times in recent days. My musing began when I read about seventy-six year old Floridian Philip Winikoff. Winikoff, who is a used-car shuttle driver for an auto dealership, got hold of an old doctor’s bag and began visiting suburban housewives posing as a physician. Claiming to represent a nearby hospital, Winikoff offered free breast exams. He twice succeeded before being nabbed by police.

Closer to home, a convicted child molester from nearby Ohio attended a handful of local high school baseball games posing as a scout for Indiana University. At one of the games, he managed to obtain the names, addresses, phone numbers, and even the email addresses of several students. While officials say there were no laws broken, I doubt the young men whose information he obtained or their families feel any less violated.

Which brings me back to my vanity plate query: R U WHO U SAY U R?

This is a critical question for every Christian, I think.

If Jesus had a chariot, and if that chariot had a license plate (humor me, okay), R U WHO U SAY U R is precisely what would have been stamped in the metal. To the religious leaders of his day Jesus said:
"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You're like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it's all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you're saints, but beneath the skin you're total frauds."
And for me, that is the rub. I’m a religious leader, or so they tell me. Am I who I say I am? Too often, I am not, as my children and wife can sadly attest. And yet, I suspect this is the bane of every Christian, for we aspire to be better than we are. We’re reaching for a perfection that is commanded by God ("be ye perfect as I am perfect"), yet is elusively unattainable ("that which I want to do I do not do, and that which I do not want to do I do").

And so I guess I’ll just abandon my lengthy license plate literature for something a little more realistic. Perhaps "IM TRYING." Come to think of it, that just might fit on a plate after all.

1 comment:

Beth said...

I think you'd get along really well with my brother. ^_^ My dad, too, maybe -- but my brother is actually on blogspot.