The message and the messenger

I've been thinking about those "I Love Cincinnati" bumper stickers lately. You've probably seen them around, and you might have seen blog posts about them as well.

The stickers started popping up out of nowhere earlier this year, and of course I wanted one, because I also love Cincinnati! I really do! And whenever I saw a sticker on someone's car, I felt like that person and I were in a secret club, a sort of fraternity of Cincinnati lovers. "Yeah," I would think, "that guy and I know what's up!"

But a few months ago, I learned that the stickers come from Crossroads Community Church, and suddenly that was all I could see about them.

It's not just that the messenger became strongly associated with the message; it's that the messenger traded places with the message. So when I see an "I Love Cincinnati" bumper sticker, I no longer think, "That's nice - that person really loves this community! So do I! Hugs for everyone!" Instead, I think, "Ah, that's from Crossroads."

And so it turns out that the secret club I thought I was in is something else entirely.

And I have absolutely nothing against Crossroads (did you know they offer nice coffee and free yoga classes to everyone, including non-members? That is pretty great of them!), but I no longer want a sticker, because I feel like the sticker would broadcast an affiliation between myself and Crossroads that doesn't actually exist. Like, maybe I would be in the grocery store parking lot, loading up my weekly purchase of 800 cans of diced tomatoes, and some stranger would walk by and say, "Hey, Crossroads!" And then I would have to explain myself.

It's a little bit like when someone compliments me on the T-shirt I got at a Sufjan Stevens show, which says, "Come On Feel the Illinoise!" Whenever that happens, I have to figure out whether they're responding to the message (silly puns on state names) or the messenger (ethereal indie-folksters).

Is there anything else like that out there?


Anonymous said...

The bumper stickers were meant to be a "hey Crossroads" thing. They are meant to show I support/love the city I call home. Who cares if Crossroads printed them? They were also available at stores- for free. Park + Vine had them as well as others that have nothing to do with Crossroads. The only people who think it was a Crossroads-club thing are people who don't go to church there. Only people from the outside looking in and judging a church/community doing nothing but trying to better the city and the world... Who cares that they give away coffee and bumper-stickers? They are fixing issues in Cincinnati, building AIDS awareness and healing in South Africa and freeing children from sex-slavery in Mumbai... It's not a cult or a club we feel like a memember of; it is a community of people who believe in God and Jesus. That's it. Stop judging what you don't want to be a part of. Not you so much, Kelly, but the other haters out there too.

Mr. W said...

I had wondered where the stickers were from. Glad to know the answer. I have lots of friends who are members of Crossroads--but I also don't feel like advertising someone else's church/religion while I show support for the city I love. So, no bumper sticker for me (FWIW, I'm agnostic).

Too bad you're pro-Mumbai-sex-slavery, though. Didn't realize that. You should really rethink that position.

Kelly said...

Thank you for distinguishing me from haters of Crossroads, Anon. I know the church is controversial for some reason, but I really do have nothing against it.

I probably didn't make this clear in the post, but I went through a few thought experiments, and I really do think I'd feel this way if the bumper stickers were exclusively distributed by ANY local organization with which I have no affiliation. That includes (just off the top of my head) the Hamilton County Libertarian Party, the OKI Amateur Radio Society, the Heartland Wrestling Association, and Access (our local Jewish young professional group). I have nothing against any of these groups - I just wouldn't feel right implicitly proclaiming membership in them.

willflyforfood said...

This is too funny! People sure do have a lot to say when they don't have to claim it don't they!?

I go to Crossroads sometimes as well as two other churches downtown. I wish that I could find one church that had it all for me. God is NOT a church! Church is a place that you can go and worship him with other people who either believe in Him or believe He could be.

I never have figured out why Crossroads is so controversial. Do you know? I love the music there, whereas the music as the other two are too old and often unknown and boring, the energy of the place is amazing but the sermons can get a little weird (like for Superbowl Sunday although I guess it get's the guys in before the game) and the Sunday that Brian Tome sprayed TV's with a water hose. I don't even remember what the service was about. Only that he was ruining a perfectly good TV! What I do like is the fact that they take part of the Bible and God's law and apply it to everyday life so that it's easy to understand.

Unlike other "religions", the bible is the bible. You can't change it to fit your life. You can't be bad all week and just walk in a box, say a few Hail Mary's and it's all better. That's another story all together and for the record, I have nothing against someone just because they are Catholic. Or Jewish, or Presbyterian or whatever else. If you believe in God. The God, not a god, great. Wow! When did this become about religion?

Loving your city is another thing all together. I however, did get the meaning behind your post and it makes sense. You have to do what you need to for your morals and stick to them. Good job!