Church signs. Google it, according to one, ‘there are some questions that can’t be answered by Google.’ But some light can be shed on this rather fascinating phenomenon through just such a search. Leaf through the Google image results long enough and you may come across one that I drove past just the other day.
“Never throw caution to the wind.”
Up in till this point in time my fascination with church signage had been a positive one. I had come to find these small quotable monuments to be the last true widely consumed articles of literate within our society. Their impact on individuals and society as a whole is for the most part a mystery to all those concerned, including my self. But their messages where always clear and impactful, yet this one of most recent discovery did not set well with me. This one was not observational. It was not a simple comical clique. It was a commandment. One not found in scripture. One which would upon further observation be found completely out of place within that narrative of old…
What is it that motivates a local perish minister, priest, or cleric to produce these small vignette style sermons for their signposts? A structuralist might give us an account where the church sign post is simply another one a thousand some religious pieces of symbolic language operating distinctly separate from reality or even the confines of ones imagination. No more then the many bits of historical occultism like those organized and disseminated by Dan Brown and his decedents of old. I on the other hand tend to shy away from such explanations. I find my self-trying to image the life experiences of the man or woman whose very existence resulted in this odd expression of what I will venture to label as ‘faith.’
This is as you may feel is an overtly academic and overly intellectual way of approaching what are nothing more then simple clerical puns. But if you would also excuse my poor play on words you may take a moment to see beyond my own sad intellectual tendencies in order to approach the church sign for what it is; the expression of ones individual response to the world around them. In the case of the above quoted sign a world which this individual views as chaotic and filled with temptation and danger. Where all people should step lightly and approach all great moral quandary with a great deal of just that, caution. But I find here that just as big box retailers may have removed the Christ from Christmas by turning to the use of secular seasonal greetings; an over abundance of caution does just the same to remove the Christ out of Christian…
We need only to turn to that once great narrative of old and find a man who heeded no such warning. He did not turn from the leper or from the diseased. He did not show caution when approached by prostitutes or those possessed by great evil. Nor did he show caution when calling out the hypocrisy of the Jewish Pharisees or standing in quite defiance of Roman law. And finally no caution did he show in the face of death. Not before the judgment of man, or the fury of nature, or the commandment of his lord did he show any such caution? How could anyone follow in such footsteps cautiously?
So the next time you find your self-viewing one of these interesting pieces of clerical venting maybe you should take a moment to consider its conception. Or maybe not? Maybe you should just keep driving.