It is becoming more evident how important it is to be precise in our intentions and our use of language. On certain metropolitan interstates there is something called a high-occupancy vehicle lane (HOV). You may be familiar with how this particular lane is supposed to work. If you have multiple people in the vehicle with you, you are allowed to use the HOV lane. It’s a bit of a privilege afforded those who make the choice to save fuel by carpooling. Self-explanatory right? Not quite. According to a recent quick take in World Magazine, Arizona transportation officials recently cited a 62-year old man for driving in the HOV lane with a skeleton in the passenger’s seat. Of course he knew cameras would be monitoring travelers, so he put a coat and hat on the skeleton and put a small cooler in it’s lap. This is definitely a person who appreciates the fine art of deception! So it has become necessary for the Arizona transportation department to be precise in its wording: “Human passengers only.” That should do it right? Not quite. In July of last year, Nevada state troopers ticketed a hearse driver who claimed the dead person in the back should make him qualify for the HOV lane. So, maybe “Human passengers only,” should be changed to “Alive human passengers only.” No doubt there will be others who will push the limits and necessitate greater precision with the laws of the road.
This illustrates a great truth about our responsibility as God’s people to be precise in our intentions and our use of language, especially when it comes to what we believe. We live in a culture that is changing rapidly, and that change not only applies to technology. Religion is shifting in our country and it is necessary for the church of Jesus to say more precisely what we believe. In recent days, one of the political candidates who is vying for the Democratic party nomination is Mayor Pete Buttigieg. He has unashamedly announced that he is gay and is “happily married” to his male partner. For most of us, since we live in the 21st century, this is not shocking anymore. But, he has also unashamedly claimed that he is a Christian. He attends an Episcopal church in South Bend, Indiana, the town he serves as Mayor. In recent months, in response to Vice President Pence’s negative views on homosexuality, Buttigieg said, “Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.” I’m certain they could argue whether each of them is referring to the same “creator,” but the Mayor is definitely a religious man, and he has taken advantage of opportunities on the campaign trail to speak of his faith in God. His willingness to do so has earned him a certain amount of trust with those who are also religious.
This is no small moment for Christians as we encounter again the need to be precise when it comes to our religious beliefs. Most Christians that I know quickly recoil when they hear someone like Mayor Pete say he is gay and a Christian in the same breath. Some people I know applaud Mayor Pete and are thankful for his fresh and more inclusive perspective on religion. The clearly opposing viewpoints of those who claim to be religious demand that we tighten up our language and precisely say what we believe. It is no longer enough to claim a belief in God and the golden rule and be happy when others agree, assuming that we all share a common theology. These times demand that Christians be clear about who this God is that we worship and what we think about the Words He has spoken. If we choose to be content with just getting along and not worry about precision, we will soon find that someone has hijacked the HOV lane claiming that one person’s belief in God is just as good as another’s. If precise language doesn’t matter, then skeletons and dead people count as passengers.