Monday, August 10, 2009

#94 Jesus fish decals


In early Christianity they had to be sneaky. People drew Jesus fish to symbolize they were Christians because saying so was rather dangerous in ancient Rome.


Today the rate of savage religious persecution in north America is at an all-time low, while the Jesus fish enjoys ubiquity on car bumpers. The question is, why? Do they think it's some sort of advertising? Good thing that car had a Jesus fish so you can tell it was a Christian who just cut you off.


A popular incarnation is the sideways-turned support-the-troops ribbon.
Two birds, one stone!


The Jesus fish frequently appears in tandem with conservative bumper stickers. It very seldom appears alongside a liberal sticker. Sometimes it is even observed to be eating a delicious Darwin fish. (That'll show them.)










Nom nom nom


Fun fact: If you use the term "Jesus fish" while talking to a Christian, chances are they'll be
happy to tell you that it's actually called an ichthus and that it's spelled ΙΧΘΥΣ.

73 comments:

Joyful said...

Very interesting. I've noticed the growing popularity of the "Jesus fish" but I live in Canada so wouldn't have observed the use of it amongst Republicans in USA. Very interesting indeed :-)

Mon said...

I like that you showcased the school of fish on the Grand Caravan. I've definitely noticed the bigger the vehicle, the more likely it is to have a Jesus fish.

George said...

Q: How can you spot a Christian fish?
A: It's the one with a car stuck to its rear end.

George said...

By the way, is that supposed to be a man and a woman on that 'Marriage' sticker? It looks more like two women - one wearing a bigger dress than the other.

Anonymous said...

My first car was a 197X Honda Civic or Sentra (said Sentra on steering wheel and civic on the back). I had a "my treasure is stored in Heaven, just look at my car" sticker on it. At some poin I realized my aggressive driving style was not very conducive to Christian stickers. Luckily during my freshman yr at college my dad traded my car away to a guy in exchange for painting our house.

We need a sticker for Christians that believe in evolution. Maybe that will come soon. I might buy that one.

Oliver R.

Tiggy said...

Yeah, what IS that man wearing in the Marriage thingy? Looks like Edwardian cycling bloomers. Are you sure it's not a man in drag?

Does David Hayward do his copulating fish as a bumper sticker? You can get it on a baby's bib (or whatever North Americans call that thing you put round a baby's neck to stop them getting food all over themselves).

George said...

Wow, the "Jesus or Democrat" one makes me want to beat the ever loving shit out of whoever had that on their car.

And I'm neither a democrat nor part of Christian culture.

Joel said...

At some point I realized my aggressive driving style was not very conducive to Christian stickers.

Is that why people keep giving me the "One-Way" sign?

I see the Jesus fish symbol is at least more enduring than the "I Found It" bumper stickers of the 70s. Which is just as well.

George, I've never seen the "Jesus or Obama" sticker, but I have seen the stickers that say "You can't be pro-choice and Catholic." Which is actually true, if we take it to mean "Catholic in good standing."

But to see that sticker from people who sneer at Catholics for having cut-and-dried doctrines is just a bit galling.

Joel said...

I do like the school of fish on the minivan. They don't make minivans that can hold all my kids. A positive attitude about big families is all too uncommon. Although Christianity does tend to encourage lots of children, because (Calvinism notwithstanding) it presumes that human beings are a good thing and God likes having lots of them around.

Mark (under construction) said...

Hey don't knock Christian Fish!!!! - it's the unsaved fish you should give a hard time!!! and Christian fish match my WWJD stuff.

Melanie said...

A friend of mine has a Jesus fish eating an Obama logo as her Facebook profile pic.

It bugs me to no end.

massminuteman said...

I find the fishies kind of cute. But I see them and think "there's a parent whose children have a hard time respecting them".

Julie said...

Not gonna lie, Christian bumper stickers drive me insane! sometimes this sight hurts my heart because the culture stuff is so true and hey, the truth hurts. I see how stupid all this culture crap is and I see how it pushes people away because they think that this weird culture is christianity when it is not. Ah, my heart, it is hurting right now!

Cherí said...

The bumper sticker that really bothers me (and is often attached to the bumper of a Hummer, BMW, etc.) is: "Don't let the car fool you, my treasure is in heaven"

Can you say hypocrite?

Because if you have an outrageously priced car that doesn't get you around any better than my 20-year-old junkyard salvage, what's the point? Isn't the point that you have money to burn, or that you value image and status more than integrity? If you have the extra sixty thousand to waste on a Hummer (or however much those things cost now days), why not give it to the poor as Jesus commands? Or if all you want is the image and status, why do you call yourself a Christian at all?

All I can think when I see that bumper sticker is how ludicrous "Christian culture" has become.

George L said...

Okay - just to clarify...

There's more than one George posting here. I'm the one who posted the crap joke about the Christian fish, and asked about the red Marriage bumper sticker. I'm not the George who wants to beat the owner of the "Jesus or Democrat" bumper sticker - even though I probably share the same sentiments...

Kaleigh Meduri said...

HAHAHA, In Ohio we have a Christian radio station "95.5 The Fish" so we see a lot of those emblems on cars too, another 2 birds with 1 stone.

Thanks for this one!

mme. bookling said...

OMG, this post reminds me of something I've been meaning to tell you.

We were driving and saw this totally christian-ized youth pastor van with all kinds of stickers...including calvin praying at the cross.

but then there is calvin peeing on something, and we joked that it was probably a sticker of Obama.

We pulled closer...


AND
IT
WAS.

because jesus is in the habit of peeing on people he doesn't agree with. totally.

Andrea June said...

When I saw the Jesus or Obama sticker, I have to admit that I threw up in my mouth a little bit. Seriously. Because there's absolutely NO complexity in Christianity, and we all HAVE to think exactly the same way. Gross.

Steve said...

Boy, Christian culture sure knows how to destroy a beautiful image, doesn't it? All style and no substance. The lights are on and nobody's home.

Darryl Brown said...

My girlfriend has a Jesus fish and Darwin legged fish nose to nose (kissing) on the back of her car, which I like.

Will McCabe said...

Hilarious!

amywithlemon said...

the only tattoo i've ever regretted (i have 5- and i'm very happy with them sans one) is the 'jesus' fish one i got on my back.

i was 18.

meh. it's a reminder that i was dumb once. (and still can be. :-) )

the worst part?

it's right above _my_ bumper. which we all know, jesus just loves hanging out near our ass. so.

yeah. (again- I WAS ONLY 18.)

great post steph!

Archie Mck said...

Is a J-fish eating the Darwin one evolutionary?

Steve said...

Archie Mck: Yeah, survival of the fittest! You know what Social Darwinists these Christian Culturists are, what with their support for capitalism and their hatred for health care reform and anything else that smacks of "socialism" (including Jesus' teachings on money and wealth).

Miracle said...

I really love the "My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter" stickers.

99.9999999% of non-Christians have NO IDEA what the hell it means. It is like one of those "inside jokes" that only a couple of people get and everyone else is left to stand around awkwardly wondering what is going on.

I hate that sticker. But I love this blog. Awesome job.

Still Breathing said...

Miracle,

My wife has carefully moved a sticker between cars that reads "Carpenter from Nazareth Seeks Joiners."

whipple said...

i've always wanted to make a bumper sticker that says:

"get the fuck outta my way, i'm late for church!!"

but i'm lazy.

Steve said...

A lot of Christian culturists would disagree that "the rate of savage religious persecution in North America is at an all-time low." Many would be all too eager to point out just how persecuted Christianity is by secularists, evolutionists (hence the J-fish eating the D-fish), atheists, socialists, and any other -ist you could think of. Stephy could do a whole piece on Christian Culture's persecution complex.

also, what's with the picture of Elaine from Seinfeld?

stephy said...

You're right that Christian culture would probably say that we are still savagely persecuted, even though we're not being fed to lions in the Coliseum anymore.

That pic of Elaine is from when Puddy asked her "You stole my Jesus fish, didn't you?" and she said "That's right!"

Rye said...

In my hometown, along with Jesus fish on the car, are those "family character" decals. I'm not sure if they have a name but most couples with children buy a sticker that looks like a stick-figure child, and get one sticker per child. In some instances you can also buy a matching dog/cat and add the parents. It actually makes me a little nauseous seeing them lined up along the back window of a dusty suburban.

Here, look: http://www.customlabels4u.com/decals-stickfamily.shtml

Steve said...

Rye,

The flip-flop decals remind me of those "just married" signs you used to see with the two sets of feet...I won't elaborate! ;-)

Daniel Kirk said...

I've always been proud of the fish: it's the one thing Christian sub-culture didn't just adulterate from the larger culture (e.g., got God?, mangling god rock songs, etc.). I'm even more proud that it got bitten off by the culture, that then created the Darwin fish.

Go, fish!

laura said...

Great post, what I always wonder is if you have a big family and one kid leaves the christian faith, does their fish come off the van?

stanford said...

Yeah, bumper stickers seem to be a capitulation to the sound bite cultural fallacy - nuance be damned - I can convey the fundamental nature of reality in 5 to 10 words. (Says me in a 31 word comment, um, I’ll stop ‘talking’ now).

Joel said...

what I always wonder is if you have a big family and one kid leaves the christian faith, does their fish come off the van?

I suppose it depends on the denomination and/or theological bent, but the church I grew up in believed in once-saved-always-saved. So once you accept Jesus, you're stuck to that van for eternity.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of bumper stickers, Stephanie, I saw one the other day that totally made me laugh and I think you might find it amusing as well. I was driving in the Tacoma area and a beat-up white pickup had one of those "These colors don't run" stickers on it, but they had covered up the American flag with one of the gay pride rainbow flags instead. Not to generalize, but the guy driving the truck didn't really look like the kind of person who would have a rainbow sticker on his car. But you never know.

Anyway, that doesn't relate to the fish. I do like Daniel Kirk's point - the fish is actually the one symbol (that I can think of anyway) that isn't a ripoff of some secular thing that Christians are trying to make cooler. Go fish, indeed.

Becca

EJW said...

this website is amazing. <3

Rebecca said...

Jesus loves Darwin, too!

Great post. As usual.

Steve said...

Rebecca: I love the "Jesus loves Darwin" site!

wearypilgrim said...

Oh, man, Stephanie, you could do a great post on Christian bumper stickers (and take-offs on them). Of the latter, my personal favorite is one that I saw years ago: "In Case of Rapture . . . Can I Have Your Car?"

Jodi Winterton said...

I'm an avid cyclist and on Sunday mornings, more often than not, it's the truck with the Jesus Fish on it running me off the road or yelling obsceneties at me...I never found those actions to be very Christian-like.

If they had a bumper sticker that Whipple had suggested - "get the fuck outta my way, I'm late for church" then at least I'd get the right message.

Rebecca - nice site!

Mark T. "Mayrock" Ingham said...

I pretty much hate all bumper stickers; apart from the occasional decal that shows a little wit like "Save the Ales" or "Gas, Grass or Ass: Nobody Rides for Free" (both spotted here in the Seattle area). =D

Stephy, great blog! You've got a lot of superficial American churchianity totally nailed in your insightful dispatches.

Simone said...

My dad bought a used mini van and it came with a Jesus fish on it and he didn't know what it was. I told him what it was and he said "Oh, well maybe people will be nicer to me on the road." and I said, "I'd me meaner to you."

pete in oregon said...

It's been almost 20 years since, but I used to go for these things as a young driver. I think it was part of my youthful passion to be a Christian publicly, not just quietly.

Other than making me slow down and be more considerate as a driver (because, hey, I had Jesus' reputation on the line now), the public didn't benefit all that much from me outing myself as a Christian. It was the song "Fish on the Car" by a great alt-rock Christian band called 441 that got me to think about what I was actually communicating.

Tracey said...

What I always find amusing is that the people with the fish tend to be the worst drivers. My kids call them the International Symbol of Bad Drivers. It's to the point that if someone cuts me off or steals a parking space we look for the fish and nine out ten times it's there. Sad really. Their excuse always is "I'm Christian, not perfect." Yeah, I get that but common courtesy isn't part of Christianity?

kat said...

that mini van school of fish doesn't make sense. why are there 2 Jesus'??? somebody's got their theology messed up. hahaha.

stanford said...

http://www.toothpastefordinner.com/090203/thank-you-bumper-stickers.gif

Anonymous said...

One Nation, Under Cod.

Joel said...

One Nation, Under Cod.

Ouch.

Does that go with "I will make you vanners of fish?"

dave said...

oh my gosh, the NOM NOM NOM caption just made me spurt laughter at work. I think I might get in trouble now...

Gillian said...

"Today the rate of savage religious persecution in north America is at an all-time low"

...unless you're Muslim.

Joel said...

...unless you're Muslim.

I would say that's not even a comparison. Being Muslim will get you treated with some suspicion and probably actively disliked by a few people. Certainly you'll have trouble being elected to public office. But that's not active persecution; at worst it's passive persecution. It won't get your mosque burned down or (going back to the New England Puritans) get you hanged.

(And the State of Connecticut has never, so far as I know, introduced a bill to make Islam illegal.)

Anonymous said...

I don' think I've seen anything that says "I'm a judgmental asshole!" so directly.

Anonymous said...

Aside from actually having "I'm a judgmental asshole!" on a bumper sticker.

Ben parsons said...

Also, don't get them as tattoos...(sniff)

Bob King said...

They are fun to make fun of, those Chromefishtians. I have some variations on that the theme that could get you kicked out of Kansas.

I have a Freudfish and a kind of brutal "it takes more than a chrome fish" design.

Your ideas for variations GLEEFULLY considered. :>

Gillian said...

Joel - the internet is not America. A man in London just got kidnapped and his house firebombed by extremists because he held prayer groups and extremists were worried that it might lead to a mosque (gasp!). This isn't an isolated example.

used minivan said...

Hi, nice post. I have been pondering this topic,so thanks for writing. I will probably be coming back to your site. Keep up great writing.

Joel said...

Gillian, I'm sorry. I was thinking provincially. We Americans tend to think of ourselves as the yardstick for Western culture. In my defense, the Evangelical culture we're looking at on this blog is primarily an American phenomenon.

However, you were responding to a comment about North America. Did the bombing happen in London, Ontario?

Joel said...

Bob, I went and looked at the Freudfish and it was a lot tamer than I expected. I would have thought it had at least some phallic overtones.

Koby said...

Heading:
"Writing blogs because you're bitter about christian culture and using "its strickly scientific" to justify your obvious bias oppinion"

You suck. I'm not saying i disagree with you, i'm just saying you suck.

Bob King said...

Joel, did you see the gaping yoni fish with a skull in it? :P

"It's not the size of your fish, it's what you feed it."

Anonymous said...

the funniest part of all this is that it's really an ancient pagan fertility symbol. turn it sideways and what does it look like?

Joel said...

I didn't see either of those. I guess my mind is cleaner than I thought.

Josh said...

Anonymous said...
the funniest part of all this is that it's really an ancient pagan fertility symbol. turn it sideways and what does it look like?

Also, I think it's funny that the sign is also used for pagans as the sign of Pisces, which is our current age which most pagans started ushering in right about (you guessed it) when Jesus came around. So, like most christian holidays, they ripped off the pagans again and stole their fish.

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

i have a fish symbol in high heels. it is not on my car though, just my fridge ... :P

Bob King said...

Personal favorites I've seen around:

"'n Chips"

Chrome Cthulu Fish

Flying Spaghetti Monster.

torcik said...

I think this takes the cake.

http://www.evolvefish.com/fish/product563.html

taijiya said...

I look all those schools of fish and conservative/religious stickers as being kind of like warning labels. :D

Still Breathing said...

OK, I admit it - I LIKE the fish symbol but on me and not on the car. Wearing a small fish badge on my suit (when I used to wear one to work) led to conversations about faith that wouldn't have otherwise occurred. Besides it's one of the few things within my drawing capability.

Lorelei said...

i really wish i had gotten a picture of my boyfriend's father's car before he took off all the bumper stickers. he actually made them himself! they were awful. the majority of them were anti-Obama, of course, but i remember one had this glorious phrase on it... 'So you think Christianity is over in America? Silly little person, we're just beginning! :D' it was terrifying. nevermind that the only people who think christianity is over in america is evangelicals, but what are they beginning? is this a threat??

my boyfriend would go into a fit everytime he had to visit them and park behind his car and would never fail to tell him that his bumper stickers were just making people hate and resent christianity even more, nevermind that they were a one-way ticket to having his tires slashed. apparently he did not care, he wanted to anger non-christians because he does not care about them or something. ok??

in any case, he finally took them off because he 'didn't want people at church to think badly of him.' the thing is he's been driving around with those things on his back windows for months, so probably, people HAVE been thinking badly and talking shit about him and he finally noticed, he just doesn't want to admit to it. i'm surprised his church even found them outrageous, though, as they are pretty much the living definition of christian culture.

bbsilvers said...

"Go fish" is what I think whenever I see the fatuous little bumper things. I have thankfully missed seeing the multiples of fish presumably signifying the Jesus-loving family if only because my haunts are rather skeptical areas of Southern California (except for the Inland Empire where fish and NRA stickers run riot). Usually one see the stick figures. With the cute dog or cat. That Dodge van though really begs that I put condoms or a Planned Parenthood brochure under the wipers. In today's world reducing excess procreation should be a sacrament.

Mel T said...

Tiggy, what you call a bib, we Americans call a "sloobacup" or "fluorphie."