Racin’ fans, brace yourselves for some couch-jumping news: Scientology is ridin’ shotgun.
A No. 27 red Taurus emblazoned with “DIANETICS” and featuring the volcano from the cover of L. Ron Hubbard’s book has been tearing around California’s Irwindale Speedway.
(No word on whether the car can fix itself; [Tom] Cruise recently bragged that wife Katie Holmes needed no anti-depressants for her post-partum depression.)
NASCAR is decidedly reluctant to comment on scientology’s sponsorship. “This has generated a lot of interest the past few days,” NASCAR PR man Scott Warfield tells me. Not surprisingly, he didn’t want to say much more. “It’s not really something we want to comment on. It’s a minor league, small-team sponsorship deal.”
Yes, and it’s also the weirdest sponsorship since Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, the diaper-rash cream that began sponsoring a Busch Series car in 2005.
The flustered broadcasters were quick to compare Scientology’s ad blitz with Christian propaganda. As evidence, one of the announcers referenced a recent interview with a certain NBA star in which numerous G-bombs (God-bombs) were dropped. Every other paragraph was a “Praise the Lord” or “my Lord and Savior.” The question was obvious: How is this different from the Dianetic jalopy?
On the other end, you’ve got this:
Busted Halo recently published a fascinating interview with Sufjan Stevens. Interestingly enough, his relationship with God had become such a big issue, his publicist began asking reporters to stop asking him about his faith.
I mean, obviously, Iâ€™m not ashamed of anything, and I make all kinds of declarations about what I believe in, but Iâ€™m very suspicious of public declarations of things because I recognize that itâ€™s a very, very personal thing. And itâ€™s a community thing, as well, and itâ€™s something that I feel inclined to express within a community of believers. When you make these expressions to the public, there are all kinds of miscalculations and miscommunications, and thereâ€™s just kind of a communication problem. I just didnâ€™t want to be a part of that dialogue at all.
Stevens’ position is counter conventional thinking. Many Christians would suggest we should be looking for opportunities to speak, to “disclose” our faith, use our celebrity or success as opportunities to proclaim the Good News. Instead, Stevens suggests,
…I have a lot more to talk about musically than just my relationship with God, even though thatâ€™s evident in everything that I do, everything that I write about. Itâ€™s not something that I want to enter into a dialogue with in the press.
These are the bookends of evangelism. On one side are those who want to splash John 3:16 across every billboard and bumper sticker in sight, interject Jesus into every interview and display the biggest possible crucifix. On the other side are those who “have a lot more to talk about musically (read: artistically) than just [their] relationship with God.”
Despite what some zealots would say, media blitzes, Scripture-laced interviews and blanket G-bombs are not the ideal form of evangelism. Maybe we should follow Sufjan Stephens’ lead, opt out of the religion discussions, and give ourselves to the perfecting of our craft. Ultimately, the best witness for the Gospel is not emblazoning our racecars with crosses and doves, but winning the race.