Making Statements

Everyone wants to make a statement, right?

Now, in high school, I would have assumed that to mean something about the way someone dressed, or  styled their hair. I think there’s something deeper behind this statement about a statement today, though. This thought-provoking post over at Transpositions, the title of which grabbed me immediately, as Tillich has long been one of the most influential theologians to my thought process, is an exploration of how fashion sense portrays the perspective on worldview of the wearer or designer. So, in an introductory way, perhaps what I’m writing does start with thinking about fashion sense, but doesn’t stop there.

The post started some great thoughts churning about something that happened this weekend. An epiphany, of sorts…kind of a religious experience, if you will. I was navigating through the parking lot at the local Barnes & Noble in an attempt to find a parking space, and yielded to oncoming traffic. That oncoming traffic caught my attention, coming in the form of a petite and pretty blonde woman behind the wheel of an enormous SUV, a GMC something-or-other that looked as though it took up most of the parking lot and needed to drop anchor rather than park. I found myself caught in a moment of disgust. Not at the woman driving…this was not a judgmental, “who do you think you are?” sort of thought process. Rather, it was a glimpse into the error of my ways.

I’ve always hinted to my wife that one day, should we ever find ourselves in a position to afford such a thing, I think I would like to own a Hummer. I always thought that they were a creative sort of expression, somehow…urban chic, I guess. In that moment in front of Barnes & Noble, though, I repented of my desires, because the absolutely un-necessary excess of such a huge vehicle left me completely sick at my stomach. The wasted fuel, the obnoxious amount of space required to simply move through traffic, the failed attempt at intimidation to other drivers, the mis-spent money (I can only imagine what that titan cost). The woman looked like a young professional, perhaps a mother. The SUV was a luxury vehicle, not what you would use to transport equipment or goods for a business. In short, it was one of those situations where the SUV looked like a status symbol or a false sense of safety, rather than a necessary implement.

Fire departments need huge vehicles. The average suburban housewife really doesn’t. Such a waste.

Along the lines of the post I mentioned above…in congruence, I think, with Tillich’s theology of culture…our choices of things to purchase make a statement about us. I mean that, like the blogger for Transpositions, not just as a statement about us, but how we think theologically. And all of us think theologically at some level, because anytime we think those sort of existential questions like, “why am I here?”, or “what’s the point in all of this?”, we’re thinking theologically.

I tend to be loyal to certain brands, and I think that the brands that I buy say things about my worldview. Three examples: I like clothes from L.L. Bean. I use Apple computers. I like Subaru vehicles. I purchase all of these brands for the same reasons: they represent excellent craftsmanship (that is, they’re reliable and high-quality), and they have an attractive visual aesthetic. What this says about my value system is that I believe that quality and visual aesthetics matter. This reflects my view of the Divine, as well: I think that quality and beauty matter to God. So, a cultural theology asserts that the fact that you like a certain label of clothing or type of food isn’t simply a “consumer” choice; its reflective of your view on life, your role in life, and your view on God (even if its your view as to the presence of absence of God).

I can see fashion design (although its not really my thing) as a creative expression of beauty, sort of along the same lines as costume design in the theatre (which, again, was never really my specialty). Because we’re all creative in some capacity, the things we create speak about how we see life. We really can’t keep that from happening. It flows out even if we attempt to prevent it from doing so.

So, my sudden epiphany that I can never, for the rest of my life, force myself to own an SUV, is a statement of my values (and, of course, of my bank account). Which is fine, because, while people are cruising around in enormous vehicles that they can’t afford, I’ll have saved something for our retirement, and be perfectly content parking my Subaru in compact car spaces, all the while valuing the visual aesthetic and the dependability of the vehicle. I’d like to know why the woman I saw on Saturday chose the vehicle that she did, as well, because I would be genuinely fascinated to have insight into her worldview. And discovering her rationale for buying (or letting a spouse buy, perhaps?) the huge SUV would reveal a glimpse into her worldview, her metaphysical perspective.

We really don’t do anything for no reason. And there’s a reason for that.

Photo Attribution: deltaMike 


  1. I read random blogs and this one actually pissed me off. Who are you to determine why the women was driving a large SUV and that it was somehow unethical in a world so divine that you must live in.

    I don’t drive a huge SUV, but I do drive a Quad cab pickup truck. I am a small female and take up a lot of space when you drive. I hate putting gas in it and parking it at times.

    Why do I drive it then you ask. A couple a of reasons. I have a new child and it has a five star crash rating. I live on a farm and I use it to transport feed, live stock, and other materials.

    However, I can afford the truck and the gas, because my family works hard. We work the farm, we work full-time jobs and manage our money well.

    I am sure that the three years that I fiananced my large truck is less than what you did on your subaru. I pay for the gas with cash, not a visa or an exxon card.

    It sounds like this was not about the vehicle, but how the vehicle made you feel. It made you feel small and inferior in a smaller car. You felt that you had to adjust your life and time to someone else.

    Know the person that drives the vehicle before you judge the vehicle and make statements about it. It made you sound jealous not better than the women driving the vehicle.

  2. Totally fair for you be upset, Anonymous. I’d say in response, however, that your comment explaining why you choose (in this example) the vehicle that you do is exactly the substance of the point of my post: that it speaks to your worldview (in this case, a desire for safety for your child, and the fact that you need it because of your owning a farm). That speaks to your feeling of obligation to protect your family, and your work ethic…both noble motivations.

    This was about how our choices in what we buy make statements about our metaphysical perspective, not about me feeling inferior about my worldview in relation to yours. If you read it that way, and don’t see that your comment is exactly the sort of dialogue I’m looking to enter into, then I’m afraid you’ve missed the point. I’m glad, however, that you’ve entered into the discussion.

    Thanks for reading!

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