Y’know, that wee fish one sees on the backs of Christian cars. In the US, I assume they crop up next to those odious “support the troops” stickers – the ones displayed by people who support the government who sent 150,000 troops into a war of choice with a country undeserving of the honour to get killed for nothing and which has all but bankrupted their nation (I do digress!).
The Jesus Fish. What does it mean and why is it a fish? I shall endeavour to explain (with help from Wiki-land).
The letters of the Greek word for fish, ICTHUS, are an acronym:
I – iota, for Iesou: Jesus
C – chi, for Cristos; Anointed
T(h) – theta, for Theos: God
U – upsilon, for Uios: Son
S – sigma, for Soter: Saviour
“Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Saviour.” That explains the word, but what about the fish itself? The wiki mentions some of the memorable fishy moments in the bible, one notable occasion being the part where he says to his disciples, many of whom were fishermen, “I will make you fishers of men”. Jesus also compared God’s separating the saved from the damned to a fishermen separating his catch from the refuse at the end of a working day. So, if you’re a good fish, you’ll get to stay with the guy who yanked who out of the water. Or, if you’re a good fisher of men, you’ll be blessed by John West. So, fish are a prominent biblical metaphor as well turning up literally here and there, the most memorable occasion being when they were teamed with loaves and replicated to feed a multitude.
Early Christians in Rome & Greece didn’t have it easy and hiding your faith was necessary to remain free and/or alive. Meeting places had to necessarily move around a bit as well, and the icthus was scratched or marked onto walls or rocks to indicate a Christian meeting place – for example, some of the earliest examples of the icthus have been found in 1st century Roman catacombs.
So, there we have it. A safe way for early Christians to indicate support for their forbidden ideology and hopefully avoid being eaten by starved Roman lions and an acronym describing the Christian core belief. A logo any designer would be proud of, actually. Not only is it simple and easy to look at, it’s a symbol with multi-layered meaning.
As for its popularity among Christian motorists, we have Australia to thank for that! Apparently, in 1973, the Queensland University Evangelical Union (had to be Queensland, didn’t it?) used the icthus as their symbol when they decided to be a witnessing presence at the upcoming Aquarius Rock Festival (which, going by the name, would have been the purest embodiment of evil and would naturally have required their presence in order to spread the word of the evil of rock and/or roll). Soon the image proved very popular among Australian Christian groups of all flavours and eventually spread overseas. Jesus Fish bumper stickers, brought to you by Queensland Evangelists.
But hey, as far as Christian symbols go, I prefer the ol‘ Jesus Fish over the crucifix by a country mile. Why concentrate on the method of your martyred saviour’s brutal, agonising death when the little fish is so much more … I dunno … meek, mild, unassuming and generally nice to look at? Like ol‘ mate was supposed to have been himself? It’s like the difference between Gibson’s Jesus-snuff-porn-something wankery The Passion Of The Christ versus a choir of kids singing Away In A Manger. At a funeral for a murder victim, would you concentrate on the horrendous method by which your loved one had their life ended and venerate the weapon that did it, or would you celebrate their lives with photos of them during happy times, pleasant recollections and perhaps examples of their favourite books, poems & music?
However, the fish is also the symbol of an oppressed people, which Christians no longer are (unless they try foolish things like evangelising in countries which expressly forbid such behaviour). Christians are the majority in the western, white-dominated democracies and no longer must conceal their faith (in the US, for example, it seems you can only get elected if you’re a member of Team Icthus and say so, often and loudly, even if you don’t actually believe what you’re shouting). On the weboblogosphero-net, I constantly read accusations that atheists/scientists wish to persecute and crush Christian beliefs and that they actively seek out Christians to dismiss them from their university positions or deny them tenure for being Christians or other such paranoia. All utter bullshit of course – if these self-proclaimed victims could only go back in time to when it was open season on their kind, they would no longer complain about certain of their number being denied advancement for the awful crime of not being very intelligent. Surely missing out on university tenure because you don’t actually do anything worthy of that tenure (such as publish papers and attract funding and perform useful research) is galactically better than being eaten alive for the enjoyment of a bunch of Romans or simply executed, silently and anonymously in a dark, damp cell.
But my most pressing concern about the symbols of Christianity is this (and I should write to the Vatican about this before I forget): would a Jesus Fish stop a vampire?
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