Friday, 2 October 2009

an indecipherable icon

do not cover icon

Looking down at an electric non-oil filled ‘eco’ heater we use when we don’t want to put on the central heating, I was flummoxed and just plain mystified by this small red icon. Having stared at it from a distance and then got down on my hands and knees for a closer look, I was none the wiser. What on earth was the manufacturer thinking of here? Clearly there was something I should avoid doing, but what? So, I popped into another room where we have a larger version of said heater and hey presto, the conundrum was solved. “Do Not Cover” appears under the same indecipherable icon. It has only taken me a year to spot this, but hey ho, that’s one of the joys of being ENFP – or at least that’s my very comfortable excuse.

So why bother with the icon with lettering do not coverwretched icon in the first place if it’s meaning is so impenetrable and unfamiliar that a caption has to be added? (grumpy old man mode can be so delightfully freeing….)

Of course the object lesson is for those of us immersed in institutional religion: we can so easily lose sight of how the things we do and say are just as indecipherable to people not in the know as the red icon was to me. And we can leave people feeling just as grumpy and put out by our thoughtlessness as I did by that which I imputed to the manufacturer of the heater.

That words such as ‘sin’, ‘salvation’ and ‘redemption’, the language we use of God and indeed our Christian worldview itself, will be readily understood and appreciated cannot and must not be taken for granted. Once these bits of language probably were reasonably accessible and commonly held, but now quite the opposite is true. The faith icons we use and trust should be those which speak plainly and clearly right down deep into the human condition. This is what the Bible does in its use of icons such as ‘love’, ‘kindness’ and ‘justice’. My worry is that we cover up these life-giving realities of God’s creative presence with a whole lot of well-meaning religious mumbo-jumbo. First impressions really do count, and in this day and age we have to communicate our faith in ways which draw people in rather than put them off and shut them out. “Do not cover up the gospel” would make a good red warning icon, but what would it look like and where would you put it?


  1. you want a list.... here are 5 to start..

    (1) In the vestry at preacher eye level.

    (2) In the pulpit

    (3) On the notices

    (4) In front of Conference reports....

    (5) erm....probably on my blog- d'oh!

  2. as another ENFP I will now go away and play with those thoughts...

    great post