Peter Beck Christian Blog and Commentary

Harley Riders and Hardly Readers

Gather together a group of motorcyclists and you’re going to notice certain common themes. They’re going to be talking about their bikes. They’re going to be comparing recent modifications they've made. And, most likely they’re going to be wearing t-shirts (most likely black but that’s the result of few choices not bad choices).

T-shirt clad bikers are not rebelling against cultural norms. After all, everyone, it seems, wears t-shirts these days. The motorcyle/t-shirt connection has a very practical basis. With your face in the wind, that collar on your polo shirt starts to sting at 50 miles per hour. T-shirts, sans collars, are much more amenable to motoring down the highway.

As you survey your collected, motley crew, read their shirts. Shirts have a motorcycle story to tell. There are shirts with obscene messages. There are shirts with Christian messages. But, the most common shirt among Harley riders is the local dealer shirt. Every dealer sells a line of shirts, each bearing his logo and home city, usually emblazoned on the back in billboard sized type. After all, Harley t-shirts are rolling billboards.

Bikers collect t-shirts like tourists collect postcards. Every major city has a Harley shop. Every Harley rider seems to seek it out to add another locale to his or her collection. Some cities, tourist-oriented cities, even have a Harley shop dedicated to selling nothing but t-shirts in the heart of the tourist areas. I’ve found such shops in Germany and Mexico. Been there. Done that. Got the shirt to prove it.

What’s interesting about the travelogue on cotton, the ubiquitous Harley t-shirt, is that fewer and fewer of those sporting the t-shirts actually rode there bikes there. They flew. They drove. Grandma brought one back from her cruise in the Mediterranean. There was a day when the t-shirt, like the large sticker on the oversized sea trunk of frequent travelers, was a trophy, the fruit of a meaningful trip on one’s iron steed.

No more. Today the Harley t-shirt has been hijacked for the purpose of commercialism. It has become little more than the Hard Rock Cafe badge of identification for the leather and chrome crowd. In that sense, the t-shirt is meaningless. Anybody can buy a shirt in Mexico. Very few have put in the hard miles to earn it. You don’t even have to own a Harley to wear the shirt. Buy it. Put it on. And people will assume, rightly or wrongly, that you’re part of the club.

Christians have a club not too unlike the t-shirt crew. We love to carry our Bibles. We like to talk about what we’ve just read. We call ourselves a people of the book. Our Bibles are our badge. The bigger, the more scuffed up, the better.

The problem is that many people who claim the name of Christ, who carry a Bible, who talk about their favorite passage, and who announce their love for the Bible, rarely read it. The statistics are appalling. In some studies, less that 50% of evangelicals read their Bible the week prior to participating in the survey. Don’t like statistics? How about anecdotal evidence? This Sunday in Sunday School, ask someone to read 2 Hezekiah 1:12 and see how many people actually start to open their Bibles. Give them a minute. Let them check the table of contents. They can’t find it because it’s not there. And they don’t know it because they don’t know it (the Bible that is).

If we love the Bible, why do so few read it? A rejection of God’s word, overt or covert, is tantamount to a rejection of God’s loving overtures. To go through life, and church, pretending otherwise is little more than a sanctimonious lie. So, I’ve got a proposal. If you’ve not ridden to Calcutta, don’t buy the shirt. If you don’t read the Bible, don’t say that you love it. To do otherwise is false advertising.