GUEST COLUMN: Ask my neighbor

Once or twice a week I pass a local business sign which proclaims “Veteran-own and operated.” No doubt that’s supposed to make me favor this business over those not owned by veterans, but I am not convinced. There’s nothing here that guarantees “best work in the county” or “best prices.” We owe our veterans much—certainly better benefits and medical treatment than they usually get. But do they automatically go to the front of the line when you need a power washing or fridge repair?

I ask the same question about businesses whose ads and signs proclaim “Chris-tian business.” Clearly that is meant to imply something about character and quality and is intended to draw customers their way. But is it a reliable guarantee?

Suppose I find I am dealing with “T-shirt Christians”? That’s a term I picked up recently. T-shirts can be bought at a multitude of stores, craft shows, and thrift shops. Anyone can buy and wear a T-shirt. Maybe, as the inventor of this term goes on, I’d be dealing with “someone who likes to wear the shirt, but hates the poor, despises other cultures and creeds, and gleefully supports the stealing of milk from hungry babies …” or someone who wants to capitalize on my assumptions about his ethics, only I find he does shoddy work on the cheap.

Public display of a slogan says nothing about real character or honesty or quality of work. I am still going to ask around to establish his real reputation, be he a veteran or “Christian.” I’ll check with the BBB. I want to know if there’s some usurping of the reputation of the faith for undeserved profit.

I was reminded of this recently when I found a fake quotation attributed to Martin Luther: “The Christian shoemaker does his duty, not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes.” A fake quote, but doesn’t it remind you of Matthew’s instruction to let men see your good works? Nothing about billboards and unscrupulous boasts … but honest work.

And that reminds me of the time an interviewer asked the Amish farmer, “Are you a Christian?” The farmer replied, “You’ll have to ask my neighbor.”

‘Nuff said.

David Black lives in Louisa County.

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