When Bad Christians Happen to Good People

When Bad Christians Happen to Good People August 28, 2013


For years before I (suddenly and out of nowhere) became a Christian, my wife Catherine and I used to study and practice Zen. One morning we were walking toward our car after a night spent sitting zazen at a Zen center with a dozen or so other would-be Buddhas. (Zazen is Zen meditation: you sit; you close your eyes; you try to disconnect from your thoughts; you try like crazy not to sneeze, cough or itch; you endeavor not to panic about the fact that after about a half-hour your whole lower body is so asleep you wouldn’t flinch if your thigh suddenly got harpooned.)

As we were approaching our car, we saw that a guy who had just pinned a flyer to our dashboard was now doing the same to the car parked behind ours. He gave us a friendly wave. “I hope you don’t mind me leaving one of these on your car,” he said cheerily.

I unlocked the passenger side door so that Cat could get in. “No problem,” I said. But what he apparently somehow heard me say instead was, “Please come over and talk to us.”

“It’s for a nearby church,” he said, coming over to talk to us. He was maybe thirty, fit, and clean-shaven, sporting an orange baseball cap, a winning smile, and a slight gleam in his eye that was somewhere between a little too friendly and crazy. “It’s called Calvary Chapel. Ever heard of it?”

“I haven’t,” I said. I closed Cat inside the car. Tucked under my arm was my zafu, the round pillow Zenners use to sit upon whilst trying to merge with The Great Nothing/Everything. The guy nodded toward it.

“You folks study Buddhism there in the center?”

“We do, yes. Well, sort of. It’s Zen Buddhism. We like it. Been at it for a pretty long time now.”

“Oh, is that right? Do you find it helps you with your life?”

Whoops. Now entering Nutsville. “Actually, yeah. It’s been a really wonderful thing for both of us.”

“But you must know that it can’t give you what the Lord Jesus Christ can. The only way you can ever find what you’re really seeking is to open up your heart to the fact that Jesus Christ is your personal lord and savior.”

The thing about sitting zazen—especially if you’ve just done it for ten hours straight—is that it leaves you feeling like Lake Placid. So, in a voice so calming it would slip a rampaging werewolf into a coma, I said, “That’s great. I mean, I know that for a lot of people Christianity is perfect. We’ve chosen Zen. I’ve got a friend who’s a Hindu. My wife’s dad is Catholic. Everybody has to find their own way, don’t they?”

“But there’s only one true way, friend. And that way is through Jesus Christ.”

I walked around the front of our car to the driver’s side. “Christianity’s a really sound option, for sure,” I said. He stepped toward me.

“It’s more than just an option. It’s the only way. Anyone who doesn’t repent of their sins and declare the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal savior is lost to the flames of eternal hell.”

I felt a tight ball gathering in my stomach. With one hand on my door handle I smiled over the top of the car. “Well, that doesn’t sound like much fun. I hope that doesn’t happen to me!” Ha, ha, ha. Nothing like a little final destiny humor to lighten the mood when you’re being accosted in the street by a Christian zealot in an orange baseball cap.

“Oh, it will. It happens to everyone who chooses any but the one true way.”

And then I made the mistake I often do in life: I started talking too much. “I understand that Christianity works for you. And I think that’s outstanding. Your life must be so rich because of your faith. But must Christianity be the only way? Can’t there be other good ways for people to know and experience what you call God? Does everyone who chooses any other way but Christianity have to be wrong?”

He smiled and shrugged. “Hey, I don’t make the rules. You can fight against it all you want. But the fact is that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins. The cost of not accepting him as your savior is the eternal damnation of your soul.”

Through the windshield I saw Cat, quietly gazing straight ahead. I knew she could hear us.

I pulled open my car door. “Well, I guess I’ll just have to hope that you’re mistaken.”

“Oh, I’m not, buddy.” He raised his voice a notch. “But you are. Both you and your wife are condemning yourselves in the eyes of the Lord by engaging in sinful idolatry.”

“All right; I’ll bear that in mind. There aren’t actually any idols in Zen, but I see what you’re saying.” I waved. “Thanks for sharing. Have a good day.”

As I closed my car door the guy moved to the front of our vehicle. He held up his hand like he was halting traffic. “Stop what you’re doing! Let the Lord into your heart! You please the devil with your sinful ways!”

“Jesus,” murmured Catherine.

“I’m gonna guess not,” I said. I started the car. “I’m gonna hope not. I wonder if I’m gonna have to run this fool over?”

“You’re lost!” cried the guy. But he also demonstrated that he hadn’t lost all touch with reality by stepping away from the front of our car.

“Repent!” he fairly yelled from the curb. “Accept the Lord! Turn your back on the devil! Rid yourself of your sin!”

I slowly pulled our car out and headed down the residential street.

“Well,” said Cat, “wasn’t that special?”

“Can you imagine being God, and looking down, and seeing that?” I said. “I wonder what Jesus thinks when he sees stuff like that?”

“‘Maybe I should become a Buddhist’?,” said Cat. “Or maybe, ‘I need to get some new salespeople. People who aren’t totally rude and intrusive? People who don’t think the way to attract people to me is to scream insults at them’?”

“Or maybe he’d just go, “‘That’s it. I give up. Time for the Apocalypse.’”

That the Christian with the flyers and the orange cap meant well isn’t in question. Ultimately, he was just trying to do his proselytizing job. But instead of attracting my wife and me to Christianity, he repelled us away from it, because his evangelizing was grounded in what all such efforts must be, which is a lack of respect. By proving that he had no respect whatsoever for our belief system, he proved that he could have no respect for us personally. And that could only mean that he did not, and would not, love us, since the best that love without respect can be is patronizing. He also eradicated any possibility of his loving us by driving us away from him: it’s not possible to actually and truly love someone with whom you have no relationship at all.

And by manifestly not loving us—by trying as he did to fulfill what Christians after the fact decided to call The Great Commission (“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”)—our evangelizer broke what Jesus himself emphatically declared the greatest of all commandments: to love your neighbor as you love yourself. (See the Great Commission at Matthew 28:16-20, and the Great Commandment at Mark 12:28-31.)

By trying to sell Jesus that guy violated Jesus.

If you’re a Christian, please never forget that the whole point of being a witness is to answer questions that someone first asks you.


Photo via Dollar Photo Club.

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  • Dave

    I agree with your opinion on how you were treated by someone who I generally think had the right intentions. Unfortunately Christians still succumb to our human depravity and slip into emotional responses, which keeps us from walking in love. The title of your post is quite interesting though “When bad christians happen to good people” and makes me think of what Jesus said to the young man who wished to know the key to enternal life. In Mark 10:18 Jesus states, ” Why do you call Me good? No one is good but the Father alone”. That is the basic premise of Christianity that many people do not want to recognize, our own human iniquity and the need for a Savior. Anyway I agree being aggressive is not the way to bring people to Christ.

    • Can we simply just live our lives as people of. Particular faith without thinking we have to make others be of our faith? Can we only share our beliefs, if and only when asked and then be willing to listen as someone answers our own questions? Can we commit acts of charity without looking at it as a “opportunity to win souls”?

      • Dave

        That sounds very nice and in theory it would be very practical. The only problem lies in what is truth and what is not. Either all paths lead to eternal life, a certain few, one, or none. Truth by definition excludes other ideas. So when Jesus makes the truth claim, “I am the way, the truth, and the light, no one comes to the Father but through me” we either have to accept that as truth or reject it. If those of us in the Christian faith accept that claim (there are some that do not) then would it not be appropriate to discuss this? Now there are appropriate and inappropriate means to do this.

        • What if it is this life, not a supposed after life that we should be concentrating on? What if there is no after? What if God has offered more ways to connect than we assume? Where lies the problem?

          • Dave

            Well the problem lies in what is the truth. Is Jesus the Son of God or not? Is there a God or not? It has to be one way or another. Some have chosen to follow the teachings of Christ, many have not. Jesus Himself acknowledges that most will reject Him. If people reject Him that is fine, I have no problem with that. In our society there is an appearance that truth no longer matters, it is all about feelings and experiences and I think that is where the problem lies.

          • So if people perceive God in a way that does not use the Christian model or rules, then they are rejecting God?

          • Dave

            The answer to your question lies in who is Jesus. Jesus stated if you love Me you will keep my commandments. If I believe in a god that teaches against His teaching would I not be rejecting Him? Then we are left with is Jesus the son of God or in other words God in the flesh?

          • Cannot God be more than just Jesus or vice versa? Cannot god be Much more than the labels and titles now common in Christianity? Do not the commands of loving one neighbor taking on a mindset of humbleness, gratitude and forgiveness appear in most other faiths? Could those also be ideals/commands god has placed all through man’s history because they are that important?

            Does anyone else just see this and wonder? ,

          • Dave

            Not all “religions” teach the same thing. In fact each one is vastly different so it does matter. I understand you believe there are many paths to God and I use to believe that too, but since the Holy Spirit has regenerated me, I have obviously changed my stance. I don’t believe in religion anyway because it exalts man rather than God. I prefer to say I follow Christ. Anyway I wish you luck and pray for you!

          • As I have learned about other religions, I have been pleasantly surprised at how much they all have in common. I applaud our similarities in our quests to understand the divine. I respect the differences in understanding, methodology and beliefs. I don’t have to share them, I don’t have to agree with them, but I can see, because we are all essentially trying to do the same thing…approach God, who is always just out of our reach of understanding, I suspect that God is ok with our attempts.
            One of my favorite parables is the one about the blind men who encounter an elephant and how each insists their own conclusions satisfactorily describes the elephant. They are all correct in their descriptions of the part of the elephant they encounter, but not a one understands or knows what the elephant is, being unable to see the whole animal. To me, that parable fits our highly limited perception of God exceedingly well.

          • AtalantaBethulia

            Muslims love Jesus and keep his commandments. But so passionately hold to monotheism that the trinity is so obviously, to them, not monotheism, and therefore do not believe Jesus is God. Jesus demonstrated God’s love and compassion. Jesus demonstrated God’s truth. Jesus points us to what is true about God. Jesus was the the logos of God – the truth of God in human form.

            Do you see how we can say different things, have different understandings and still essentially be talking about the same thing. (See: elephant and the blind men parable)

          • Elexa Dawson

            I think there’s a fear that we’re losing absolute truth “in our society” or “in the church today” or whatever the stage. I really don’t see that from my place in the cheap seats. I see a radical turning to the truth and to radical questions that dig that truth up. On the “way, truth and life” issue, again… If I read that verse my way and say “this is truth and I must defend it and hold on to it tightly and never let it go” then I am rejecting the possibility that my carnal egoic mind could have been mistaken in it’s interpretation of that passage of scripture. Even God can’t change our mind when we get into egoic certainty.

            My point is that if we are so certain, we cease from seeking truth. I think a genuine relationship with the Divine has to involve an openness and willingness to have our little pithy “truths” shaked up, rocked around, so we can see what God has allowed to remain standing.

            This means asking the questions that the most outspoken Christians don’t like asked, for instance: is “accepting Christ” the only way to heaven?

            Even Jesus allowed many different paths to eternal life, so how do we hold on to just one of those (most typically the “born again” path) and say this is the one and all the rest are damned?

          • Dave

            As humans we are morally bankrupt, so by allowing us to be open to what shakes and stirs within us, it leaves us susceptible to evil and even more immoral practices. Also where in Scripture does Jesus claim there are other ways to reach God? Not sure how you can interpret “I am the way, the truth, and the light, no one comes to Father but through Me” any other way unless you want it to mean something else.

          • Elexa Dawson

            How many different answers did Jesus give to the question: How must I receive eternal life?

          • Elexa Dawson

            And where did he prescribe exactly how you go “through Him”? I think there are many ways to go “through Christ” to get to the Father, but they aren’t all approved by the religious establishment.

          • Dave

            Common theme in new testament is believe. Jesus gives that as a standard answer. Born again entails belief as well.

          • AtalantaBethulia

            Dave, the word translated from the Greek as “believe” in English means something more closely akin to: to follow, to trust – rather than what the word “believe” has come to mean in more modern history influenced by our post-Enlightenement literalism as “to affirm something as literally true and having literally and historically happened.”

            Such that to follow Jesus and the way of Jesus is not at all the same thing as to believe in Jesus.

            The influence of post-Enlightement literalism on the church has taken a relationship with God as a subjective, innately personal experience and spiritual practice and turned it into a faith *about* Jesus with a focus on affirming creeds as a way of objectively measuring who is in and who is out. It turned a spiritual relationship with God lived out through humble service in response to a deep sense of knowing God’s grace and turned it into a proper belief in God – grace transactionally conferred in exchange for proper orthodoxy.

            Not quite the same thing, I would argue.

          • I do not understand the concept of “morally bankrupt”. We are a species with morals, many that have been universally held throughout history and the myriad of cultures in that history. Other morals have been developed, based on survival, need, organization and positions of power. Considering humanity as morally bankrupt just makes no sense to me.

        • AtalantaBethulia

          Re: “So when Jesus makes the truth claim, “I am the way, the truth, and the light, no one comes to the Father but through me” we either have to accept that as truth or reject it.”

          Or, rather than taking a literal, binary approach to that question , we could see that perhaps we might not have interpreted that phrase correctly.

          • bossmanham

            Haha. Typical emergent slop.

            Then please tell us how we’re supposed to take “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but through me.”

            Where is there any ambiguity in that statement?

          • Lots of ambiguity there, if one ever decides to stop and consider that there is more than a phrase in a religious text. Some us like tossing aside that box people keep trying to stuff god into, knowing that she/he just doesn’t fit

          • bossmanham

            There is no ambiguity at all. You’re just trolling now.

            NO ONE isn’t ambiguous. It’s all encompassing. You didn’t answer the question. You just reasserted the unbacked assertion. How is that ambiguous?

          • Trolling? Curious how. You see fact, I see opinon. Do you feel threatened somehow in someone whose opinion isn’t aligned to yours?

          • Wait … SHE is trolling?

            Now I know that you’re just pulling our collective leg. Well played, pal, well played. I thought you were serious up until that point. Very funny.

          • Lis

            How do you KNOW that’s what Jesus actually said? Where you there when he said it?

          • DR

            Why are you so hostile? For goodness sake, a lot of reasonable, devout Christians also interpret the text to read this way. Please relax and lose the anger or whatever is driving you to respond with such anger, bossmanham.

          • sheila0405

            It is the spirit of Christ which attracts us to God. If anyone finds God another way, it is because of Christ. That is another way of looking at the “absolute” of that verse.

          • AtalantaBethulia

            Some possible interpretations of “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

            Many Christians are interpreting this passage in light of the doctrine of substitutional atonement: Jesus died for our sins. We have to accept him as our personal savior by repenting of our sins and affirming certain belief statements in order to be born again and go to heaven to be with God when we die.

            This only seems perfectly clear to those who have only been exposed to this form of Christian teaching and where they have also been taught that all other interpretations are wrong.

            To others who have studied other doctrinal views, it is not so clear.

            It could mean:

            Universalism: Jesus is the way to God, the truth about God (logos) and represents the life of God. No one comes to the Father except through his atoning death. With his atoning death, everyone can get to the Father.

            The way of Jesus is the way to the Divine, to Truth and to Life (present and future). No one can have oneness with God except by the way of Jesus. Jesus taught his way to his followers and he summed it up in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The earliest followers of Jesus were known as followers of The Way.

            Jesus is the door to the fold. Jesus decides who gets into the fold.

            I’m sure there are probably others.

          • MollyDeed

            I have one. No one comes to the “father” but through me.

            No one comes to a relationship with the creator as a loving, guiding, forgiving parent except through following Jesus’ relationship with his father – which includes trust and obedience.

            I may be in error, but I don’t think other pathways to God emphasize this type of relationship with God the way Jesus does.

          • Dave

            Well the claim is made multiple times throughout the New Testament, so we could do that with any ancient document, could we not? Did we interpret Aristotle’s writings correctly? Shakespeare’s? Plato’s? We don’t do that however, modern society usually only questions the authenticity of the Bible.

          • Oswald Carnes

            Nobody’s trying to force people to live according to Aristotle, Shakespeare or Plato, but there are plenty of people who think the government I pay taxes to should force me to live according to the bible.

          • Dave

            So do you reject that the writings of ancient philosophers and poets are authentic? That they only reason they haven’t been discredited is because they serve no practical purpose? It appears the logic you are using is that if we tried to “force” people to live the way Plato says we would then scrutinize the texts and find faults.

          • Steven Waling

            a) What do you mean authentic? If you mean that there are questions of authorship with regard to ancient philosophers and poets, yes of course there are. They don’t much affect most of the readers of said texts because nobody is living their lives by the ‘teachings’ of Catullus.

            b) There have been numerous questionable theories about who Shakespeare ‘really’ was, for instance. Was he really the glovemaker’s son from Stratford? And that’s not to mention the authorship and textual questions around the Quarto printing, for instance.

            c) Many ancient writings only exist in Arabic translations. You bet there are questions of authenticity!

          • AtalantaBethulia

            Re: “so we could do that with any ancient document, could we not?”

            Yes. Yes we can.

            Re: “Did we interpret Aristotle’s writings correctly? Shakespeare’s? Plato’s? We don’t do that however, modern society usually only questions the authenticity of the Bible.”

            Actually we do. This is why we have courses in philosophy and literature to do just this very thing and not leave it up to a lay person to take a plain and simple reading of the text and presume they could know with clarity and accuracy what the text meant in historical and literary context.

            An example:

            The phrase, “Be sure to read the fine print.” Seems pretty straight forward on the surface. But it means more than only its surface reading. There is subtext to the phrase that is only understood by those familiar with the cultural implications of the phrase – namely – that this is a type of idiom referring to issues of contracts between parties, and that there have been occasions where one party has intentionally hidden less savory commitments or surprises in the document that the signor may or may not be aware of perhaps in an effort to trick the signor and that a person should be wary of signing anything without reading it carefully and fully knowing what they are committing to.

            This is context. To glean the closest approximation to reality and truth, it is necessary to read and understand any writing in context. The average lay person does not have this contextual knowledge about Aristotle, Plato and Shakespeare any more than they do about the Bible.

          • Dave

            And we also have experts in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic that go over the texts of the ancient scrolls that make up the Bible. Additionally the Dead Sea Scrolls add validity to our current translations of Biblical Scripture. A good study Bible will also give you context of certain phrases and cultural practices, so we can know what the writers actually meant at the time of the writing.

          • “so we can know what the writers actually meant at the time of the writing.” But that’s not always the case. We can make (highly) educated guesses about what the authors meant, but when there are vast differences in time and place and culture we should offer claims of certainty regarding the intent of the original authors with an appropriate degree of humility.

          • Dave

            Agreed, in some instances there are a few intrepretations. On major doctrinal issues (diety of Christ, salvation, human depravity, character of God etc) there is clear consistency.

          • What’s “clear consistency” for one person can be clear as mud for another. But what you offer up as “clear” doctrinal issues have many facets that Christians do not have unanimous agreement on: kenotic/classical understandings of the incarnation; ordo salutis, monergism/synergism; the nature and extent of depravity; apophatic/cataphatic discussions of God’s attributes, etc.

          • Dave

            In most Christian communities it is agreed upon that Salvation is through faith alone through God’s grace. Yes there are disagreements in order, but most will agree on that. God’s attributes are also clearly defined. He is loving, just, kind, merciful, patient, and holy. (to name a few) In fact the only time God is called something three times in a row is when He is described as holy, which is how Hebrews made a emphatic point. Just because people want to interpret things different does not make it unclear. Most people want to bend meaning to fit their life instead bending their life to fit the meaning. I was one of them!

          • “In most Christian communities it is agreed upon that Salvation is through faith alone…” Not at all true, unless you equate “Christian” with Protestant.

            “Most people want to bend meaning to fit their life instead bending their life to fit the meaning.” I don’t even know what this means. “Most people” do the best they can to make their way through life given the opportunities and experiences that come their way. “Most people” couldn’t care less about moral relativism or absolute truth or subtle points of theology and philosophy. But “most people” do recognize when someone’s being a jerk and when someone cares more about advancing their particular ideological agenda than exhibiting love and compassion.

          • Dave

            By Christian I mean those that believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and live their lives accordingly. I think you are right most people just want to get through life. They worry about careers, children, economy etc. I should of clarified most, by meaning most that discuss these issues. As far as love and compassion, if we truly love someone and believe that a life in defiance of God carries eternal consequences, is it not demonstrating love and compassion to discuss that with them? Of course this could be done in an unloving way, I agree. Anyway I think we could banter on this for a very long time. These are good discussions to have and I thank you for your time and friendly debate. Take care and God bless!

          • I agree we can keep going around in circles, but I have to comment on one more thing: you definitely DON’T have to believe in inerrancy of Scripture to be a Christian!

          • I am a Christian and do not for one second believe in the teaching of the inerrancy of Scripture. I also am quite uncertain about “eternal consequences” thinking it is this life we should be more concerned with and how we conduct ourselves and treat others. I am content with that uncertainty, having come to terms, that this life is sufficient. if there is more afterwards, fine, if there is nothingness afterwards fine. I’ve been gifted with this one, so I am grateful for it.

          • Dave

            The question if have to both of you then would be, how does one know which part of Scripture is true and which is false if there are errors within? How do you know what to follow? As a Christian we should love our God with all our heart and soul, as well as love our neighbors (Luke 10:27), so my question would be how do we love God without loving His word completely? In the beginning there was the Word and the Word was God (John 1:1). Also ALL Scripture is God breathed and used for reproof, teaching, correcting, and training in righteousness. (2nd Timothy 3:16). So if reject parts of the Bible are we not rejecting His breathed out word? I know this comes off as self-righteous, but please I don’t mean it that way. I was once confused on these issues and I was fortunate to have brothers and sisters in Christ who were able to teach me and I finally humbled myself to learn. It appears there is much doubt, but bear in mind one who doubts is like waves of the ocean, blown and tossed by the wind. (James 1:6).
            I think God’s word is something we should all pray on and mediate on (His word, not mediation in an eastern religion sense). Ask God to reveal these truths to us and He will be faithful in His promise to help us understand! (John 16:13).

          • Ok. I’ll take it one at a time.

            The Luke passage is not original with Jesus. The passage may be crediting Jesus with a teaching of a predecessor, Rabbi Hillel . In fact the concept originated centuries before, and in a place and culture not remotely Jewish, then was “discovered” again and again throughout human history. Its a wonderfully universal teaching, applicable in any setting, secular or religious.

            The John passage, seems to be an attempt to describe God, attaching the label “Word” as a title to be given to Jesus. Linking it to scripture, would be making it on equal footing to God, which I seriously doubt the author was trying to do.

            The first Timothy passage. I have to ask, which scripture was the writer speaking of? The New Testament was still being written, and was a few centuries from being compiled and recognized as thus. What we now call the Old Testament had a variety of compilations, and then there were several revered writings that didn’t last the passage of time..

            Then you get to the reality that all Christians, despite protests to the contrary, reject some portions of The Bible, easily and with no qualms as irrelevant, or not applicable to them.

            To deny that one has doubts, to me is shallow and dishonest. We all have things we find dubious, or just out of reach of our understanding. Doubt can be used as a protective measure, or as a prompting to learn more. I think what the author in James maybe saying is don’t allow oneself to be easily swayed, in other words, gullibility is not healthy.

            Meditation is not a bad thing, in any form. Its a wonderful form of focused, introspective, listening, as well as a discovery of what is beyond own egos. Limiting it to just thinking about what we think a passage of scripture may say is, to me, just that, limited. What can we learn about ourselves, our world around us, God, if that is all we use as our anchor?

          • Dave

            “Its a wonderfully universal teaching, applicable in any setting, secular or religious.”

            How can one love God with all their heart, soul, and mind if they are a secularist?

            “Linking it to scripture, would be making it on equal footing to God, which I seriously doubt the author was trying to do.”

            Again it is God’s breathed out word. David writes in Psalm 119 about being cleansed by His word. If we believe it to be in error, how can the word cleanse us?
            “I have to ask, which scripture was the writer speaking of?”When looking at the Canon of Scripture the documents were put to high scrutiny to ensure they were consistent with Old Testament documents, teachings, and values. If God did not want His word in its current form He would have had it changed.

            “Then you get to the reality that all Christians, despite protests to the contrary, reject some portions of The Bible, easily and with no qualms as irrelevant, or not applicable to them. “-

            If you are talking about sinning and disobeying God’s word, I couldn’t agree with you more, we all sin!

            “To deny that one has doubts, to me is shallow and dishonest. We all have things we find dubious, or just out of reach of our understanding.”

            James is writing about the dangers of doubt, especially when we come before the throne of God in prayer and yes at times we do. It is a human weakness. But we should always trust God’s word and ask Him for strong faith.

            “Meditation is not a bad thing, in any form”

            Disagree, which is why Paul writes about “testing the spirits to see if they are from God”. We leave ourselves open to anything when we meditate by emptying ourselves, instead of filling ourselves with God and His word. Also meditating without use of Scripture is self-focused instead of God focused.

            “Limiting it to just thinking about what we thi nk a pas sage of scripture may say is, to me, just that, limited”

            Agreed, which is why we need to meditate on His word and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to us

          • Do you love God with all your heart soul and mind? Likely not. None of us are capable, Do you love your neighbor as yourself? Likely not, we all tend to fall short on that as well. Yet the ideal still works, whether one views God from a secular or a religious concept.

            Scripture is not God, it is not literally God speaking. Nothing anybody says confirms such a theory. The bible itself doesn’t confirm that theory. And if one does a study of the history of how we got to what we now call the Bible, you will see how it has evolved. We lack one important thing, any original manuscripts form any single author. We aren’t even certain who wrote large portions, their actual purpose, or which of the many variations of a theme,(especially in the NT) is the closest to what the original author intended. It is a human work, beautiful, purposeful, a human attempt to try to define the undefinable, using a people, stories, historical accounts, etc to try to do such a thing.

            Do you expect women to be silent and to keep their heads covered and their hair long, Do you accept concubines as parts of your family, do you expect a rapist to marry their victims, do you abstain from certain types of food, do you let your fields lay fallow once every seven years? If you say no to any of that, then you have rejected portions of The Bible as irrelevant and unhelpful.

            If any of us relied only on the Bible for every thing, then we would not have advanced as a civilization. To consider it to be the answer to everything is folly. It is not the magical answer to everything book. It can give us insights on several levels, it can help us to understand
            God, but only can. It is not a necessity for either.

            I am a happy doubter. I don’t have to know everything, I am content with the realization that I haven’t a clue what God is up to, exactly who he or she really is, what tomorrow holds, or what happens if there is no tomorrow for me. I can read a passage of scripture and wonder what the hell were the people in the story thinking, or why did they do things that way, or jeez, Paul can be an arrogant ass, or try and fail to the point of giving up on what John was smoking when he wrote Revelations, and deciding all the silly end time theories that people have taken from that book are violent forms of wishful thinking. Doubting allows me the joy of wonder. You ought to try it.

            I find it sad that you do not understand the beauty of meditation, or the forms of it that I believe the psalmists used.. Men, and hopefully a few women who,,.SURPRISE! had no such thing as a bible. They had nature, music, poetry, their own thoughts. Their mediations and the mediations of many others throughout human history have granted us wisdom writings, poems, music, discoveries about our universe, about ourselves, about God.

            I am unorthodox in my beliefs, and know that. It is how, after spending many years in very constrictive versions of the faith, have deemed it best for me. By deciding that I don’t need The Bible and only the Bible to define my faith, I feel liberated, free to live, to worship, to love unrestrained. I don’t need or expect anyone to agree, its just nice when I find people who have thoughts in common.

          • Dave

            I understand how the Bible was assembled. I still attest that it is His word to us and we should honor Him by treasuring it. You can’t use old covenant law that God used to show we couldn’t keep the law as reasons to show those who believe in the Bible as hypocritical. Jesus Himself discussed the dietary restrictions. The women in church verses are easily explained if one wants to look. When I have a question there are sources like a good study Bible and websites to help explain. You disagree with Scripture, ok I get it. Do any of us get it completely right? No. But that shouldn’t mean we don’t strive to understand the truth. I believe the Bible is not in error. You don’t. One of us is right, so we will have to see how it all ends up! Take care and God bless.

          • AtalantaBethulia

            Re: “I still attest that it is His word to us and we should honor Him by treasuring it. ”

            We can very much take the Bible seriously without taking it literally nor believing it is inerrant.

            Re: “You disagree with Scripture, ok I get it. Do any of us get it completely right? No. But that shouldn’t mean we don’t strive to understand the truth.”

            Oy vey.

            Saying scripture isn’t inerrant is not the same thing as disagreeing with scripture (which is really disagreeing with an interpretation of scripture) nor is it the same thing as not striving to understand it.

            Why do you keep conflating all these things?

            Re: “One of us is right, so we will have to see how it all ends up! Take care and God bless.”

            And now we have come full circle to John’s post of annoying things Christians say to people.

            Do you see how this comes across as pretentious?

            Major Gripe: always having to be right.
            Did Jesus teach us to be right or to be compassionate?

            It is this binary worldview of those who insist on there being only one right way to understand the truth and everything else that does not look, feel, or smell perfectly like what they say is that one right way of understanding the truth is wrong and in error. THIS is what blocks people of faith finding common ground that is right under our noses.

            Why must it be this way?
            Why can’t we talk this through until we gain some glimmer of understanding each other?

          • Dave

            I was trying to get out of the conversation gracefully. I apologize if you interpret that as me being “pr**,kish”. The conversation was a debate on varying opinions. Obviously one side is trying to show suppor their opinion. What I meant was let’s just drop it and see in the end what washes out. It automatically you label things to my words. And it’s not all about compassion and love the should also be a strive for holiness. Good luck God bless I really wish you the best.

          • AtalantaBethulia

            Blessings on your journey as well.

          • AtalantaBethulia

            Loving God. Loving the Bible and claiming that believing the Bible to be inerrant is necessary in order to be a “true” Christian are false equivalencies nor is one dependent upon the other.

            One can love God and the Bible without understanding scripture to be inerrant.

            Does Genesis describe how the earth and the universe were created – literally – or is it an explanation of an ancient people’s understanding of their relationship with the Divine that points to a Creator.

            What are we to take from that? Is Creationsim true because the Bible is inerrant? Or are there great truths in the Bible because it points to a Divine order of the universe?

          • lrfcowper

            The Word in John is Christ, not scripture. Therefore, we love God by loving Christ and by loving our neighbors.

            And Paul’s writing in 2 Timothy is advice on now to discern scripture from writings that seem spiritual on the surface. He’s not saying, “All the texts that will be bound into a book and labeled scripture in the future, including this letter I’m writing to you right now and things that won’t be written for decades yet, are God-breathed, etc.” He’s saying, “When presented with a spiritual writing, to discern if it is scripture, seek whether it is God-breathed, useful for teaching, etc.” He’s calling for discernment, not making a legalistic pronouncement. You’ve completely reversed what he was saying by taking the verse out of its historical context.

            I have a question for you. Once, some Pharisees came to Jesus and asked whether it was acceptable for a man to divorce a woman for any reason. They pointed out that the Old Testament law said a man just had to give his wife a certificate of divorce. Do you remember Jesus’ answer? He said Moses gave them the divorce law because of the hardness of their hearts. Did he not– Jesus, the messiah, the son of God, the fulfillment of the law– just say the Old Testament was imperfect and not fully aligned with God’s intent because men are selfish and unloving? If Jesus rejected scripture for being in violation of the law of love, why are you clutching onto it, rather than to him?

          • Dave

            Can you not cling to both? David wrote about how He loved God’s word and His law. God said David was a man after His own heart. So can we not cling to both Jesus and His word? Otherwise how do you learn about God? How do you know Jesus? I agree we can be legalistic and not let grace be exhibited in our lives, but I would be cautious advocating Jesus did not care about Scripture, since A he quoted it often and b said He came to fulfill the law not abolish it.

          • lrfcowper

            You cannot both believe in the inerrancy of scripture and be a follower of Christ, no, because he himself rejected the inerrancy of scripture. You defined a Christian as being someone who believes in the inerrancy of scripture. By that definition, Jesus Christ was not Christian, nor were the majority of Christians throughout history, as inerrancy is an incredibly recent doctrine. So pick– is a Christian someone who believes in the inerrancy of scripture and, therefore, rejects the teaching of Jesus himself, or is a Christian someone who follows the teachings of Jesus? To cling to both is to be double-minded and to attempt to serve two masters. Jesus has invited you into citizenship in the Kingdom of God, but it comes at a cost– you have to work, you have to study, you have to empty yourself of your preconceptions and let the word of God be written on your heart. You have to trust God to help you to find him within the written witness of imperfect humans. And, before and after all other things, you have to live in love. It’s that simple and that hard. That’s Christianity.

          • Dave

            First of all I was giving characteristics of Christians. There is more to being a Christian than just believing in inerrancy of Scripture. Not sure how you claim Jesus did not believe in the word of God since He quoted it frequently. You stated “To cling to both is to be double-minded and to attempt to serve two masters. Jesus has invited you into citizenship in the Kingdom of God, but it comes at a cost– you have to work, you have to study, you have t o empty yourself of your preconceptions and let the word of God be written on your heart”
            What word? If the word of God can be false then how do I know which ones to allow written on my heart?

          • lrfcowper

            “First of all I was giving characteristics of Christians. There is more
            to being a Christian than just believing in inerrancy of Scripture.”

            You were giving your own definition of Christians, but believing in the inerrancy of scripture is *not* a characteristic of Christians, it is a man-made rule that is in no way supported by scripture.

            “Not sure how you claim Jesus did not believe in the word of God since He quoted it frequently.”

            Quoting from something or someone does not in any way indicate that one believes it or they are without error. I’ve already established how Jesus showed he did not hold to the inerrancy of scripture. He said so. He is quoted as saying so, in scripture. So, either scripture misquotes him and is, therefore, in error, or Jesus said that scripture is not inerrant and, therefore, it is not.

            “What word? If the word of God can be false then how do I know which ones to allow written on my heart?”

            Oh, dear. Do you not trust God to write his word on your heart? It’s a promise in scripture that he will do so. Do you not believe it?

          • Dave

            We disagree,let’s just leave it t that 🙂

          • lrfcowper

            As I recognise you as a fellow Christian, regardless of you offering me the same recognition, I will leave you in peace.

          • Dave

            First of all I was giving characteristics of Christians. There is more to being a Christian than just believing in inerrancy of Scripture. Not sure how you claim Jesus did not believe in the word of God since He quoted it frequently. You stated “To cling to both is to be double-minded and to attempt to serve two masters. Jesus has invited you into citizenship in the Kingdom of God, but it comes at a cost– you have to work, you have to study, you have t o empty yourself of your preconceptions and let the word of God be written on your heart”
            What word? If the word of God can be false then how do I know which ones to allow written on my heart?

          • AtalantaBethulia

            Re: “What word? If the word of God can be false then how do I know which ones to allow written on my heart?”

            What word? The Logos. The Truth of God (Logos) as revealed in the incarnation of Jesus. Jesus said if you have seen me, you have seen the Father for the Father is in me and I am in the Father.

            Jesus made it very clear and simple: Love God. Love your neighbor. Do this and you will live.

          • AtalantaBethulia

            Inerrancy is not essential to being a Christian – far from it. In fact, I would go so far as to call such teaching heretical and antithetical to the teachings of Jesus. I will have to agree with my Muslim friends on this one, only Allah is perfect. Scripture points to God. It is not God. It does not share the qualities of God. It too often itself becomes an idol that replaces God.

            It’s fine to believe in inerrancy, if one chooses. No harm there.
            It’s not fine to exclude people from the body of Christ who don’t – because ultimately one can’t. Because it’s not up to us who is in and who is out with God, despite our best efforts to create an endless array of measuring sticks to try to determine it.

          • mikemike9

            Shakespeare (e.g. the authenticity of his writing, whether he was a socialist, an anti-semite, all sorts of things) gets pretty much as tough a time as the Bible.

        • Elexa Dawson

          “Truth by definition excludes other ideas.”

          I don’t think truth and ideas are made of the same stuff. Ideas point to truth but no ideas ARE truth. Also, one person’s idea of the truth and another’s may be different, but they can still be two perspectives of the same truth.
          One way I can transcend my limitations in attempting to grasp the Creator is to see the way the Creator has been revealed to other people.

          • sheila0405

            Truth is tricky. Before the advent of medical advances, some conditions, such as diabetes, always ended in an early death for people. These days diabetes is mostly a chronic condition which can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes. Before antibiotics were discovered, people died from minor infections that spread unchecked. It was truth to say that someone was doomed to die from diabetes. Now it’s not true. Our discoveries of new facts changes the notion of “true”.

          • I had to wait till I got home and on a laptop to respond, but your response had me thinking about the analogy of the narrow path to righteousness.

            What if its not just one path that everyone is supposed to walk upon, but instead one path that is designed for only one journeyer? If God meets us where we are, if God knows that we come from a wide range of locations, cultures, time frames, mentalities, etc. Couldn’t God simply use the uniqueness that is each of us to guide us along, with the labels of religion being more of how we understand the journey? Some may have paths that seem similar, and others quite different, but each can only use the path they are on, and not another’s.

            Our understanding of the divine is individual. None of us will see things exactly the same, or go through life exactly like anyone else. Yeah, its a bit out there, but then I don’t tend to look at faith from established parameters

          • Dave

            When you have competing ideas that are claiming to be exclusive then yes the truth would exclude others. Truth by definition cannot be changed. Jesus cannot claim to be the Son of God and another doctrine teaches He is not and both statements be held as truth.

  • Lynne Childress

    Beautiful. This gives me a lot to think about.

  • Funny thing. Jesus went around showing a good example of how someone might want to live, and how people might want to be associated with Him and His followers.

    Kind of the opposite of yelling, “If you don’t agree with me then you’re going to go to hell!”

    If the soft, sensitive approach was good enough for Jesus, I think it’s plenty good enough for the rest of us. Presumably, He could have gone the hellfire-and-brimstone approach if He’d wanted to. I mean, being God and all He would certainly know how to do it. But He didn’t.

    Maybe we should learn something from that?

    • lrfcowper

      Indeed, one of the temptations he faced was exactly that– establishing his messiah-ship via a show of power.

  • BeastyJ

    Amen, brother! Amen!

  • bossmanham

    // But instead of attracting my wife and me to Christianity, he repelled us away from it

    Nonsense. Informing you of the truth didn’t repel you from anything. Simply stating facts to you isn’t repulsion. You didn’t like the facts, so you were repulsed. This man did nothing wrong. It was your own self righteous hubris that gave you the knot in your stomach.

    But this is typical from the Christian leftosphere. Denigrate people for doing what you don’t do: Warn people of their impending fate with out Christ. Maybe that way you’ll feel better about yourself. After all, it’s all about how you feel, right?

    And no, there’s no reason to respect false belief systems that lead to death. God never has shown any propensity to respect false beliefs.

    • Informing people of the truth.

      FYI, “the truth” doesn’t need to be shoved in anyone’s face. That’s not just informing. That’s belligerence. And it’s not Christ-like.

      • bossmanham

        When impending doom is bearing down on people, it does. People should believe the truth, and we’re commanded to spread this truth in spite of people feeling uncomfortable about it.

        And it is Christ-like. Christ DID it.

        • What impending doom, and how true is it?

          • bossmanham

            If you don’t believe people need Christ, then you have no reason to do it. But then I’d also question whether you’re actually a Christian.

          • Ah..now where have I heard that original covert epitaph before? Too bad someone’s opinion about how another lives out their life in regards to their personal religious beliefs, have absolutely nothing to do with those actual religious beliefs

          • bossmanham

            None of what was stated was opinion. Hence ‘facts.’

          • Where? What facts?

          • bossmanham

            That one goes to hell without Christ. Not opinion. It’s not a preference of one thing over another. It’s a propositional statement.

          • That is clearly an opinion, not shared by many and not proven by anyone

          • bossmanham

            You apparently don’t get what an opinion is, or what a propositional statement is.

          • Quite clear on both. I just disagree with your views. It really is that simple

          • bossmanham

            You think they are false, then. True?

          • AtalantaBethulia

            Language is important; using it properly is vital to effective communication.

            There is a difference between saying something is a fact (verifiable by objective and measurable data) and saying one believes something is true.

            We can believe it is true that Jesus was God, but we have no way of proving it. Simply because we believe it is true does not make it a fact.

            Facts are provable, objective.
            Beliefs are not always provable and are often subjective.

            No one can prove heaven or hell exist. We can believe it is true that they exist. But that doesn’t make them a fact.

          • It’s very clear that “Bossmanham” thinks that “facts” means “anything that agrees with Bossmanham’s views.”

            Which is quite a way to go through life, I guess.

            It kind of defies the whole “love your neighbor as yourself” concept, since your neighbor is clearly viewed as inferior. Kind of goes against the “walk humbly with your God” bit, too, since humility is obviously not his strong suit. But, you know …

          • 65snake

            ALL of what was stated was opinion. NO facts.

        • Right. But you’re not Christ. I think the GUN avatar safely lays to rest the possibility that you might be.

        • No, He did not.

          No one heard a Jesus sermon without going to it. He is NEVER recorded as going around getting in people’s faces.

          I realize that you’ve convinced yourself that you’re saving people this way, but it is absolutely not the way Jesus said to preach. His instructions on sending out the Twelve were that they should go preach, and if people came to them, great. If not, then walk away and go somewhere else.

          Not shove yourself into their faces, scream, “You’re gonna go to H-E-double-hockey-sticks!” and make them listen, whether they like it or not.

          Before lecturing people on the Bible and Jesus, I suggest reading it. You’ll be amazed at what you learn.

          • Lis

            Well, granted He did kind of get in the faces of the Pharisees who were there.

          • But they came. He didn’t go to Pharisees’ houses and start yelling at them unbidden.

            Therein lies a world of difference.

            Also, it’s worth noting that the only people He rebuked were those using religious authority to get in people’s faces and boss them around.

          • Lis

            “But they came. He didn’t go to Pharisees’ houses and start yelling at them unbidden. Therein lies a world of difference.”

            EXACTLY! I wonder if he got into the Pharisees’ faces because that’s the only way they would listen? The only thing they understood because it’s what they did to people?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy

          I find it interesting that this Defender of the Faith and Witness has a 9mm Glock as his icon. First Church of Zardoz?

    • Adrienne Jones

      Nobody comes to Jesus this way. You’re defending your right to be intrusive and self-righteous (and as you asked the author, does this make you feel better about yourself?), but that behavior doesn’t make disciples.

      • bossmanham

        So you’ve been at everyone’s conversion? Fact is, people do come to Christ this way; by hearing the truth flat out like this. And even if they don’t that’s not our problem. We’re commanded to speak the truth. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to work in that person’s heart. And it’s ultimately up to them if the respond to that.

        Far fewer come to God by being mollycoddled in their current belief system. Affirming false belief does nothing.

        • MollyDeed

          Do you know that John is a Christian? Are you the guy in the ball cap?!?! Cool! What a small world.

          • bossmanham

            Of what relevance is this?

        • 65snake

          So, your invisible friend commanded you to be an ass? Perhaps you should take your own advice and stop affirming your false belief.

        • KellyLynne

          That’s a very convenient excuse for being rude to people and pretending that it’s a service to God.

    • AtalantaBethulia

      Re: “Nonsense. Informing you of the truth didn’t repel you from anything. Simply stating facts to you isn’t repulsion.”

      Being accosted in a parking lot and yelled at hardly qualifies as “simply stating facts.”

      Re: “You didn’t like the facts, so you were repulsed. This man did nothing wrong. It was your own self righteous hubris that gave you the knot in your stomach.”

      Or — perhaps — it was reasonable fear of a stranger who was behaving aggressively, who seemingly lacked a common sense awareness of boundaries, approaching them in a parking lot.

      • bossmanham

        //Being accosted in a parking lot and yelled at hardly qualifies as “simply stating facts.”

        No one ever said he yelled at anyone. In fact, it was presented as the guy being pretty friendly with a smile on his face. There’s also a distinction between speaking loudly so someone can hear you, and yelling at someone.

        Also, if the situation of man is truly as grave as Christianity teaches, then yelling after someone who is running away seems to be pretty acceptable. I mean is it okay to yell at someone who’s about to get creamed by a truck?

        //Or — perhaps — it was reasonable fear of a stranger who was behaving aggressively, who seemingly lacked a common sense awareness of boundaries approaching them in a parking lot.

        Did you even read the post? You’re a mod!

        • AtalantaBethulia

          Yes. I read. I cut and paste too.

          Re: Accosted

          From the OP: ‘As I closed my car door the guy moved to the front of our vehicle. He held up his hand like he was halting traffic. “Stop what you’re doing! Let the Lord into your heart! You please the devil with your sinful ways!”’

          Re: Yelled

          From the OP: ‘“You’re lost!” cried the guy. But he also demonstrated that he hadn’t lost all touch with reality by stepping away from the front of our car.

          “Repent!” he fairly yelled from the curb. “Accept the Lord! Turn your back on the devil! Rid yourself of your sin!”’

          • bossmanham

            That wasn’t when the knot entered the stomach. That’s not accosting anyone anyway. Please.

            //“Repent!” he fairly yelled from the curb. “Accept the Lord! Turn your back on the devil! Rid yourself of your sin!”’

            This would be an example of speaking up so someone can hear you.

            So please, show me from some authority how what this man did was so terrible. Beyond simply making John feel uncomfortable. Wouldn’t want that, would we?

          • AtalantaBethulia

            Re: Screaming

            From the OP: ‘“Or maybe, ‘I need to get some new salespeople. People who aren’t totally rude and intrusive? People who don’t think the way to attract people to me is to scream insults at them’?”’

          • bossmanham

            That wasn’t described during the encounter. That was what he said after the encounter, but nothing from his description of the encounter said the man screamed or insulted him.

            Try again. What authority tells you that what this man did was wrong? I have it from authority that, even if the motives or tactics are poor, it’s better the gospel be heard than not.

            Philippians 1:15-18

          • AtalantaBethulia

            First person account of the events as the person present recalls experiencing them and the feelings that were evoked from them = testimony of facts.

          • bossmanham

            Uh huh. How about answering my question?

          • AtalantaBethulia

            Well, that seems to stand in sharp contrast to l Corinthians 13 and Luke 10:25-37 and Matthew 5 and the teachings of Jesus. A conundrum.

          • bossmanham

            No, it doesn’t at all actually.

          • DR

            Wow. It’s so bewildering that you are so utterly unconscious. You seem completely terrified.

          • KA Crosby

            I don’t understand how you think people are likely to accept your “message” if you don’t care about how they feel?

          • KellyLynne

            It’s not at all about the people who hear the message. They aren’t important. It’s about being able to pat yourself on the back for having “witnessed.” As a bonus, you get to be as rude to people as you want, and if they insult you back or avoid you, you can claim that you’re being persecuted.

          • KellyLynne

            Stepping in front of someone’s car to physically prevent them from leaving doesn’t meet your definition of “accost”? If someone was behaving that way to try to sell you a product, you’d want to get the heck away from them too. Rudeness, condescension, and yelling at people don’t suddenly become good and appropriate behavior simply because you do it in Jesus’ name.

        • I read the same post. I would be very leery of a pushy stranger who refuses to take the hint that I’m not comfortable in the scenario.

          • bossmanham

            Because what God really cares about is your comfort level. Amirite?

          • I care about my comfort level and my safety. If you and your brand of god does not, then don’t be surprised at the cold receptions you get.

          • bossmanham

            And if someone begins to threaten your safety in a tangible manner, not just you feeling they may, then by golly they’re acting unbiblically and you’d then have cause to defend yourself. <– look at my avatar

          • AtalantaBethulia

            If a person of another faith had approached you in this way and stood in front of your car after you had politely tried to extricate yourself from the conversation, how would you feel?

          • bossmanham

            Of what relevance is this? I haven’t made it clear that feelings mean very little in this context?

          • eeand therein lies the crux of the problem, a complete disregard for another person’s feelings.

          • bossmanham

            Yes. I don’t care that the truth may make so and so uncomfortable. It’s clear that you don’t either, since you don’t care about my feelings regarding your assertions. The truth isn’t subject to this sentimental nonsense.

            Other uncomfortable truths:

            The universe will end in a heat death and all life will be extinguished.

            Some people murder other people.

          • I agree with the last statement. Some people do murder others. I personally see no value in the other two statements

          • bossmanham

            You should be captain of “miss the point” club.

          • AtalantaBethulia

            So… the ends justify the means? I don’t see where Jesus taught this, because he didn’t.

            It is this mindset that led to forced conversions in the past and other atrocities; it is the antithesis of the gospel and is not reflected in the life of Jesus. It is this particular incarnation of Christianity – the kind that must win and be right and triumphant at all cost, without regard to the other person – about which and for whom this post was written.

            Stop it. Stop acting this way. It grieves God and harms the cause of Christ.

          • DR

            Would you jump out of the car and ask to hear more?

          • KellyLynne

            Okay, then, put it differently. If a person of another faith had approached you that way and stood in front of your car after you had tried to politely leave the conversation, how would you react?

          • I am a pacifist. It is against everything I believe to act in violence to another. I will wall away. Get in my car, lock the doors, and call the cops, I will not attack a person using deadly force.

          • DR

            Do you use your gun whilst evangelizing?

          • AtalantaBethulia

            What’s so difficult and controversial about not being a jerk about how one talks about their faith with others?

          • bossmanham

            I don’t think one should be a jerk. But I don’t think informing someone of these facts is being a jerk. It’s quite clear the author was far more offended by the content of the assertions rather than the way they were conveyed.

          • AtalantaBethulia

            It’s not quite clear at all. It would appear that this is something you have assumed (without good evidence, I would say). You have available to you this medium to ask the author if that is why he was offended or not rather than assuming it is so.

          • Lis

            “It’s quite clear the author was far more offended by the content of the assertions rather than the way they were conveyed.”

            Really? If he was so offended by the content, why did John ultimately become a Christian?

            I am a Christian and if someone, ANYONE, approaches me in that manner and will not leave, I scream my head off or blow my whistle I carry.

          • Lis

            Actually God DOES care about people’s comfort. Why else would we be encouraged to pray for the things we need?

          • Candace Weiss

            I’d be very leery of him, too!

    • Valerie Barlow Horton

      Oh my, my. Militant Christianity is such a slippery slope. You say he was only trying to state facts. Let me put it to you this way, those are the facts as he saw them not as his potential converts saw them. If your audience feels attacked how do you show them the love of Christ? Living a life of love and helping others is the best witness you can offer. Accosting people in parking lots outside of buildings of other faith is not an effective witness. It puts people off and makes them feel as if they are under attack. Would you forcibly convert them?

      I am a Christian and I am repulsed by this man’s behavior. Going to a parking lot in front of a Zen center and approaching unsuspecting patrons and then telling them they are going to burn in hell is rude and off putting. You defend his behavior because it is probably your own. I also from your profile picture that you have no regard for the feelings of others and are probably militant in more than just your religion.

      • Toadacious

        Are you using the term “militant” in the same sense that a person deliberately flying an airplane into a heavily populated building for religious reasons is “militant”? Just wondering how far a word can be stretched and not lose its meaning.

        • AtalantaBethulia

          Militant religiosity is a term. It is commonly used in the literature about fundamentalism. There can also be militant atheists. It is not a reference to violence, but rather refers to being “aggressively active to a cause”. It is a characteristic of Christian fundamentalism — and religious fundamentalism in general — as a forceful rejection and push back against modernity.

    • 65snake

      What facts? Everything stated was pure opinion. Opinions, no matter how strongly you may believe them, are not facts.
      The day that you can prove that any one belief system is the only correct one is the same day that you can excuse disrespect to the ones you think are false.

      • Toadacious

        Well look at it this way, snake. Hindus believe in multiple gods–some of them numbering nearly a thousand. Buddhists really believe in no god at all. Christians believe in a triune god and both Jews and Muslims believe in One god. Now I may not be able to prove to your satisfaction which of these is the ONE RIGHT one, but only a delusional person would say they are ALL true. Unless, of course, logic has no place in your value system.

        • AtalantaBethulia

          The sky is blue.
          The sky is gray.
          The sky is cloudy.
          The sky is blue and cloudy.
          The sky is sunny.
          The sky is black.
          The sky is dark.
          The sky is made of gases that absorb and reflect light. As sunlight passes through these gasses light is scattered and absorbed. The sky appears blue because the molecules in the air absorb most of the wavelengths of light except for blue.

          The sky appears blue.
          The sky appears gray.
          The sky appears black.

          We see through a glass darkly.
          Bidden or unbidden, God is present.
          A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

        • 65snake

          I didn’t say they are all true. So sorry you misunderstood, too bad you can’t discuss it without insults.
          He’s talking about not having respect for false belief systems, and assuming that he knows which ones those are.
          Since it cannot be proven that one (if any) is the only correct one, it follows that it cannot be proven that the rest are false.

          • Toadacious

            NO, you said we are all incapable of proving ANY of them are true which is a relativists way of saying, “Who knows?” Furthermore, you chose to read into my response a personal insult. I did not say you are delusional; only that only a delusional person would think all religions a valid expression of truth. I would be interested in what criteria you have for “proof” as to the correctness of a religious belief system.

          • AtalantaBethulia

            Facts are verifiable with objective, measurable data. The data = proof.

            Beliefs about God are not measurable by objective data. That’s why God and all things Divine are in the realm of the supernatural. That’s what supernatural is: beyond the natural, observable, measurable world.

            We can say we believe in God, angels, heaven, hell, that Jesus was God, etc. But we can’t prove that they are true.

          • Toadacious

            Two points (not debating points) come to mind regarding your post:
            (1) In a post-modernist era, nothing is objective and if we actually embrace post-modernism (which I don’t) it would follow that there is no “objective” data. Hence all religion and most philosophy is rendered meaningless. And yet, millions of people (billions perhaps) throughout the world find embracing religious experience far more meaningful than some professor’s syllogism.
            (2) On the other hand, there are different kinds of “proof” and the “scientific” laboratory type is only one. There is the “proof” acceptable in a court of law in which what one experiences first hand and what one is an eye witness to carry considerable weight. That type of evidence is plentiful in the New Testament, e.g. Acts and Romans.
            The fact that the husband and wife leaving a Zen meeting ran into a rude, overbearing “Christian” says a great deal more about that man than it does Christianity or organized religion in general.

          • We are definitely not “in a post-modernist era.” Sure, post-modernism has had a pervasive influence upon contemporary culture, but I personally don’t know any one who thinks there is “no ‘objective’ data.”

          • Toadacious

            Obviously some “data” is “objective” as when one measures the roof of a house in order to purchase shingles. But in the area of “truth” we are sinking rapidly into post-modernism. Look at Wall Street. See any objective “always true” ethics there? Look at Madison Avenue–to them, anything that “sells” is truth-for-the-moment. Consider the manual or handbook of the American Psychiatric Association in which every five years “adjustments” are made to placate the whims of society. No thinking person would suggest that psychiatrists are becoming increasingly enlightened because of “scientific discoveries.” The kid who used to be “truant” now has “school phobia.” The brat who used to be unruly now has “oppositional defiant syndrome.” And the “revisions” go into much more serious areas than this.

          • Wall Street’s “truth” has always been money…nothing new there. The DSM-V isn’t updated based on societal “whims” and the field of psychiatry is indeed grounded in hard science. And labels that try to more accurately identify childhood problems are hardly indicative of a wholesale slide into moral relativism.

            Like it or not, people live their day-to-day lives based on a decidedly modern conception of the world.

          • Toadacious

            Yeah, well I worked 40 years in the public schools and saw that poor kids, maybe an absent father, certainly “ethnic” kids were “truant” and the white upper-middle class kids whose parents could “buy” the latest thing that passed for truth from a psychologist–those kids were “school phobic”. Anyone who has studied physics or chemistry would laugh to scorn that psychiatry is a “hard” science. Comes closer to fantasy games mixed with voodoo–BUT, whatever insurance companies will pony up money for. Let’s consider the year 1900 the beginning of the “modern” world. Anyone taking a good view of history would hardly consider what has come about from a “modern conception” of the world would call it progress. No, I don’t embrace a medieval view of the world nor am I enthralled with some people’s nostalgic view of the past. All the same, the modern “well that’s true for you and this is true for me” crap can’t hold a candle to the ethical and moral standard prescribed by Jesus. And if the Zen couple had the misfortune to run into a loonie-bird prattling some ersatz line that is a faint variation of Christianity, well, their Zen euphoria should have been able to handle it.

          • You do realize that psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors? Are you denying the existence of mental illness?

            I’m not sure why you think that modernism began in 1900…but the moral relativism that you’re decrying is a characteristic (or perhaps caricature) of post-modernism.

            Do you honestly see no problems with those who vociferously and acerbically try to force their understanding of “the gospel” onto others?

          • Toadacious

            Don’t be condescending, Dan, you’re better than that. Of course I know psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors (so are guys to do tummy tucks and eyelid lifts for vain, rich women. Nor do I deny the existence of mental illness. As soon as a doctor determines there is a chemical imbalance or lesion or tumor pressing on the brain or ANYTHING else that can be verified by HARD SCIENCE, those folks should have all the care that medical people can provide. But in the absence of that, we run into voodoo stuff and I know some well-regarded M.D.s who will say the same. My son is a lawyer (prosecuting attorney) and he has appeared in a myriad of cases in which each side could “find” a psychiatrist or consulting psychologist who would testify to what that side wanted to present in court. Tell me how “hard” that science is.

          • Of course every profession has its fringe elements…but you seem to want to throw the entire field of psychiatry under the bus: “No thinking person would suggest that psychiatrists are becoming increasingly enlightened because of ‘scientific discoveries.'” To try and link abuses in the field of psychiatry with a purported creep of moral relativism seems to me to be an unwarranted leap.

          • Toadacious

            No, I merely used psychiatry as an example of moral relativism and included it along with Wall Street, etc. What I described regarding the spongy element of psychiatry/psychology is not based upon “fringe elements.” No where in the U.S. could a prosecuting attorney AND a defense lawyer come up with regular M.D. s who disagreed on whether a patient’s leg was fractured or not. Hence there is no “unwarranted leap” as the psychiatry stuff was used as one of many possible examples to ILLUSTRATE moral relativism. No one would need to PROVE its existence–just read a couple newspapers and watch the nightly news. In fact, an excellent place to find many examples would be to drop into any one of a number of churches on a Sunday morning and actually pay attention to the sermon. Let me leave you with two words in this regard: JOEL OSTEEN

          • AtalantaBethulia

            Ok. Let’s talk about relativism and absolute truth.

            Is it ok to kill someone?

          • Toadacious

            What does O.K. mean? Do you mean is it legally O.K.? The answer surely would be yes although the circumstances would differ from culture to culture and from nation to nation. Do you mean is it morally O.K.? why even bother with that one. If people cannot even determine the existence of God they surely will find the O.K.ness of killing someone undeterminable.. Furthermore, we would have to quibble about what is the definition of “kill”? If I knowingly stand by and observe people starve to death and I have the means to provide them excellent nutrition, have I killed them. Ahhh, if only we had some overarching Moral Authority (like God perhaps) and if only He had provided us a book with at least some of the answers . . . but, hell, that would kill some of the fun of relativism.

          • AtalantaBethulia

            You seem angry, Toadacious. I would love to have a reasonable conversation with you about absolute truth and moral relativism. It think that would be interesting and hopefully fruitful in better understanding one another.

            If you would like to do that, I would be happy to continue.
            If not… also fine.

          • lrfcowper

            Biological sciences, including the science of the brain, are inexact. Two doctors might not disagree on whether a patient has a broken leg, but they might on whether a patient has lupus. Likewise, two mechanics might disagree on whether or not I need new brake pads. An engineer in 1800 might say a certain bridge is safe, where an engineer in 2013 looking at the design of the same bridge will say it is not safe. Human understanding of creation marches apace. This is not an indication of moral relativism but of the continuing revelation of God’s deeper designs.

          • AtalantaBethulia

            True. There is also subjective data. Subjective experience is not always able to be applied across the board to being the same for everyone.

            Example: Church is a safe place. True or false?

            False for the child who was sexually molested there.

            Does that means church is not a safe place, in general? No. It means under a certain set of circumstances to a limited number of people this is true. But that does not mean it is *always* true.

            That’s the difference between subjective and objective data.

            re: “The fact that the husband and wife leaving a Zen meeting ran into a rude, overbearing “Christian” says a great deal more about that man than it does Christianity or organized religion in general.”

            Yes. It does. Except he is not an anomaly. He is representative of a particular subset of Christianity, and it is to that group that this post is directed.

          • 65snake

            That is correct, none of them can be proved true. All belief systems of the religious sort are, fundamentally, opinion, not fact.
            My point here is that since not one of them can be proved true, the others cannot be assumed to be false. Therefore, his statement that there is no reason to respect false beliefs, which he, in this context, obviously defines as anything other than his view of christianity, is ludicrous.

            If I misunderstood your comment, my apologies, but it certainly appeared as if you were citing my comment as a statement that they were all true and as one that only a delusional person would make, unless logic played no part.

    • KellyLynne

      People like to pretend that harassing others is just “informing them of the truth,” because it gives them an excuse to be rude and condescending and claim that their nastiness is a service to God.

      Also, it doesn’t matter if you think someone’s *beliefs* are false. If you respect them as a *person,* you will acknowledge that they’ve considered their beliefs as thoroughly as you have yours, and have come to different conclusions. You won’t just decide that they’re “self-righteous” and arrogant because they disagree with you. To tell someone that they’re in denial of a blatantly obvious truth when they’ve just *explained* to you why it doesn’t appear at all obvious to them is pretty arrogant. Not only do you know everything and know all the answers, you can even read someone’s mind and tell them what they really believe.

  • Hi, guys. Bossman: you’ve done a good job defending your position. But I’m gonna ask you to now step off this particular stage, so we can maybe … create a more comfortable place for discussion. Thanks for understanding.

  • TheScar

    This is bossmanham. It is telling and typical of the emergent types to ban their opposition.

    I leave you all to your feeling of comfort. Good day.

    • I hardly “banned” you. I let stand–which is to say I chose not to delete–all TWENTY of your comments. That’s hardly being banned. It is rather simply allowing us all to take a break from your … rapid-fire aggressiveness. Back off now, though, please—and thusly be assured that your contributions to the conversation here don’t get summarily and entirely deleted. Thanks.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        No, John, you’ve actually given BossManHam/GlockBoy a big ego-boo. Now he can polish his halo with “All who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” and “Blessed are ye who are persecuted for Righteousness’ sake…”

        • And what I should have done with him was what now?

          • Oh, you did the right thing, but Headless Unicorn Guy is right … Bossy is going to go to his friends and brag about how picked-on and persecuted he is.

            I’m reminded of something my pastor says: “Sometimes, Christians are persecuted for our faith. More often, people don’t like us because we act like jerks.”

        • Oswald Carnes

          I doubt it’s his halo he’ll be polishing. He probably just saved a ton on his viagra prescription.

  • If someone is interested in faith, you better believe they’ll find someone to instruct them. I did! And if you are living the type of life that Jesus advocated, then your behavior will eventually attract the interested. The only people who are converted via proselytizing are those who were already interested in the first place. It’s like buying one of those fancy vacuums – it may be the truth that it’s the best vacuum on the market that your thousands of dollars can buy. But if it’s not what you want or are ready for or if the salesman is rude and pushy…why would you buy? This is a matter of logic. People will come around when/if they are ready, and in this age of information they will know where to turn when that happens.

  • sheila0405

    Answer a question someone first asks you. Great advice. No one appreciates being accosted, and then berated by, some well meaning proselytizer.

  • Ivyfree

    In public, I walk around them. If they approach and try to hand me something, I go limp and let them drop it. If they come to my door, they get a blistering tongue-lashing and ordered off the property. Not only am I not a Christian, I see Christianity as a religion that cannot survive without social, political, and military enforcement. Examine, if you will, how it spread. “Convert or die.” If their god can’t entice people on his own, he’s a pretty useless god. Christianity will never be truly appealing by accosting others. The answer for Christians is to do what Christians never do: act with such shining love and compassion for others that they attact interest. That does not mean approaching strangers. By doing so, they leave themselves open to any response they get. They’re rude to approach, and they get rudeness in return. They like it. It means they can log onto public message boards and discussion folders and talk about how Jesus said they would be hated. It gives them a sense of fulfillment.

    How does that Bible verse go- if people will be be converted, shake the dust from your feet and leave? There’s way too many Christians who don’t get that part of the message.

    • Jason Kisner

      I think you mean, if they reject you then shake the dust from your feet. But, I got what you meant. 🙂

  • Acebass1

    When God spoke to me he said “don’t believe any of them they’re all nuts”. I adhere to that gospel and let the chips fall where they may…

  • Occupy Christianity

    Excellent piece. Your paragraph near the end on respect really nails it. Do people think that being as offensive as possible actually attracts anyone to their way of thinking? The only place people even try that, it seems, are in religion or politics.

    On a side (but not entirely unrelated) note, it’s interesting to mention that the man in the photo…the ubiquitous rainbow-wig, John 3:16 guy, Rollen Stewart, is currently serving three consecutive life sentences in prison for a kidnapping that happened when his tenuous grip on reality finally let go.

    • Whoa. I totally had no idea who that’s a picture of. Yikes. YIKES. How awful.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Oh, yeah. “Rockin’ Rollin” over at the Kooks Museum. John 3:16 Guy, inspiration for Steve Taylor’s “Bannerman”.
      Started out a bit eccentric, with the fright wig and John 3:16 banner at public/sporting events. Nice trick, nice gimmick, a bit eccentric, kind of goofball.
      But then he just kept getting more and more intense and gradually lost it. Ended up taking hostages at the LAX Hyatt and hanging Bible-verse banners out the room’s windows. (Something to do with End Time Prophecy.) In any case, the LAPD SWAT team had to dig him out.
      It’s not so much that he lost it as that you don’t crack up like that overnight. He was involved with some splinter churches and “ministries” as he was losing it, and nobody noticed this guy was going off the deep end until he made it into the Breaking News. I wonder if his losing it had all the right Christianese buzzwords and “Souls Being SAVED” that everyone in contact with him just thought he had great Faith and was On Fire for the LORD — until he started planting bombs and taking hostages.

  • Rob Chapman

    ugh… not a fan of these types. Throwing yourself out there, attracting unwanted attention to yourself, it really seems like ego-gratification rather than fulfilling something Jesus wanted us to do. I personally believe it’s better to show by example that one can find PERSONAL fulfillment as a Christian, but it’s not necessarily something everyone can agree with or fall in love with. I think God knows better than we do, and I imagine he finds his own way to speak to people; in whatever face or form works for them. If God really needed us to force others to believe, then he’s not much of a God. Jesus might work for me and for a bunch of other people, but that doesn’t mean we have to beat it into others. Everyone has already heard of Jesus. They know where to find the information if they ever get interested. And if they don’t ever get interested, that’s ok too. ‘Love your neighbor’ never specified that they had to be Christian.

  • Susan Russell

    Headline pulled me in … Bravo, Amen and Alleluia. This is exactly the “case in point” for the argument that we are surrounded by people who think they know enough about being a Christian NOT to want to be one … and if all you knew about Christianity was Mr. “You’re Going to Burn in Hell and I’m Not” then who would blame you! Count me a new twitter follower … and come check us out at All Saints Church in Pasadena … we should talk! @revsusanrussell

  • Candace Weiss

    Whew! That is sad when Christians get like that. Makes me cringe every time I hear or read stuff like this.

  • Bonnie Rice

    What this man did, supposedly in the name of Jesus, was to totally misrepresent everything Jesus was ever about and to give the Good News a bad name. Jesus never said “go into all the world and badger people into accepting me.” He said to go into the world and spread the news. That might involve leaving tracts on cars or bulletin boards, but it doesn’t involve frightening or arguing with strangers. You won’t find a single instance where Jesus or his original disciples behaved that way. You shouldn’t find his current disciples doing it.

    • I remember the last time I saw one of those tracts…sitting on the toilet paper holder of the bathroom stall I had decided to go into. I opened the little used personal hygiene container and tossed it in.

      I think the gospel is 1. God loves me, you…well everyone. and 2. I really need to be giving my neighbor the same love I assume they owe me. Why? Because God loves me, you….well everyone.

      I’ve yet to see a tract that states anything like that.

      • I do need to add that the tract in the toilet stall was one of those really creepy chick versions of the burn in hell variety.

  • Derick

    Hey. 🙂 I’m Derick. Just curious but did you guys end up becoming Christians? Since I see your quoting the bible n all….just curious…

    • Lets see…I’ve always been involved in some realm of the faith, never really tried another, just less and less restrictive versions. Although as I get older, I get more and more unorthodox.

    • Leslie Marbach

      Derick, in the first sentence John links to the blog post about how he quite suddenly converted to Christianity.

  • Pat68

    The lack of respect is one of my issues with Jehovah’s Witnesses. After I moved in with my mother last year shortly before my father died just a few weeks before Thanksgiving, they showed up at our door ON Thanksgiving morning. Now, we weren’t celebrating per se because we were just exhausted, but it’s a national holiday! Why show up to do your proselytizing THAT morning and not even ask what I was doing until we reach the END of the conversation?? Maybe you don’t recognize the holiday, but respect the fact that others do (or that some people are getting ready for church on Sunday mornings when you decide to show up).

    • There used to be a JW lady who stopped by our house on a regular basis. She was always polite, and never really pushy. But then I simply stopped answering my door for any reason, unless I knew that someone was coming by. It has prevented many the awkward conversation.

      • Pat68

        Yeah, I no longer answer either, even when it’s obvious that someone’s home.

        • maureenbrucker

          have a sign outside my door that reads ‘no solicitations — secular or religious’. my kids and i have usually answered proselytizers with ‘we don’t buy religion door to door’.

          • Linnea912

            Hey, that’s a good idea. One of the advantages of living in a secure apartment building is that the JWs (or similar nuts) can’t get in to harangue me.

      • Tim

        I find a talkative Weimaraner at head-height is a good deterrent 😉

        (He wouldn’t, but they don’t know that 😉

        • Ann Parker Crawford

          100 pound Labradoodle. 🙂 She just wants to love them, but it allows me to keep the storm door closed.

        • lrfcowper

          Pit bull circling their car. They wouldn’t even get out of the car and I was happy not to call him off. Not that he would have done anything to them, but why tell them that? Alas, that was years ago. There’s a new Kingdom Hall being built down the road. Think I need to get a new dog.

    • Holly Yvette Kelly

      Generally JW’s wouldn’t be knocking on your door on a Sunday morning, they have services as well. And MOST are very polite and respectful, I know, because my parent’s are witness’s, and I studied with them from the age of ten to about 16.

      • Pat68

        Well unfortunately, in our area they do come around on Sundays. Not every week, but they do do it.

  • Over-aggression from anyone holding any point of view is really frightening and threatening, and I’m very unlikely to listen to someone telling me that if I don’t pay attention to them, I’ll be the recipient of violence.

    It’s always been very bizarre to me that threatening people is considered “spreading the Good News.” I’m pretty sure it’s more helpful, truthful, and important to point out all the teachings Jesus had about loving one another, caring for those who need it, and his overall messages of peace and nonviolence.

  • Donna

    The Christian Right are neither.

  • McJust

    I couldn’t agree with this more. It brings to mind a video posted on someone’s Facebook of Christians LITERALLY chasing a van in their own car while yelling questions and ‘sharing the Gospel’ to the occupants. Comments followed commending them for their zeal. Couldn’t freakin’ believe it. It is disgusting behaviour.

  • kim6erly

    Well said, John.

  • Anna Pender-Pierce

    Who was it that said “preach the gospel. Use words only when necessary.” I’ve always said I ought to be able to tell someone is a follower of Christ just by watching what they do.

    • Anna Marion Howell

      St. Francis of Assisi.

      • Anna Pender-Pierce

        Thank you, I was pretty sure it was, but wanted verification.

  • Leslie Marbach

    One time two of my friends and I attended a “revival” in DC. One of my friends is in a wheelchair. We thought this revival was a “come to Jesus meeting” but was instead all about healing. Apparently the people who invited us really wanted my friend to suddenly be able to get out of his wheelchair and walk (after having been in it for life). Understandably he started becoming quite upset when the vultures started circling us to get him to come up front. He said he needed to urinate just to give us an excuse to leave. He and I rushed to his van while our other friend stayed inside. We got in as fast as possible then I drove and hid the van behind a school bus. As I was going back in to get the friend still there, people started chasing me, spouting Scripture backing up their belief that if you’re not healed it’s because of a lack of faith. Holy crap that was a wild experience! These holy rollers were literally chasing us down trying to get us to believe what they believed so they could heal my friend. Needless to say,we never spoke to the supposed friends who invited us again.

    • Lis

      Oh my goodness. I’ve heard those people who say “if you’re not healed you don’t have enough faith!” I have a chronic illness that has left me disabled for almost 16 years and if I had a nickel… Those people are lucky I don’t have enough energy to punch them because I certainly want to!

      • The “if you’re not healed then it’s your fault” crap is one of the most evil things out there. I am so sorry that you’ve been subjected to that.

        • Lis

          It’s one of the main reasons I am very careful who I interact with. Hearing enough people that you absolutely love say that to you will give you baggage for a long time. It’s like being betrayed. Took awhile but now I feel sorry for them because that’s what they really believe. It’s black or white for them and the real world is full of gray. Eventually they will run into a situation that hits home for them and that isn’t black or white.

  • klhayes

    If a strange man approached me with even a glint of crazy in a parking lot, he would not get the chance to open his mouth. He is lucky he has not been killed doing that. He must figure he was safe in a place because people were meditating.

    I went to see the Dalai Lama in person and while I was in line, someone was screaming at that top of their lungs “Jesus Christ.” It sounded like he was just taking the Lord’s name in vain. At the time I was a Christian and I was so embarrassed. It always seems like the people who are teetering toward psychosis are out in force when it comes to evangelizing.

    • You got to meet the dalai lama. How cool is that!?! He’s on my list of people I’d love to share a meal with

  • Jennifer Sandberg

    But the problem is: He doesn’t LOVE himself. People don’t seem to understand, that self knowledge is the first thing one must do in order to love others. If you don’t love yourself, you never get to the part about loving others. I know, that’s heretical, but true – as I see it.

    • I don’t think it’s heretical. I see it a little different: If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, what happens when we don’t love ourselves well?

    • mindy

      I totally agree with you, Jennifer – but do you think for one second he would acknowledge that he doesn’t love himself? A guy like that has absolutely zero sense of self. He doesn’t know himself well enough to love himself. No one who clings so rabidly to fundamental extremism like that has a dribble of self-knowledge – because they do not allow themselves to actually THINK.

  • mikemike9

    “That the Christian with the flyers and the orange cap meant well isn’t in question.”

    It isn’t? This chap set out that night prepared to use aggressive intimidatory measures to tell decent human beings they are going to burn in flames of torment unless they decide to believe exactly what he believes. He’s likely done it before and even if he happened to read about how much concern he caused, he’s likely to do it again.

    Now to me that isn’t the sort of thing that is covered by ‘meaning well’. People who really mean well don’t act this way. Intimidation isn’t cool.

    • Shannon Montgomery

      Keep in mind that the orange cap guy genuinely, really *believes*, with everything he is, that anyone who doesn’t tick off a few boxes of particularly belief in Jesus will be tormented through infinite time. If you could bully someone into avoiding infinite pain for infinite time, would you? He meant well. He was clumsy and offensive–and, not insignificantly, *wrong*–but he really did mean well.

      • happydog

        No, as an ex-Christian, I don’t buy it. When I was witnessing, much of my desire was to remain out of hell myself, some was all about scoring points in heaven for “bringing people to Christ,” and the rest was all about trying to fight off the questions and doubts that would eventually undermine my faith in Evangelical Christianity by talking too loud to other people about Jesus.

        • Shannon Montgomery

          I’m a current Christian, but I’m a recovering fundamentalist; I grew up in a church so conservative that it makes the Southern Baptists look like the Green Party. They literally split off from the Southern Baptist Convention because they though the SBC was *too liberal*.

          My experience is different from yours. I genuinely tossed and turned at night, unable to sleep, worrying about my friends in particular going to hell. And yes, I too was afraid of hell for myself, constantly questioning my own salvation; I wanted to be seen as a leader in my community; and at the time, I didn’t see the mental gymnastics in which I was engaged to preserve the idea of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God who sends people to hell. There were multiple motives, but one of them was compassionate fear for their fates.

      • mikemike9

        “If you could bully someone into avoiding infinite pain for infinite time, would you?”

        You’ve reframed the question.

        If it was a fact that it would occur, I might consider it, yeah. But it’s not a fact. It’s only a belief, even to him.

        Would I bully someone based on my beliefs? I should hope not.

        • Shannon Montgomery

          Mikemike, he believes it as strongly as you and I believe in gravity. Unless you can get into that mindset, you can’t understand. You see it as a reframing of the question, but *he* would likely see it as the central issue in play.

          “It’s only a belief, even to him.” –That doesn’t even make sense.

          Understand that to him it’s *truth*. He believes it–he doesn’t just think it’s probably or likely or a possibility. The man believes that the sun is coming up in the morning, sugar tastes sweet, voting for president in the United States takes place every four years, and people who don’t believe in Jesus are going to hell. If pressed, he would probably tell you that the sun *might* not come up, sugar could taste differently, and voting dates could be changed–but what would *never* change is what Jesus taught, which is that you’re going to hell if you don’t believe.

          • Shannon Montgomery

            Incidentally, that level of belief is why fundamentalists should scare the hell out of all of us who want a reason-based society.

          • mikemike9

            I fully get that he considers it to be truth. I was religious for a while. Since then I have been _pursued_ through the semi-darkened Paddington railway station at midnight by a leaflet-bearing man who thought _that_ was a good time to tell me I was going to hell without Jesus. That man did not mean well; he appeared to relish intimidating me because he had Jesus as an excuse.

            If I repeatedly punched your dog in the face because I believed dogs were evil and sent to drag us to hell, would it matter at all to you if I meant well? Would it factor at all into how you judged me? Surely nobody who punches dogs in the face can possibly be said to ‘mean well’. They would instead be rationalised as ‘hate-filled’ or ‘fear-driven’.

            Meaning well covers situations like:

            – someone accidentally smashing all of a friend’s prize cut glass wine tumblers while taking it on themselves to help, unasked, with putting away

            – inadvertently knocking over your child when you run out onto the pitch to warn them that their shoelaces are undone so they don’t trip like last time

            – unintentionally harming a kitten while clumsily trying to free it from a drain in a storm.

            You know: you tried, a bad outcome occurred, but you meant well.

            Meaning well should not (and to me does not) cover planning to and deliberately engaging in intimidatory or threatening behaviour because you believe it’s in someone’s best interests. If it does, it excuses all kinds of behaviour we know to be unacceptable.

            We just need to jettison this entire model of rationalisation for ‘witnessing’ entirely. It’s as wrong to harangue people based on your conception of access to the afterlife as it would be to punch dogs in the face because you believe they are the instruments of Satan.

            (They aren’t, anyway. That’s cats.)

    • mindy

      But MikeMike, he likely believed he was “saving” them. Or trying to. Badly. But trying. That’s the thing about folks like him – they believe that what they are doing is equivalent to giving medicine to a sick child who doesn’t want to take it. They MUST tell us the truth, even if we don’t want to hear it. They think in only black and white, and not wanting to hear it simply isn’t an option. Just like the child cannot refuse the medicine. I’m not defending the guy – he’s batshit crazy as far as I’m concerned – but I do believe that he meant well. Just in a deluded, socially inappropriate sort of way.

  • Jenna Moore

    “If you’re a Christian, please never forget that the whole point of being a witness is to answer questions that someone first asks you.”

    Actually, that’s not true. Jesus didn’t so “go out and make disciples of those who are curious.” He said make disciples of all nations. That means sharing the gospel with everyone, whether they ask or not. You should pick and choose your opportunities-pray before you start. And there’s a huge difference between sharing the gospel and trying to shove it down someone’s throat. The right approach is to offer some information and then ask-would you like to hear more? When the answer is No, you say okay. And walk away. This guy was probably never trained in how to share the gospel effectively. He’s not trying to make a disciple, he’s trying to win an argument. One important thing about witnessing is that not everyone accepts the offer. We can’t force it and trying to do so never works.

    • AtalantaBethulia

      Thank you for your comment, Jenna.

      Mark 16:15-16 (NRSV) reads : ‘And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.”‘

      Matthew 28:19-20 (NRSV) reads: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”’

      The gospels do not paint a picture of Jesus as one who was “sharing the gospel with everyone, whether they ask or not.” At least not in the way folks who believe in this type of evangelism tend to mean by the word “share.” We hear stories of him teaching in the synagogue and in public places, but those would seem to indicate that people came to him. In Mark’s version, the oldest gospel, he uses the word “proclaim.” Proclaiming can indicate a variety of methods, including non-verbal ones, just as “The heavens declare the glory of God” doesn’t mean that the sky can talk. We have to allow for literary technique in the use of language and not adhere rigidly to a literal interpretation.

      Also: the gospels describe Jesus as doing a great deal of healing and ministering to people (another way of proclaiming the good news) but not whether they ask or not. Most, if not all, asked to be healed.

      The notion that we are to share the gospel with everyone is understood in non-evangelical circles as the testimony we project in how we live our lives as followers of Christ and by way of our interactions with others – with everyone – in how we treat them… with fairness, justice, meekness, gentleness, humility, peacefulness, temperance, patience, respect – the beatitudes. It is attributed to St. Francis that he said “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” Maybe he said this and maybe he didn’t, but Jesus’ teaching of the Good Samaritan demonstrates this point nicely.

      The part about “whether they ask or not” and inferring that sharing the gospel means “telling someone about how Jesus died for their sins and can guarantee their place in heaven” is interpreted by many who did not ask about one’s faith as “trying to shove it down someone’s throat.”

      This is why some will ask those who feel it is their duty to evangelize in this way how they feel when people of other faiths attempt to evangelize them – like with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example. Bothered? Annoyed? Do you avoid them? Do you wish they would stop coming around? Does it make you angry?

      Many non-evangelical Christians feel that evangelizing strangers in this way lacks two critical components upon which the gospel and biblical teaching is based: relationship and hesed. Hesed is the Jewish concept of hospitality and compassion: to treat others as you wish to be treated. The Hebrew Scriptures talk about the sin of Sodom being that the city lacked Hesed – loving kindness. Hospitality is a very important concept in Judaism.

      When someone who has no relationship to me approaches me for the purpose of attempting to convince me of my need to accept what they have – be it encyclopedias or cleaners or religion – I feel like I am being sold something, as do many others. This is generally not perceived as a positive experience. In a one way exchange like this, it is clear that the one evangelizing doesn’t actually care about the individual so much as they care about doing what it is that they think they are supposed to do: fulfilling the great commission (or selling what they have). This is actually then an act of ego rather than hesed/compassion: I’m doing what I want and feel I need to do vs. I’m seeing and meeting the wants and needs of another – true compassion.

      If all a person cares about is telling me what they have to say, rather than in investing genuine (I Corinthians 13) time and effort in a legitimate relationship – what does that say about that person?

      Actions speak louder than words. This is why this type of prosthelytizing is such a turn off, rather than a relationship-building experience for most people. People are far more likely to be interested in what you have to say when you have invested time and energy and love in a relationship with them rather than in a drive by “telling” of what you believe and why you think they need it.

      • Lis

        So beautifully said!

    • mikemike9

      “One important thing about witnessing is that not everyone accepts the offer.”

      I am no Christian but it seems to me that “witnessing” is to “bearing witness” what “marketing” is to “running a market”.

      Please try thinking about that before you do it again.

  • I have tried to imagine Jesus acting like a person john’ s story,or the JW or the people chasing down someone escaping a “healing” service.

    If that was Jesus’s methodology, would people have flocked to him, gone through great lengths to get close enough to touch him, invite him to dinner, consider his statements valuable enough to write down?

    I seriously doubt it.

  • Joshua David Means

    Awesome. 🙂

  • Peter Fotopoulos

    Anyone can cherry-pick the New Testament to embrace the scripture they agree with and ignore what they disagree with.

    For example, if you believe everything in the New Testament must be applied to life in the 21st century, then women must never speak in church and must pray with their heads covered.

    In 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Paul wrote: “As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

    I attend an Episcopalian church where the leader of the congregation is a woman. No part of her head is covered, and she delivers great sermons.

    I reject the belief that a Mongolian farmer who lives a good life yet has never heard anything about Jesus or Christianity will go to hell when he dies, as many fundamentalists believe.

    Here’s a section of the New Testament, Romans 2:12

    “For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without the law: and as many as have sinned under the law shall be judged by the law; for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified: for when Gentiles that have not the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are the law unto themselves; in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing them on the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my gospel, by Jesus Christ.”

    If you’re accosted by a religious extremist trying to shove the Bible down your throat, and don’t accept Jesus as your savior, you’re not going to hell.

    I don’t even know if a fiery hell is real. I’d prefer that someone like Adolf Hitler be given a glimpse of Heaven and then be told, “You’re not welcome here,” after which he ceases to exist.

    My advice: live a good life. Don’t lie, cheat, steal, hate or be a hypocrite.

    Be good, and help the less-fortunate among us whenever you can.

  • Toadacious

    O.K. the guy who accosted the Zen couple was annoying and apparently they found him scary or off-putting or whatever. If the same guy harangued them about the virtues of aluminum siding or some food blender that could puree okra would they have been as indignant? I doubt it. I have to wonder why the sensitivity is so heightened in this case. One would think a good Zen meditation session would have provided them with some opaque koan to on the guy. The response in this forum to a mild annoyance is on a par with someone from some other religion (oh, pick one) deliberately flying a plane into a large, people-packed building and all in the name of religion.

    • I would say the answer is yes. Piranha style salesmanship will turn me off in about three seconds, then I want to get the hell away from them as fast as possible.
      I don’t care if you are selling salvation, or baroloungers, making a sale using aggressive measures may get you to close a deal, mostly they just want to appease you, but I’m betting your customers don’t recommend you to their friends. You’ll probably also discover that they returned the item they got talked into within the week.
      And likening using bad theology as a recruiting method, with using bad theology to commit mass murder is in very poor form. Especially considering how people within Christianity have done its share of both.

    • AtalantaBethulia

      Hyperbole is unbecoming and unproductive to reasonable, civil conversation. How about we stick to reality and the spirit of the conversation?

      I would liken the response to what one might expect to find on a forum about people who click their pens and make mouth noises while eating: “That drives me crazy too! I totally wish people would stop doing that! Don’t they know how completely annoying that is!”

      – or –

      a forum on pushy sales people: “If I want help, I’ll ask. If I like it, I’ll buy it. Otherwise, leave me alone.”

    • Even the most obnoxious salesperson I’ve encountered didn’t scream that I was going to hell if I didn’t buy a blender.

      I’ve also never been accosted on the street by a blender salesperson. Those factors do make differences.

      • Toadacious

        Your point “accosted on the street” is well taken. However, when it comes to screaming and telling me I’m a “bad” person, I’ve had a couple experiences: (1) A door-to-door encyclopedia salesman (this was a few year ago) was very, very insistent and told me if I didn’t buy a set of his encyclopedia I must not care much for my children and was a poor father. (2) Several years ago my wife and I visited a store in Nevada to buy a mattress for our daughter who had just rented an apartment. The sales lady showed us several $1,000 to $1,200 mattresses (I’m not exaggerating) and indicated these were the kind she bought for her grandson because, “I guess you have to love your child or grandchild. Otherwise, anything will do.” So this sort of thing does exist in the secular setting as well.

        • And it’s unacceptable. I would never buy anything from a salesperson who acts like that. If I come across a blog post about such a thing, I’ll likely voice my support for the criticism.

          What is your point?

          I would argue that we, as Christians, should be more like Christ and less like the worst examples of salespeople. That’s my point.

          If all you’re saying is that other people are jerks, too, then … ummmmmm … yeah. No one has ever denied that. But if you really think that people who don’t become Christians are hell-bound, then making Christianity as onerous as possible and turning people off might not be a good idea.

          • Toadacious

            Perhaps I haven’t made clear as I should have that I find the behavior of the “witnessing Christian” rude, inappropriate and unChrist-like. Having said that, I went on to make the point that the Zen couple seemed unduly “thrown” by the incident. Especially having just come from a Zen experience. Handling these people is not much different from handling secular creeps such as over-zealous politicians or sales persons. E.g. Were it I who was confronted by this zealot I would have asked (with straight face) “How can I accept Jesus when no one has been able to explain the 3rd chapter of Nahum to me?” Or, “Where did Cain get his wife and how long did it take her to evolve”? Ya gotta lighten up and have some fun with these people.

          • mindy

            And you missed the entire point.

    • mindy

      Really, Toad? Be serious. First of all, if someone told me, actually said to my face that I was going to burn in hell – this someone being someone I had never met before that moment – I would find it more than a mild annoyance and my reaction, while outwardly staid, would be revulsion. And since this is a forum focused on faith and belief systems, the discussion tends to be centered around, um, faith and beliefs. Which kinda leads to religion, does it not? Not siding or kitchen appliances. And I don’t believe John and Cat getting in their own car and driving home is on par with anything remotely connected to terrorism. Nor are the responses here, or at least the ones I’ve read so far. Conversation vs. Violent acts of death. Nope, not working. Analogy fail.

      • Toadacious

        Gee, Mindy, sorry you got your righteous panties in a bunch! I merely pointed out that another reaction (other than “revulsion”) to some guy laying the “going to hell” line on me was to chill out a bit and have some fun with it. Being mock serious and asking whether there were degrees of hell or if there was a statute of limitations on hell would be examples. Furthermore if you read with comprehension you would see that I made no “analogy” with acts of violence, that was merely to put in perspective. Try the de-cafe for a day or two.

        • lrfcowper

          But mocking the guy would be disrespectful, which wasn’t John’s style, especially after meditation. So… Your point is, when encountering obnoxious “witnesses”, we should make fun of their beliefs till they slink away, storm off, or slug us? How very Christian of you.

          • Toadacious

            I don’t respect ALL people. For example, I don’t respect people who are openly racist. If you do, I hope you feel significantly righteous about it. Furthermore, your last sentence, dripping with sarcasm. indicates that you are also not in a position to “judge.” However, I am assuming there would be bystanders listening to the conversation and I want to expose this Super Proselytizer as a fraud. Hence, I’ll ask him questions that reveal that fact. If you can’t handle it, you can be one of the bystanders who walks away, piously going, “Tsk, tsk, a pox on both your houses.”

          • AtalantaBethulia

            So, an eye for an eye, then? Meeting annoying behavior with sarcasm and disdain?

            I think not.

            John and Cat’s response showed the grace one would expect of Christians and Buddhists alike. The fact that they discussed it after the fact is what couples do. They are entitled to their feelings about what happened. Now a Christian, John wrote about that experience as an example of “Lessons in What Not to Do as a Christian and Why.”

            You have expressed an opinion that their feelings about the situation and those feelings of others that have been expressed here (Note: Feelings not actions) are somehow out of synch with and an over reaction to the annoying behavior displayed by the proselytizer (Note: an action) and yet you have suggested that a more appropriate response to the proselytizer would have been to challenge and mock him (Note: an action).

            This hardly seems like the appropriate response – for a Christian or anyone.

            Sure…the more Zen we are, the more understanding we are the more patience we have and insight into human behavior, the more we embody the beatitudes we can shake our heads in a knowing way when things like this happen to us and to others and give the young man a good ole Southern, “Well, bless his heart,” and carry on.

            But when writing about how Christianity needs to reform if it hopes to (re)gain credibility and positive cultural influence, then Christians are going to talk about where things have gone awry in the faith as a way of raising awareness and pointing out areas in need of reform.

          • Toadacious

            O.K. , you’ve got a corner on the pious market. Do all you feel-good types have reading comprehension problems? Two quick points: (1) I very CLEARLY explained that the questions I would ask (that appear mocking because in a way they are) were to expose the ridiculous position he is taking for the benefit of observers who haven’t processed fully what they are seeing. (2) You clearly are ignorant of the Bible because “Eye for eye” IS Biblical and it was necessary for a time because its intended purpose (Jewish scholars are agreed on this) was to LIMIT retaliation. Look up a guy named Lamech in Genesis and you’ll see that attitude. Yes, Jesus said, we are to change from “eye to eye” (yup, I know, Sermon on the Mount) but you interpret what the aggressive Christian who is “witnessing” is doing as injury. My WHOLE point is it’s NOT injury unless you’re terribly thin-skinned.
            One last point: no where in the Bible is “mocking” forbidden by God or Jesus. Read of Elijah and the Prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel where Elijah mocks and ridicules them openly and repeatedly. WHY??? Because he is hammering home the point that Baal worshipers are promoting ideas that have no right to be respected and that would do nothing except lead God’s people astray.
            And if you think sarcasm is such a “un-Christian” trait, you better over look Matthew 23 where Jesus excoriates the Pharisees repeatedly, and in front of an audience, calls them blind guides, hypocrites, white-washed tombs, blind fools snakes and more. So you stick to your candy-ass religion and I’ll take my cue from Scripture.

          • AtalantaBethulia

            Speaking truth to power is different than being a jerk.

            Preaching like Dr. King and Jesus’ Seven Woes to the Pharisees (not sarcasm, by the way) isn’t the same thing as being mean to individuals. The motivation for the response matters. Where the heart of the individual is matters. Just like the proselytizer had his heart in the right place, so too should we have ours in responding to him.

            That’s my point.

          • scat

            You lose credibility when you make personal attacks attempting to denigrate others here.

        • mindy

          Um, Toad? Your comprehension skills (or memory, perhaps?) could use some work. Here be the analogy of which I spoke: “The response in this forum to a mild annoyance is on a par with someone from some other religion (oh, pick one) deliberately flying a plane into a large, people-packed building and all in the name of religion.” That is making the responses analogous to acts of violence, which is *how* you attempted to provide perspective. You were wrong, but that’s a different issue. And if I drank de-caf, there really would be hell to pay. So no, thank you.

  • Herro

    That guy sounds like a nicer guy than Jesus! “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Mt 23:33)

    • AtalantaBethulia

      Of course, Jesus was speaking to and about the abuse of power he saw in the religious leaders of his day, which ultimately led to his death. Criticizing the abuses of religious leaders, the power structure of the Church and the unholy alignment of Religion with Empire is still widely unpopular today.

    • Thank you for illustrating what’s wrong with proof-texting by selecting single verses.

      Jesus was telling off religious leaders who showed up at His sermons, not random people he passed on the street. Kind of a big difference, there.

      • Herro

        Ken, is it OK not to love religious leaders who show up at Jesus’ rant in the temple? What you don’t realise is that Jesus was showing them a lack of respect. By proving that he had no respect whatsoever for their belief system, he proved that he could have no respect for them personally. And that could only mean that he did not, and would not, love them, since the best that love without respect can be is patronizing. He also eradicated any possibility of his loving them by driving them away from him: it’s not possible to actually and truly love someone with whom you have no relationship at all. So Jesus was clearly violating the commandment to love them as you love yourself.

        • lrfcowper

          You mean the religious leaders who were all complicit in turning their holy temple into a place that robbed people at the money changers and again at the booths selling sacrificial animals? A place that put access to God’s forgiveness and blessing outside the reach of the poor, the widows, the orphans? A place that stole from the faithful traveling from foreign lands?

          You realise that the temple was for all Jews and not just the religious leaders, right? Jesus was a Jew. It was his temple.

          Jesus was a Jew. Jesus shared the beliefs of the religious leaders and showed more respect for their belief system than they did, unless you want to argue that their belief system was “make as much money as you can, any way you can, gouging anyone you can,” in which case, he was defending his holy place from a takeover from an outside faith.

          Love doesn’t mean “never make anyone feel bad.” If your child gets sick or hurt, you may have to insist they take medicine they don’t like the taste of or endure a wound-cleaning that is painful. That doesn’t mean you don’t love them.

          We have different duties to those within our faith than to those outside our faith. Problems arise when we don’t understand that.

        • No respect for their belief system? That’s quite an extrapolation.

          If you mean the traders whom He threw out of the Temple … all He did was expel them from doing what they knew to be wrong. That’s actually only condemning the actions.

          As for Pharisees and Sadduccees, he only condemned their teachings and them very specifically. That He had respect for them as people and was willing to have a relationship with them is illustrated by the fact that He met with Nicodemus, and answered his questions quite patiently.

          No idea what point you’re trying to make, but it’s just not there. Jesus railed against the abuse of power, and forced people to stop exploiting His people. He never stopped loving people, even the ones who killed Him.

  • Derick

    If you drive through intersections …you are in a realm of faith. What I mean is…Is Jesus your Lord. Do you trust Him and His work on the cross. Are you a born again, blood washed Saint?

    • huh?

    • ErikaBeseda


    • adam

      So you don’t need to look both ways.
      That will make the trips faster.

  • Hello thanks for this terrific testimony!

    ““It’s more than just an option. It’s the only way. Anyone who doesn’t repent of their sins and declare the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal savior is lost to the flames of eternal hell.”!

    Actually, a good God is going to also ask the person to spend eternity with Him AFTER she died:

    These fundamentalist preachers are a shame for Christendom, they are preaching a God who is far morally inferior to most humans.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son


  • Kim Stephens

    Thank you for putting into words what I’ve only been able to express with a “Coexist” bumper sticker.

  • Ted Garvin

    That is the problem with a “numbers numbers numbers” attitude toward church growth. Membership is the sole definer of growth. Gotta get more people into the church, even if we lose our own identity in the process.

    I think growth is something that happens -in- church as opposed to -to- church.

  • John et al –

    I am totally going to necropost all up in this shiznit to say that I was reading “unChristian” earlier and it brought up this interesting thing that made me think of this particular post: namely, that out of every single interview with non-Christians that the authors did, not a single person expressed anything positive at all about street preaching. Not a single one. Nobody. Thinking back to my super-fundie days, I don’t remember anybody, ever, being influenced by anything my church did in that regard (I was a bit too reserved and dignified to go street preaching, but I watched it often). Certainly nobody converted, but nobody even seemed more inclined to convert later (what my church called “planting seeds”). In fact this style of interruptive marketing just seemed to alienate people and make them more hostile to our religion. I don’t remember anybody being anything but offended or accosted by what street preachers did; this was back when Brother Jed and Sister Cindy were young whippersnappers–and I don’t remember anybody coming out of an encounter with either of them and being overwhelmed with anything but judgement and hate.

    So I’ve got to wonder…. what’s the real goal then? If conversion were the real goal, don’t you suppose they’d be interested, even eager, to find out what works and what doesn’t and to avoid what doesn’t work? But that’s not what is happening–here as in other situations where similarly useless or hindering strategies are employed. Why do so many street preachers do this stuff and seem to think this is the ultimate in “soulwinning” bravery when at best it’s a waste of effort/time and at worst a serious hindrance to their own stated goals? Could this be another place where Christians’ stated goals do not match their tactics? I’m still chewing on the idea, but it’s a simply fascinating one to me. They say they want one thing, but the stuff they’re doing all but guarantees that isn’t going to happen. So why do it?

    • BarbaraR

      Here’s my take on why they do it:

      When I was young and dumber than a box of rocks, I went to a fundie church. There were a few things I heard over and over (paraphrased by me):

      – Jesus will come back when everyone has heard the gospel.
      – If you tell everyone about Jesus, they will have heard it.
      – They can’t say they didn’t know. WE TOLD THEM. It’s THEIR fault if they don’t accept Jesus.
      – Therefore, it’s our responsibility to hurry-up the Second Coming of Christ by telling everyone.
      – If you DON’T tell someone, their blood is on your hands. They will go to hell because YOU didn’t tell them.

      Being young and dumb, and in an atmosphere where questioning was actively looked down upon, I blindly believed all this. It was my responsibility to spread the Good News of the Love of Jesus; if you reject Jesus and His Love, you’re going to hell, but it won’t be my fault.

      • I hear ya. When I was a fundie, that’s how we thought about it too, that we needed to spread the gospel to everybody to make Jesus return faster (because of course humans could force a god’s hand), but even on that level street preaching fails because it just doesn’t reach enough people to make the time effort worthwhile. Why aren’t they buying advertising on major national TV networks? Why aren’t they plastering more billboards around? Why the one-on-few approach? For that matter, why bother with America at all? It’s not like people here have no idea what Christianity is. It’s a little ethnocentric, isn’t it? The very few groups of folks on the planet who haven’t heard about it are nowhere near where street preachers prey upon the unwary.

        So not only does it fail at converting people, resulting only in the gruesome torture in hell of people who were never going to convert anyway after hearing the “Good News,” but it also doesn’t even work on a numbers level because it’s a hopelessly inefficient method of spreading the Gospel to those who’ve never heard it.

        I’m so glad to be out of that sick mindset. And it sounds like you’re out of it too, which is great to hear!

        • BarbaraR

          Boy howdy, you got that right.
          I think the street preaching is very appealing to the bombastic personality, who then enjoys going back and reporting to sycophants about what happened (real or imagined). “I did my part! I told them what their destiny was! I weep for those people…”

        • JenellYB

          That’s an interesting line of thought. It would certainly fit with how often it feels like its about some selfish pleasure for themselves. To just be thinking, if I can help get all this telling everyone done, Jesus is going to come sweep me to paradise! the same kind of thinking in those supporting the Jewish Zionist movement, calling it “supporting Israel” but that do so only for their own purely selfish motives, not to help or ‘save’ the Jews, but to please God by having been “Israel’s friend” for their own reward, and so the Jews will succeed in playing their part in their ‘last days scenario’ so as to bring about the return of Jesus who is then going to crush them and establish Christians as rulers of the world.

      • Deborah W Halasz

        Hmm, you’re reminding me of my earlier days. I remember the whole – witnessing will bring about the second coming of Christ and how horrible it was to know that someone’s going to hell was somehow a Christian’s (my) fault. Now that I think about it, I don’t remember reading that anywhere in the Bible. It was just something pastors told me over and over again. Please, if there’s something remotely related to that in the Bible, let me know.

        At any rate, I wholeheartedly agree, that being a witness isn’t about telling people they’re going to hell or handing out pamphlets in the street. It’s about loving others and having answers when people ask.

    • JenellYB

      I think you are very right about how they HAVE to know this kind of stuff never ‘helps’ bring anyone closer to conversion, is only going to antagonize ad alienate, and some of them take it so much further before such an encounter is done, actually tossing in desultory insults and put-downs. It is not rare to even see a smirky little smile when they figure they’ve got to someone, raised their dander, pissed them off, spoiled their relaxed day. Like that’s what they WANT to do. I am very sensitive to other people’s emotional states, moods, attitudes, and I honestly sense a lot of hostility in these people. I’m wanting to use the term “trolls?” As if they are trolling just to get a rise out of someone else? Often, what they use is not only insulting, but with some hint of ‘accusation’ in it, some ‘suggestion’ of something bad or wrong about you, like bait, to get you to rise to it, go on the defensive. And if you just ignore that, it gets bolder and more explicit, the suggestion that since you did not voice objection or offer a defense, you must be unable to answer for it, explain yourself, can’t deny it, so it must be true, which can open a whole new lead in their direction of assault on your need to repent and confess and ask for forgiveness of the sin, whatever it was that was suggested. Sometimes those little baited hooks seem random general trolling, sometimes they seem to look for ‘clues’ in how you look or speak or where you are, such as the couple above at the zen center, sometimes if they know even a little about you, something they can somehow tie to that. It does all seem very hostile, mean-spirited, to me, and not at all out of any sincere intent to ‘win’ anyone over to anything. It does make me wonder what is really going on.

  • Jason Owens

    Joining late, but the irony is that Jesus was the ultimate street preacher. Had he not been going around calling people to repentance, the masses wouldn’t be drawn around to ask him questions.

  • Mark Listrud

    Charity is #1. To help those in need of help. That’s what separates us from the animals. Balance between Justice and Mercy.. Patience. Seems Zen guy was patient enough, where as the street “preacher” was a bit overzealous in his over all approach. Cram it down your throat in a short amount of time, the least amount of respect seemed more of a crime.