I met Barbara and Mike, from a tiny Texas town, and when we met in the Mall’s cafeteria food line, they invited me to join them and their large family at their table. It was a lovely visit, except that 60-year-old, Mike is a very, very aggressive, Born-Again Christian. With a bright smile, he starts grilling a new person, whom he apparently, has already figured out “Isn’t Saved” from our demeanor. Then, he gets hardcore about “Where will you spend eternity?” and just preaches away, to the obvious embarrassment of his wife and the others. I fielded his parlays, changed the subject, and we all enjoyed the visit. After parting, I was sorry I hadn’t mentioned my upcoming plan to go to the Holy Land and visit the places associated with Jesus’ life. He might have relented a little bit.
But, I soon found them again in the grocery store and spoke to him about my plans. And, mighty-impressed he was! Never having left Texas, until now! I didn’t see Barbara, or his other family members scattered through the store but this was better. He could tell me the story of the Woman At The Well, in full. I complimented him on his storytelling ability and learned that he told these stories at children’s bible camp and he’s not a preacher, as I thought.
He was well-pleased with himself when we parted. Such an ego trip, this work for Jesus is! If I should see them again, I’ll call him on this bullying challenge about roasting in Hell for eternity unless I get right with God, then and there! Okay, I’ll say “Right now, sign me up!” And I’ll see if he has the power to do that. Oh my Holy Spirit! What do you say to that plan, or would I be apostatizing myself?
“My God, no! You do believe in Jesus, don’t you?”
Well, of course!
“We would love it if you’d do something like this! He would have his victory and you would have yours! And, you would be sincere. Very innocently sincere. But, I doubt if he’s equipped to make your conversion official, right then and there…. which would be part of the deal. If he has pushed you to the brink about the danger you’re in; he’d better be able to’ Save You,’ right away! Or else, he should leave people alone, once and for all! He would be a hypocrite if he cannot deliver on his threats.
But, you mustn’t tell him off, like I hear you rehearsing in your head, because it would shame him in front of his family. Just expect him to “lay on hands. ” or whatever, and accept you as a Child of Jesus forever and ever, amen. And then, you will be Saved and We can work on him from within his head to lay off of the public, or he may have his hands full.”
What if I expect some sort of a bang-for-my-buck on the conversion? Not just a wave of the hands or a fake baptism; and not something I have to handle myself. No, my “seeing the light” is his doing and he’d better be able to deliver on the rescue. I’m pretty sure that people don’t just rollover to him, but argue or get insulted, which probably delivers a satisfactory smug dose of “Holier Than Thou” to him, every time. After all, he is Jesus’ Champion! Plus, he wouldn’t want me to get into the hands of the wrong denomination and not the small sect of Southern Pentecostal Baptists that he represents. Heaven forbid! This could be lots of fun, plenty revealing and a great preparation for our coming quest into the Great Cathedrals and origin places of the world religions. What do You say?
“You are in Seventh Heaven with this plan! It could be so funny and so indicative of a True Believer of any of these sects. It’s mind-boggling that this should be happening. Y.E.S! I don’t know what is coming next! You were a Christian by your growth pattern. Episcopalian as a girl, and now, you have another chance to go on the trail of a rabid believer!”
You know, he didn’t even ask me what I believed, or of my background, at all. Just threw assumptions at me. I had no time to mention my past – as a Christian, a Baha’i or a Metaphysical person. He swung into the act reserved for a complete non-believer. Didn’t even ask if I believed in God! God never entered the picture! Only Jesus, who is also God, in his Messenger-Worshipping brand of Christianity.
Mike doesn’t appear to be uneducated, but aside from his smiling charm, he’s terribly shallow and unpracticed, having never left his small Texas town until now. He has nothing behind the innocent and ignorant belligerence; and yet, the family is classy, and I’m sure, very embarrassed. Poor Barbara! What a long, hard marriage she has had, unless she shares his convictions and he leaves her alone.
Later, while traveling in Israel and meeting many fundamentalist Christians on pilgrimage to their Holy Sites, I studied some of the literature that they passed out. I realized that they were exhorted to “Preach The Word!” and the emphasis was all upon the action implied; not upon the result. That explained why groups of them would stand at the Gate of Jerusalem and call out to the crowds entering, while giving away their denomination’s literature. They cared nothing for personal conversations or conversions. It was all about the preaching! That was how they earned their own way to Heaven and it didn’t really matter what their audience did with it.
So, Mike was all about Mike, all along, and I was simply a statistic to add to his daily count of daily, personal witnessing duties. Any silly “Sign me up!” drama would have fallen on deaf ears.