As you may know I spent a week at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Since it’s in the middle of nowhere I never went off campus during my six days there. Let’s face it the nightlife in Shepherdstown left something to be desired. So my car sat there collecting dust and pollen. When I finally checked out on Friday morning I found a little brochure “Have you heard of the FOUR SPIRITUAL LAWS?” on my windshield. I thought for a moment maybe it was left by the same lady who wanted me to emigrate. But then I realized it couldn’t be her, because this brochure was inviting me to the Calvary Road Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. And that’s in the United States.
So this time it wasn’t the anti-Bush bumper sticker that got someone’s attention, it was my Unitarian Universalist bumper sticker instead. And this zealot must have been wise enough to grasp the obvious: I was (gasp) unsaved!
This was an accurate assumption. Where this proselytizer went wrong is that, like most of them, he or she assumed I was a moron. Apparently he or she assumed I had gone through 47 years of living and had not heard the “good news” about Jesus Christ. I must have been living in a cave somewhere all this time practicing Zorasterism or something. I flipped through their publication against my better judgment. Imagine my surprise when I learned that Jesus apparently was the one and only way I was ever going to get to heaven. Without the big J guy I was apparently hell bound.
As someone who was born and raised Catholic this was not news to me. In fact you would have to be either a very recent immigrant from some very remote country or have suffered a recent bout of amnesia to not possibly know that Christians believe Jesus is the only way to get into heaven. And yet this very obvious bit of knowledge doesn’t seem to penetrate the minds of these people. They assume those of us unsaved are unwashed and ignorant heathen.
But they must have been clever enough to know that I might be a skeptic and might need proof in their assertion that Jesus is the only way to get into heaven. Thankfully by page 7 of the brochure there it was: John 14:6. “Jesus saith unto him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.'”
Case closed! Hey, it’s in the Bible! There is of course the wee little problem that first you have to believe in the Bible before you will accept it as the word of God. And that’s the problem with this little brochure. If it is trying to convince me it is doing a damned poor job. So I would like to say to this member of the Calvary Road Baptist Church: If I knocked on your door and showed you a passage from the Koran that only through obedience to Allah’s will can you gain eternal life would this convince you to abandon Christianity?
Somehow I think not. Then why on earth would you think this sort of logic would convince me?
And before you leave brochures everywhere, how about learning a little about comparative religions first? Would it hurt to learn more about Unitarian Universalism other than “they’re not really Christians”? If you took a few minutes to explore the UUA web site you’d realize we’re not spiritual morons. We’re complex creatures comfortable with ambiguity. We celebrate religious pluralism and your right to practice your version of Christianity. In fact in my own way I have already been proselytizing. Yes, I took a class of Unitarian Universalists children to a few Christian churches as part of our yearlong religious education class. We also took our students to a Jewish temple, discussed paganism, went through the beliefs of Muslims and even practiced praying to Mecca six times a day. In short we encourage our youth to explore all aspects of religion and spirituality. We don’t claim Unitarian Universalism is the right religion for anyone. One of our few principles is never to proselytize. So don’t worry, we won’t be leaving brochures on your windshield telling you your only way to true happiness is by coming to a UU service and drinking too much coffee after the service at our long winded social hours. We respect you too much as a human being to shove our beliefs in your face.
Yes, I know you have to do it. Your faith informs you that you have to bring the good news of salvation to us heathens. Well news flash: your tactics suck. I don’t know how many people you actually get to come to Jesus from all these silly brochures. But I have to think that any that you do get must be morons, and if so I guess you and Jesus are welcome to them.
As for the rest of us, we’ve been around the block. We know about Jesus. We know about The Buddha. We know about Allah. We know about atheists, wiccans and the 50% of Americans who are “religious” or “spiritual” but can’t be bothered to go to church on Sundays. If you expect to win our respect you got to do it the old fashioned way. You have to earn it. You have to treat us like adults and respect our opinions. You have to behave in a way that is consistent with the deity you claim to emulate. And here’s another news flash: most Christians are about as Christ-like as Attila the Hun. Instead of praying in their closets they act like the moneychangers at the temple. Instead of turning the other cheek they cheer on President Bush when he unilaterally wages war on sovereign countries. If you want to earn my respect, don’t proselytize and act a lot more like Jimmy Carter. Let me see your faith manifest in good works. Let me feel I am your peer, not some unenlightened and ignorant fool. Then perhaps we can have a meaningful conversation and I can learn where you are truly coming from. And perhaps your mind would open just a crack to appreciate my perspective too.
Maybe we would both grow a little as a result. I think Jesus would approve. Meanwhile insulting brochures like yours only make me gag. Rest assured I won’t go anywhere near the Calvary Road Baptist Church. If you treat me like a moron you earn only my contempt.
I’ll probably regret this but I am going to CC the Calvary Road Baptist Church.