I’ve often been troubled by Bible-thumpers and religious tract-pushers of all kinds. This is, as I’ve alluded to before, one of the many reasons that I’m an ELCA Lutheran. We’ll let you know that we exist, and if you want to know more about us, feel free to ask, and then we’ll tell you all you want to know…but only if you insist.
But getting back to the point I’m trying to work up to, I’ve often been troubled by proselytizers of all kinds. I mean, with so many different people claiming to have the absolute truth about, and inside track to, God, who am I supposed to believe?
With all the different opinions out there, I sometimes like to apply what I call the “Martian Standard.” That is, if a person from Mars arrived tomorrow, with no cultural baggage…at least no cultural baggage from this planet, what religion would they pick? After listening to everyone’s spiel, who would they decide made the most sense? Would they decide that anyone made sense, or would they just say that it was all nonsense?
And this brings me to me.
Christianity has the concept of “evangelism”, which literally means “to spread the good news.” Let’s ignore for the moment that many so-called “evangelists” are anything but good news, and take the term for what it’s supposed to mean.
I, as a Christian, yes, even as a Lutheran, am supposed to be about spreading the good news. I figure I spread it most effectively by quietly doing good, and letting people be surprised to find out that I’m religious. But let’s take a look at the idea of me actually going out and talking to people about my beliefs. In which case the Martian Standard has me asking:
Why should anyone listen to me?
Really. Why me and not Shoshana? Or Ahmed? Or Yoshi? Or Sanjit? Or any of tons of other people. Why should anyone listen to me, and think that I speak authoritatively for God?
More to the point, if God really wants to get his message to people, if God really wants people to listen, and to know that this isn’t just another Bozo claiming to speak for him, why doesn’t he just do it himself, in a voice that we’ll all know is his?
Many years ago, I read a reprint of a short story that appeared in the August 1948 issue of Cosmopolitan called The Next Voice You Hear. It was about how in the years not too far after the end of World War II, God decided to take over all the radio stations in the world for a short broadcast at the same time every night for a week, to let people know that he was there, and to encourage them to get along with each other and do right by each other.
And this brings me back to my original question: Why should anyone listen to me…a person full of his own biases and misconceptions, who is bound to get things wrong, even with the best of intentions? For that matter, why should anyone listen to Shoshana, Ahmed, Yoshi, or Sanjit?
What I’d really like is to turn on the radio for a week…