Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ave, Charles!

This is pure gold:

I am tempted to print up my own “evangelist repellant” cards to carry with me wherever I go. They would be the size of business cards, with a big smiley face on the front. On the back would be printed text, something along the lines of: “Look, I understand that you are concerned for the state of my soul. Thank you for that concern. But you don’t know me from a hole in the wall, and I have no real interest in discussing my spiritual life with you. If you really want to make a difference in someone’s life, try getting to know them, try really caring for them, and then try ministering to their needs rather than pushing your agenda on them. No, this is not something that you can accomplish in a day, or even a week or a month. Yes, it’s a lot harder to quantify than say, the number of random strangers you have harassed on the street on any given day. But you know what? It will probably be ten thousand times more effective. Thank you, God bless you, and have a nice day.”

Charles's essay moves through a variety of topics: an encounter with a Christian evangelist, a quick dip into scriptural hermeneutics, an exploration of the psyche of your typical Korean proselytizer, etc. Well worth a read.

During my time in Korea, I've actually encountered very few proselytizers who have tried to approach me directly. For the most part, the Christians I've seen have been the type to hand out Kleenex packages with maps to their church printed on them. Because I live in a dorm and not a regular apartment, I'm not subject to the random knock on my door from a person seeking to bring my soul closer to Jesus. Back in the States, however, I was a bit cruel to a Korean gent who visited our house in Alexandria. As it turned out, the man was a Jehovah's Witness, and I quickly deduced that their church had sent a Korean man because they had already sussed out our domestic demographics. I made the man stand out in the cold while I debated theology with him. Heh.



Aaron said...

We have a video telecom unit on our front door - which clicks on automatically when someone rings the bell - and I've learned to be real quiet and not answer the door when I see two ajummas standing out there. I know their game.

The essay you quoted, by the way, looks to be worth reading. Care to provide a link?

Charles said...

As luck would have it, there is an error in the passage you quoted: it should, of course, be "try getting to know them" rather than "trying getting to know them." Figures that I'd have a slip of the keys in a paragraph destined to be quoted.

Kevin Kim said...


I forgot to stick the link in. Fixed!


I've changed "trying" to "try." The paragraph read so smoothly that I didn't even notice the error.


Anonymous said...

I grew up in a very small rural area of South Texas that was ruled by a rich, white Baptist minister. I don't know how he made such inroads in an area that is 98% Hispanic and about the same percentage Catholic. This man and his family ran both the town and school which wasn't the best situation because they were the haves while so many of us were just struggling to survive.

What burned me was that so many school related activities were held in their church buildings (graduations, assemblies, testing, etc.). As the Senior Class president, I finally put my foot down as stood up to him and told him that we (all 70 of us) were having "our" graduation at the High School stadium. None of our members were of his church, and we had more respect for the grid iron than his all-white church (his congregation would explode each winter thanks to huge numbers of snow birds flocking to the only "white" Baptist church in a very large area). This did not go over well with his son-in-law, our football coach and principal, but we had too much parental and other religious support for them to stand against. Hard for me to believe that all graduations since then have either been held at the stadium or inside the gymnasium since then.

Me and this holier-than-all but god preacher finally had it out two summers later when I was exiting the John Deere store to rush back with a part for our broken down cotton picker. I was filthy, covered in grease and dirt, but what got him going was my new beard. He proceeded to yell at me about of all things my facial hair. I was a college student with good grades, no trouble with the law, drinking, or drugs, and I was back home on the family farm helping out when it was needed most.

I lost it. I asked him what would he say to a bearded Jesus if he happened to appear before him right now. Would he treat him with such disdain and impose his own rules and regulations on the son of his own god?

By now, we had quite the crowd growing, and I kept it up. Would Jesus be proud of how you treat all who are not members of "your" church, especially those not of your skin pigmentation? What would he say of the favored treatment that you and your family enjoy in this town and school system at the detriment of all others who have lived here all their lives as well?

I was late, and we were losing money be not having our picker running, so I brushed him aside and walked to my family's old rusted pickup truck and drove out to the field not thinking really thinking about this moron. I had more important things on my mind like would we be able to finish harvesting before a hurricane that was approaching might destroy our crop. In the end, the hurricane cost us about a fourth of the crop.

I thought that maybe god was unhappy with my blowup, but I found out when I returned the next summer with my beard that things were slowly changing in town. The Baptist church was adding different colors to the congregation. They were toning down on some of the bullying that had been going on since the 1950's—as a child, my mother was bussed to a Hispanic (or Mexican-only) elementary school while my father attended the Anglo-only high school (odd since he is of Saxon descent).

Maybe my rough and colorful language helped open his eyes to the changing world, or maybe it was from the pressure that a more galvanized local population started to put on him and his church. It wasn't long after this that the voters realized just how influential his pack of voters were and the disenfranchised got their acts together to change the make-up of the power elite in this small dusty town.

Religion can provide great hope in troubling times, but more often than not, it is used as a form of enslavement. Today, people only look upon the Great Pyramids or the Great Wall as some of the wonders of the world instead of as some of its greatest atrocities. It all depends on who is at each end of the whip, and what book the one in charge is forcing their beliefs upon the defenseless, or those eager for a better tomorrow, from.

Anonymous said...

My brother just refreshed my memory a little. He said it was my beard and “long hair” that sat the Reverend off. The man did not look kindly on hippies or anything counter-culture of which I wasn't even close to being.

I forgot about my hair being slightly longish (maybe 4 inches long) that summer. Probably, because today I am lacking in productive follicles. Not quite bald, but getting closer and closer with each rotation of the planet.