The other day a couple of the neighborhood girls took refuge at our place. It was no coincidence that they knew I was cooking. In typical teenage fashion, they needed to be dropped off at the mall, but they were ducking the Jesus Lady. Now you have to realize, our neighborhood has several stock characters. We have a Big Momma, the woman who sits out on the front porch, caretaker of the neighborhood (read: knows everybody’s business). My wife was positioning herself as the Candy Lady, the woman who doles out treats for no reason. We have the War Council, the group of ladies who gossip about the neighborhood and grouse about men (a function of the office of Big Momma is to be ‘president for life’ of the War Council).

Apparently, I’m the Church Guy.

Whenever issues about religion pop up, I get consulted. In this case, shield teenage girls from the Jesus Lady (though I have to wonder what sort of reputation I must have if I am the shield from religious people). The Jesus Lady is a well-intentioned lady who stalks the neighborhood or the mall looking for souls to save. You need a quarter to make a call or bus fare, she’s got one for you. It’s almost Thanksgiving, she has a trunk full of turkeys (I’m not kidding. I got one from her last year). All that’s required is 30 seconds.

Thirty seconds to know Jesus.

I don’t know where this mentality sprang from. Somehow we’ve gone fromJesus’ command to “go forth and make disciples” to randomly accosting people to see if they “know Jesus as your Lord and Savior.” In thirty seconds. I know the spiel, heck, I used to teach the spiel way back in the day when I thought evangelism was about running through the “Romans Road”, presenting the “Four Spiritual Laws” or–to paraphrase from Glengarry Glenn Ross–turning every conversation into the ABCs of evangelism: Always Be Converting. “If you were to die today, do you know where you would spend eternity” would be the closer to my sales pitch. And you know what? That’s what we’ve reduced a relationship with Christ to: product. I get where such Christians are coming from. They are trying to live out their faith as they’ve interpreted it. The problem is, it’s turned them into gunslinger christians: people on the look out to add another “saved person” notch in their belt. Every conversation they spend looking for their lead-in to make their pitch, waiting for their opportunity to steer the conversation toward God.

For thirty seconds.

Just enough time to give a mental assent to a set of carefully presented facts and pray the secret formula prayer and you’re in. In what? You don’t know because the gunslinger’s off to claim their latest notch.

Worst of all, they miss this point: all conversations are sacred conversations. No lead-ins, just being human with a fellow human. Being real with them, asking them about their kids, their work, their life, the weather. The second you lay your hands on the conversation, the second you quit being authentic, is the instant that you’re pimping Jesus. And that’s not how healthy relationships are started.

Yeah, I’ve been in this frame of mind ever since some of the people from my message board stopped by and we watched The Big Kahuna (starring Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito) together. So blame this on them.

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Comment on this bit of rantus interruptus anyway you want (I don’t know where you’re reading it from) but if you want to guarantee me seeing it, do so at my message board.