Step right up! Come hear the living gospel! Give your life to Jesus and watch your problems melt away like ice cubes on a hot summer sidewalk! Even if you’re an atheist! Even if you’re town is blown apart by bombs and sniper fire!
Ah, evangelists. Where would we be without your meddling?
In a Ukranian town undergoing regular bombing and killings due to the clash between the government and rebels, evangelical Christians are making huge inroads among the populace. Waving loaves of much-needed bread in one hand and the bible in the other (no, really), they spread the good word and our daily bread at the same time. The missionaries are often funded by American mega-churches. This financial backup has angered the local Russian Orthodox priest who said that the evangelicals are waging a “crusade” against the true church of mother Russia. (I imagine the shamanistic, nature worshippers of the region felt much the same when the Orthodox Church rolled over them. Karma’s a bitch.)
Across the planet, in America, evangelists have foregone baked goods for subtler means. After all, they’re not dealing with the desperate – they’re dealing with atheists. The good Christians have decided to lure the atheists, agnostics and the religiously unaffiliated into the fold with open social events where they use philosophy and even science, alongside the bible naturally, to start a dialogue between those sad non-believers and the righteous.
Sure, setting up open conversations between atheists and evangelists seems like a sweet idea, a way to perhaps gain understanding all around. And why shouldn’t do-gooders handing out bread also want to share the “good news” with those in dire circumstances? What’s wrong with that?
Ask the American Indians. Or the Africans. Or the Chinese. Or the pre-christian Europeans, for that matter.
Evangelism is based on a fundamental notion of superiority. Our way is right. Yours is wrong. In order to be right (i.e. go to heaven, be saved, bask in God’s love, other assorted made-up bullshit), you have to fall in line with our way of thinking. The Manhattan evangelists aren’t holding round-table discussions with atheists because they want to know more about atheism. They’re holding discussions to convert them to “the truth.” The Christians in the Ukraine aren’t handing out bread because they want to feed hungry people. They’re handing out bread to lure the poor bastards into the clutches of a religion that feeds on the dispossessed.
Before you get your Jesus-jammies in a bunch (“that’s not fair! those people are trying to help others!”), ask yourselves whether those same missionaries would put themselves in danger just to hand out bread. No proselytizing – just food. If they go to war-torn regions to help the populace and expect absolutely nothing in return – not one soul, not one bible handed out – then, they’re actually practicing compassion. Anything else is just haggling in the marketplace.
Look at the history of conversion and you’ll find a catalogue of grotesqueries so repugnant as to shake anyone’s faith in religion if not the gods, and while today, the Christian fight for souls isn’t quite as vile as it used to be, the very notion that anyone needs to be saved arises from an astonishing level of arrogance and ignorance about spiritual matters.
Here’s the thing: nobody has any fucking idea what this god thing is. Not the Jews. Not the Christians. Not the Muslims. Not the Hindus. Not the Wiccans or the Jains or the Jedis. Sure, certain people come along throughout history who say really amazing shit and capture our spiritual imaginations, but that doesn’t mean we’re supposed to do exactly what that person did. Because we can’t.
Jesus was Jesus. Buddha was Buddha. Mohammed was Mohammed. Allegedly, they each had a really transfiguring experience with the mystery of the universe. They talked about it to others, and the rest of us (if not the men themselves) erroneously believed that by walking their path, we would find ours.
Some of us see god in the bottom of a bottle, or the rush of war, or the beauty of a mathematical equation. The gods are that which grips us, which grabs us so savagely that we devote our entire lives to finding out every single detail about it. Everyone is already enraptured with their own private divinity, so there’s no need to convert anybody. Another’s “god” might not preach the sermon on the mount. It might not give two shits about noble or ignoble truths. It might not demand that we wear special costumes or eat certain foods, but it does require us to spend every breath sacrificing to it – the workaholic worships work, the addict worships a drug, the bodybuilder worships muscle, the politician worships power, the scientist worships the scientific method, the artist their art. We become obsessed with family or food or gardening or reading every book we can get our hands on. The very word “god” comes from Germanic, Norse and even Sanskrit roots which mean “that which is invoked” or “that to which is sacrificed.” We’re all sacrificing at the altars of our own making, whether we’re card-carrying Christians or card-carrying NRA members (strangely, they often go hand-in-hand. Fuck that turn-the-other-cheek shit, I guess.).
If we’re good devotees, if we’re really truly focused on our own gods, we don’t even bother trying to convert non-believers to our way of life. The violinist doesn’t attempt to entice the flautist to the string section. The violinist is only concerned about their instrument, not the other players.
Which leads us back to our Christian evangelists who are more concerned about increasing their conversion scorecard than they are about their relationship with their god, who, if anyone is paying attention, said such terrifyingly radical things about consciousness that it’s no wonder all his followers are ignoring the beam in their own eye for the mote in their brother’s.
Until next Sunday… the heretic’s day.
In other news of the faithful:
Religious freedom bills continue to be all the rage. Here’s a news flash – feel you can’t do your job and still be a backwards intolerant zealot? Find another job!
Women in Ireland are speaking out against that country’s abortion laws, which, of course, are heavily influenced by the Catholic Church. Hey, Vatican! Get your people to stop fucking children and maybe then we can talk about moral high grounds, okay?
The fundamentalist Mormon sect headed up by Warren Jeffs might be cracking under renewed federal pressure. This cult is a great example of what happens when you don’t convert – you get your utilities cut off.
They’ve wandered far from their home after their progenitors were wiped out. Thousands of years have separated them from the earth of their ancestors. But finally, after crossing an ocean, they’re returning to the land flowing with milk and honey. Yup. We’re talking about sheep.
(Top photo by Brendan Hoffman for the New York Times. Photo below by the Scourge himself who, ironically, returned home last night to find propaganda from the Jehovah’s Witnesses tucked into his door. If I have to be with you people in paradise, I’ll take my chances elsewhere.)