Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"If you died tonight...."

This blog is going to continue through some ideas I found interesting in "Jim and Caspar go to Church", the story of a Christian pastor who hires an atheist to give him honest feedback about churches they go to visit. Today, I am discussing a tactic used by many Evangelical Christians to get folks to 'convert'. In the chapter, "Mega in the Midwest", Jim and Caspar go to Willow Creek - a mega church in Chicago and discover at the beginning of the service that a mass baptism of 300 people is to happen the next day. One of the pastors, Gene Appel, urges anyone who hasn't been baptized to come the next day because "...you never know 'what happens five minutes after you die.'" (pg. 44)

(Aside from the Presbyterian belief that I subscribe to fully - that baptism doesn't save you, faith in Jesus does - there are multiple issues with this kind of tactic.)

Caspar comments that the VP of marketing at his job at Outreach Marketing had tried to 'save' him with this approach once and he did not like it at all. Basically, Caspar conveys the concept that if you don't believe in God, you don't worry about what hapens after you die - you simply die. He sees this conversion method as a lazy way to try to get people to have faith in God.

I would tend to agree. When I was in high school, my sister was dating a real holy roller who engaged me in a theological discussion. Well, back then I didn't have trouble disagreeing with people either, and the end result was that he told me I was going to Hell for disagreeing with him. How rude! I can guarentee you that this did not make me change my viewpoint. Telling someone that they must convert because otherwise they won't go to Heaven is not a good way to win them to your belief system.

After Caspar shares his story about the marketing VP with Jim, Jim and he have a conversation about death. Jim states that we are all going to die so shouldn't we be concerned with what comes after? Caspar gets a little frustrated that Jim is going to take this postition also and asks him if he has any proof about what happens after death. Jim says, " 'No, Caspar, all I have is faith - that's it - no proof. The fact is I can't prove one thing about what I believe to you. All I have is a hope, and the reality is neither of us will know who is right until we actually die.' " (pg. 45) Caspar is shocked into silence by this admission and then replies, " 'Wow Jim. I have never...heard anyone admit that it's all based on faith. So often people precede an attempt to get me to join up with Jesus with a threat and an unprovable claim: Choose Christ, because you're going to die.' " (pg 45-46)

When Jesus walked the earth, people loved him. They would do whatever they could to be near him and hear him speak. As a Christian, yes, I believe there is an afterlife and I want everyone to be there, but why would I want to scare people into believing. How is that helping someone to discover faith in a God who loves them?


" 'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.' " - Matthew 11:28