Friday, 13 August 2010

Nailing another evangelical myth

A few months ago I began addressing "myths about leaving fundamentalism." I'm laying off the "fundamentalist" word here, because it can be more trouble than it's worth, but I'll say that the myth I'm about to address here is characteristic of a certain type of evangelical Christian--certainly in the charismatic and Pentecostal churches I once belonged to.

This is the myth: Non-believers know deep down they're being drawn towards (the evangelical) God; witness to them and pray for them enough, and eventually they will be born again. For the believer, even showing a hint of interest in Christianity is evidence of this almost irresistible urge to convert.

I had this notion once, too. My attitude toward non-believers was: How could they not know how much they need this? In my mind, "unsaved" family and friends were empty, and they knew it. If they were honest with themselves, they knew the gospel was true, or at least they felt a strange compulsion to find out more. For this reason, I lived most of my born-again Christian life thinking that the conversion of others was not only possible but likely.

This conception leads to awkward conversations like the one I had yesterday with an old college friend. Said friend knows that I am now openly gay, theologically and socially liberal, and about as far from evangelical as you can get. The occasion was my mention that I had read a sermon by a mutual college friend online. He replied that he was glad I was "getting back into it," and I quickly clarified that by no means was this a sign I was returning to anything--or even thinking about it. I was just reading a sermon by someone I knew because it piqued my interest.

"LIAR." (The block capitals were his. This was an internet messenger conversation. He was being a bit tongue-in-cheek, sure, but his point was serious.)

I could hear the cogs whirring as we continued the conversation. Praise God. The Holy Spirit is working on Dave. He won't admit it, but he's being drawn back into the fold.

I explained it as best I could like this: You suggesting there's a realistic chance I'll return to evangelical Christianity is like me suggesting you're going to become a Muslim or start a new career as an accountant. The thought is alien to me.

You may as well tell the average Joe they're going to move to Africa and live with lions for the rest of their lives. Keep giving them the safari pamphlets, but unless they already have Mowgliesque inclinations toward chumminess with feral cats, they're probably going to stick with their day job and their reasonably priced semi-detached house in Manchester.

Some people do have that feeling of something missing and get that irresistible urge to convert to evangelical Christianity, no doubt. Most people, however, don't.


  1. Well well well. How things are misunderstood. Not once in our conversation was I being serious. I was being very tongue in cheek, in fact totally so. I assure you no cogs were turning in my head, and I wasnt by any means spirit lead. I havent even considered praying for you (much) and have no intention of increasing the intensity after our conversation.
    You are allowed to read sermons by old college friends out of pure interest.
    All this said it doesnt mean I dont care about your eternal destiny etc etc and all that jazz. I have never and will never be a conversion freak who s entire conversations are geared to converting people. I m like God that way. Very much believe in free choice. I might present a case, you re perfectly within your rights to disagree and thats fine. I 've never been accused of being subtle. If I have something to say I ll say it.
    It appears you used to be a kind of little god, who the big guy used to convert people through your conversion attempts and of course PRAY (the key factor). Those little sayings people used to come out with "I was lead to this person blah blah blah". A load of crap.
    Thats not to say I dont have interesting discussions with people cos I do. But ultimately its their choice to beleive what they want, change their minds if they want. I'm not your or anyone elses keeper. Its not my responsiblity to save you or anyone else. Never has been nor never will be. Ultimately all I can be responsible for is my own walk. Chip in with a few thoughts to other peoples walk, but thats about it. Everyone can believe what they want. I ll present a different case if someone s interested and people can do what they want with it.
    Do i think we have the old missing part that can only be filled by God. Well.... thats complicated and simple. Yes I do but on the other hand I dont think everyone realises it or even wants it. And are perfectly happy with the way their lives without God are turning out.
    However, thats not to say it will always be the case. And I will try to be there for whoever when that time comes to present a different point of view and a different way. And then its up to them. Your point that you once beleived most people would be saved you your efforts is actually unscriptural seen as most poeple are doomed anyway, the wide way and the narrow way etc.

    Hope thats answered your points.

    See you online soon.
    The old college friend

  2. Hey, Old College Friend.

    Yup, I guess I misunderstood.

    Hopefully that the instance I chose as the hook for this turned out to be a misunderstanding--d'oh!--won't obscure the point I was making; namely that there are swathes of Christians who live under this very apprehension about the unconverted. I was one of them, and it was the way I was encouraged to think. It's a very patronizing to unbelievers, not to mention a waste of effort trying to convert them.

    Of course, it was probably patronizing of me to project all that onto you, so my apologies. (Not that you take offence easily.)

  3. Dont think its patronizing to unbeleivers at all. And even if it so what. At the moment we live in a democracy where people can say what they want. And others have the right to take offence or not. Whatever.
    Everyone, yourself included, me, churches, athiests, hindu s, buddhists, humanists, are all vying to get people to think the way they think. Its what makes the world go round. So if christians are patronizing, so are you, so am i, so are the buddhists and that whole long list of other faiths, beliefs, or non beliefs. So its not a waste trying to convert.
    What is patronizing is to label all Christians with the baseball bat you once bashed. But as you say Im not easily offended. Hope you re not either.
    I couldnt care less whether you ever beleive again or not (I do but.....) cos its not my responsibility. There seems to be this perception that Christians, the church, God or whetever is somehow begging people to beleive. If God exists he s ok as he is, we need him he doesnt need us. Maybe some of the rest of the groups are and some are not, those that are are making a mistake those that arent are just presenting a case. And that ultimately is fine cos everyone is doin the same thing.

  4. I wasn't saying that trying to convert people was patronizing. I was saying that expecting everyone to want to convert was patronizing.

    Also, I definitely *didn't* label all Christians with the baseball bat I once bashed. In fact, I very specifically said in the lede that it applied only to a particular type of Christian.