Have you noticed how steamed some local preachers are about the Rescue- the-Heartland folks who picketed Westminster Presbyterian last month?
"Totally inappropriate," one said. "We as a church would never get involved in the affairs of another church, trying to tell them who should or should not be on their board."
The pickets, another minister said, were "using a violent, in-your-face approach that seems to go contrary to the idea of Christian servanthood."
And another said the pickets are "people who don't know how to engage in civil discourse. They're fanatical in their particular views and cannot abide the notion that someone else has a different opinion than they do."
In the interest of ecumenical harmony, I think those preachers need to put themselves in the shoes of the pickets. So they can understand their zeal.
Here's a truism: when we know the way to a particular place and we're surrounded by people who don't, we get pretty excited. Right? It's human nature.
I, for example, get very excited about knowing the way from Nebraska to Tennessee, having gone there once, and I often confront strangers in the checkout line at Super Saver with my knowledge. Especially when they look as if they might lose their bearings just south of Beatrice.
"Hey," I say, "Do you happen to know the minimum number of states you have to go through to get from Nebraska to Tennessee?"
Many of the shoppers at Super Saver are hard of hearing and donít answer me, but a few will be engaged by my question.
"Let's see," they might say. "Tennessee is south and east of Nebraska, so I guess you'd have to go through Kansas and Oklahoma and whatArkansas?before you could get to Tennessee."
"Nice try," I tell them, "but no cigar. You only have to go through Missouri. The northwest corner of Missouri borders on Nebraska and the southeast corner of Missouri borders on Tennessee. It's part of God's plan."
They're astounded when I tell them that. They ask their children if they heard what I just said. After I repeat it for the kids, I tell them they never know when a good working knowledge of geography will come in handy.
I'm a kind of proactive geographical evangelist.
Oh sure, I know that telling someone how to get from Nebraska to Tennessee isn't as important as telling them how to get from Nebraska to Heaven. Of course I know that. It's just an analogy.
You don't quite see it?
Let me try another one then. It happened in Tulsa on Feb. 5, two weeks before the Westminister missionary work. Here's the NY Times account:
A group of 20 or so Oral Roberts University students went over to the Islamic Center Mosque at about 11 p.m. with Bibles at the ready. Under the leadership of an ORU freshman, Anthony Corano, they "put their hands on the exterior doors and walls of the mosque and prayed for the conversion of the Muslims." They didn't just pray; they prayed loudly.
The Truth, Mainly
The ORU kids thought there were about 200 Muslims inside to observe Lailat ul-Qadr, the 27th night of Ramadan and the anniversary of the prophet Muhammed's first revelation from God.
The ORU students apparently had an updated revelation from God that the Muslims were all in a sweat to become Christians. It was a lot like the Divine Revelation the Southern Baptists got last summer that American Jews were all in a sweat to become Christians. More specifically, Southern Baptist Christians.
The problem the ORU students had was that they'd miscalculated the date and they'd gathered on the 28th rather than the 27th night of Ramadan. Nobody was inside the mosque except the caretaker and when he heard the prayers he called the cops.
It wasn't the students' fault. Their calendar was defective.
And here's the moral: when you know the shortest distance between two points and others don't, you have a duty to give them advice. Even if they don't want it. With proactive evangelismwhether it's outside another place of worship or in a Super Saver checkout lineyou may even need to rub their noses in your advice.
I said: Right?
What's that you say? My analogies are bad and my theology is worse? The Sermon on the Mount tells us to judge not lest we be judged? It further tells us we shouldn't be like the hypocrites praying on street corners so they'll be seen? We should do our praying in the closet with the door closed so nobody but God can hear?
Craziest thing I ever heard of. How much fun would that be?
Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes
to salvage clarity from his confusion.
His column appears on alternate Mondays.