July 09, 2004

Salvation At A Discount

Just got back from the local "sidewalk sales." I was helping a friend's wife sell jewelry. English is her second language, and she wanted someone there to help with translations and such. Our table just happened to be nestled up next to a table from a nearby church. One of the more aggressive type of churches whose members feel that the church should pervade every corner of their existence, and, if they have anything to say about it...yours as well. In all fairness, the young man running the table is a very kind-hearted and friendly individual. But it's hard for people to see that, I'm sure, when he's thrusting pamphlets in their faces and asking overly personal questions:
"Have you ever stolen anything?"
"Have you ever told a lie?"
"Have you ever had feelings of lust for another person?"

The idea behind that last one, by the way, is that if you've lusted after somebody in your heart, then God will know, and you will be damned just as if you had committed adultery. Of course, considering that the weather was warm, and nearly all of the fairer sex were clad in either short-shorts or short-skirts and baby doll tops, I had damned myself several dozen times in the first hour alone, all from the relative comfort of my folding chair.

Anyway, all this would be frustrating enough for the average passer-by. But he was sitting next to me. The Heathen. The Atheist. The guy who firmly believes that if God exists, he shouldn't have to advertise. Time Warner Cable, sure. But not the Big Guy. If God wanted me in church on Sunday, why doesn't he just miracle my ass there? Or better yet...in my youth, I did attend church on Sundays. God sent down a flaming sword to block Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, A pillar of fire to block the Egyptians from Moses. Moses even got a burning bush. Where was my fire? I would have settled for a homeless guy with a Zippo, standing naked in the vestibule. Now that's a sign.

Honestly, though? I kept my cool, kept my mouth shut, and I learned a few things. I learned that despite the polls I hear about all the time, the ones that say upwards of 95% of the country believes in God and considers themselves religious, most people either a) don't want anything to do with God or religion, at least while they're shopping, or b) believe in God, but a God that apparently lets them do pretty much whatever the heck they want.

The funniest moment by far was when two young men from the Jesus Christ Church of Latter Day Saints came by. They argued--I'm not kidding--for an hour about--again, not kidding--whether God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost were three entities, or only one. It was like watching the Sharks and the Jets rumble, if West Side Story had been make by PAX.

It was a knock-down, drag-out. It was the Resistance over Existence, the Brawler over Allah, the Altercation over Transubstantiation. In the end, though...the guy next to me won. The mormons left, having been unable to convince anyone within earshot that Jesus had come to America, despite our thriving bed and breakfast industry.

And all was quiet again. At least, until I felt a hand on my shoulder...

"Do you have a Christian background?"

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