I’ve always known the Gospel was offensive. The audacity of telling people they’re sinners and are in need of “fixing” cannot be overlooked. God is pointing out that His creation is messed up without Him, that it needs Him, that it’s broken. Nobody wants to be told they’re broken; nobody wants to be told they need something more, or even that there is something more.
But I never realized that evangelizing, or the preaching of the Gospel, is seen as an imposition on the beliefs of others. I was reading Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, & Meaning by Nancy Pearcey. This particular section caught my eye:
“Christians are often accused of imposing their views, no matter how gentle and polite they may be in person. Christians intend to communicate life-giving, objective truths about the real world. But their statements are interpreted as attempts to impose personal preferences. For the secularist, then, Christians are not merely wrong or mistaken. They are violating the rules of the game in a democratic society.”
-Nancy Pearcey, in Saving Leonardo
Biblical truths have been put into the category of subjective information, which means they’re seen as “personal preferences.” Other things in this category include favorite flavors of ice-cream, favorite basketball teams, and favorite brands of laundry detergent. The reason why people get so knotted up about the Gospel, aside from the actual message of the Gospel, is because when a Christian tries to show someone Truth, that someone sees it as the Christian imposing on the someone’s own preferences.
Look at it this way.
I like strawberry ice-cream. I love strawberry ice-cream, especially when it has the chunks of strawberries in it and it’s that perfect pink and…mmmm, ice-cream. Oh, right, personal preference. You like a different kind of ice-cream (we’ll say chocolate, just because). I tell you all of the reasons why strawberry ice-cream is the best kind of ice-cream and then I tell you that you shouldn’t like chocolate ice-cream but you should like strawberry ice-cream. This is how the preaching of the Gospel is seen in common society.
But this view is so messed up. The Word of God, Christianity, has faded into some brand of religious fable, a personal preference of beliefs. It’s no longer seen as Truth. The Gospel is seen as something that belongs in a cage, to be maintained and affirmed only by the individual. Gosh, no wonder people are so transient these days; it’s because they’ve forgotten the meaning of truth. They see truth as something that has many different definitions, depending on who you ask. Truth, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary for Students, is “the body of real events or facts; a true or accepted statement; agreement with fact or reality.” We’ve fallen into this nasty, gnarly, frustrating trap of “whatever works for you.” This goes back to the thought of “everyone can’t be right all at once.” But then it becomes a problem when you claim something to be the Truth because it implies that everyone else is a liar. This is tough. This is a problem deeply-rooted in society. This is an infection. It’s like everyone’s been brainwashed into thinking that as long as they practice something or pursue something then they’re set. It’s like lukewarm habits and mundane tasks are enough to keep us alive, enough to keep us individualized and safe and unoffensive. What!? Where has conviction gone? Where is Truth? If everyone is so afraid of offending each other, if everyone truly believes in “whatever works for you” like it means “everything everyone believes is true for them,” then what is truth to anyone anymore?
Well, I have good news. Just because people have forgotten what Truth is, or have at least changed what the word truth means, doesn’t mean that Truth is no longer Truth. If I say that the sea is made of cotton candy, does that mean it is? If people say that there is no truth, does that mean it no longer exists? By no means.
This morning, when I was thinking about this revelation, I wasn’t sure where to go with it. Excuse me, while I awkwardly transition into another part of the day.
I was telling this to Charlene today as we were walking to Waza, the sushi and ramen place where I first ate legitimate Japanese food. She had some interesting thoughts to offer before we arrived at the restaurant. I was still thinking about all of it when we were sitting inside, trying to figure out what to get.
I ended up ordering the sushi pizza. Charlene ordered spicy ramen and got a kind of fried shrimp as an appetizer to split. When the shrimp came, I didn’t think it was shrimp. When I think of fried shrimp, I think of small roundish things that are browned by egg, flour, and Old Bay Seasoning. These were long (about the size of a ballpoint pen) and yellowish with a little shrimp tail sticking out at one end. They looked more like fancy mozzarella sticks to me. They did, however, taste fabulous. Wait, fabulous is the wrong word. Decadent is more appropriate. They were some good-tastin’ shrimp, even if I couldn’t figure out why they were so long.
While we were waiting for our food, I told Charlene about an odd thing that happened yesterday. I was going to work out and walked into the gym. I always have to swipe my ID at the front desk on the ground floor before heading upstairs to the weight room and dance studio. I said “sup” to the guy behind the counter (because that’s just the friendly thing to do) as I swiped my card. He asked me how I was doing; I asked him how he was doing. Ya know, stuff. Then while I was hanging up my coat, the guy called my name. I turned and he said “you have nice calves.”
I was completely dumbfounded. I mean, I’ve been complimented on some weird things: eyebrows, teeth, etc., but NEVER my calves. I didn’t even know what to say. Like an idiot, I looked down at my legs, as if I’d never seen them before, looked at the guy, said “thank you” and then sprinted up the stairs.
Charlene started laughing as I finished the story. When I had told my mom about this, she and my father had thought it was funny too. I mean, I would’ve expected something a little more conventional like, “you have nice hair,” or “I like your T-shirt,” or maybe even, “you’re really pretty.” Nope. Calves. I’m all calves. That’s what I get for being a passionate runner and the daughter of a wrestling coach. Oh well.
Our food came then. The sushi pizza did not look at all like your typical cheese and marinara on dough; it was a number of green and white things on a Japanese pancake, covered in little round orange things, eel sauce, and a spicy orange sauce. As weird as it might sound, it was amazing. I got three slices in before really looking at the pizza. As I studied it, I noticed that the little orange things were clumped together…it was almost like they were—
“What?” Charlene stopped slurping up her ramen to look at me.
“Charlene; these little orange things are fish eggs. I’ve been eating fish eggs!” I exclaimed. I’ve always been repulsed by the idea of caviar, but now I was indulging in the frustratingly delicious stuff. After about five more minutes of staring at my lunch with my features twisted into an incredibly unattractive look of confusion, I finally decided that it wasn’t that different from eating a chicken egg…I think.
After lunch with Charlene was my only class of the day. In Writer’s Studio, we talked again about the book of poems. Whenever we discuss books like this one, books that are vulgar, classless, and pornographic, I don’t say anything. I just can’t get past the content. I feel like you don’t have to be vulgar to publish a book or to make a name in this world, not that that’s my goal at all, but it’s what I think. I don’t think swearing and exposing the mystery and intimacy of sex is necessary or appropriate…but obviously the rest of the world doesn’t think that way.
Later on, after Writer’s Studio, I went to Zumba. Sam and Maria are on vacation, which means we didn’t have Bible study tonight. I really wanted to do SOMETHING before I hermitized myself until Saturday evening, working on all of my final projects. I got to the dance studio and saw that my RA was there, stretching. We greeted each other and talked about school. She seemed to be relieved that someone she knew was there.
Our Zumba instructor was a man, which threw me off for some reason. I’ve attended plenty of ballets and I’ve watched enough movies to know that some of the coolest guys are dancers…but I just expected it to be a woman. Regardless of the instructor’s gender, I had a great time! It was more of a hip-hop cardio session rather than Zumba, and it was difficult. There was one girl positioned directly in front of me who was all like, “I’m just gonna sit on my head while doing a cartwheel and landing a triple back-flip. No big deal.” It was insane. At one point, we were doing some wiggle stuff and then the instructor suddenly began doing jumping squat-thrusts. By the end of the session, I was a little tired; not sore, but definitely tired.
The moment I stepped into my dorm, I started my homework. I like Thursday nights especially because they give me a chance to relax a little, take time to do research, to read my Bible, to write to God, to listen to music, while also studying; I’m not as pressed for time. If I had a job, I would be really pressed for time. I guess that’s just God’s way of telling me He was right about the whole job thing; if I had a job, I would so much more stressed right now.
I began thinking about this morning, about what I read. Lots of people will agree that there’s a “higher power…” But I have to wonder; do they really believe it? My professors have mentioned religion and not understood that Jesus came to abolish religion. Everybody talks about “spirituality” and “conversion” as if Christianity is some kind of cold, step-by-step process. People talk about God like He’s a watered-down, cliche, lukewarm piece of subject matter, instead of the One who wove their inner parts together with the skill of His hand, the same hand that created the cosmos. I’ll talk about how something was a God thing, and people will nod their heads like “oh, that’s good for you.” I wish they understood; I wish they could see it. When I think about my relationship with God, not even my relationship, just God, I don’t think of religion. I think of Someone real, Someone feeling, Someone who truly loves me and wants to keep loving me for the rest of eternity, Someone who will love me even if I don’t love Him, even if I fail, even if this whole college thing makes me turn away from Him and makes me stray, even if I can’t handle this. And all of this might happen. I am human, and sometimes (pssh, a lot of the time) I really mess up.
But God doesn’t care. He’s paid for every possible sin I could commit. He’s infiltrated my brain and my heart until I finally realized that He’s everywhere, that I’ll never be alone or separated from Him. He’s here and He’s real and you can trust Him. Guys, He loves you! Not a future you, not you after you’re all cleaned up and don’t have any problems; He loves you TODAY.