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Saturday, June 30, 2007

godspell

When people say they don't think religions should proselytize, I have to smile.

I can understand someone not enjoying an aggressive in-your-face confrontation with a person wanting to convert them. A good number of people enjoy talking about spirituality if they feel they can be free to express themselves without a great deal of judgment and cant coming back at them. But to say religious people should never talk about their faith with anyone in a positive and persuasive light would mean of all the organizations in the world religions would be the only ones denied this freedom.

If we put it within a Christian frame of reference every corporate group has its gospel. Budweiser tells you - in ads full of handsome men and beautiful women - that if you drink their beer everything will be all right. You'll be popular, happy, youthful and sexy. If you drive a Ford truck you'll be a person who can handle anything, rugged, self-reliant. Budweiser saves you. Ford saves you. The right bank saves you. The right mortgage. The right cat food.

And the same is true in other areas of life. Every NGO has its gospel. Every government. The UN has its gospel. The WTO and IMF. They come to the world and its nations and people groups and they say, "If you do this, all will be well. Forever. Just give us your time. Give us your money. Give us your commitment. Trust us." In the middle of such a cacophony of voices why shouldn't a person of faith be allowed to say, "I also have an idea about all of this. Life, death, human rights, politics, poverty and wealth, justice and immortality. May I speak?" Many of the organizations that every day preach their gospel to the world over television and radio and DVD and the internet say no. Faith has no place in such discussions. Yet they ask the global community to put their faith in them and their products.

It is not as if religious groups are the only ones with doctrine and precise points of view and hold what they believe as sacred. Toyota is the same, and Dow Chemical, and Greenpeace, and Amnesty International and the World Bank. All of them say they will save you and all of them say they have the truth. They all proselytize. They all seek converts. Even atheism.

So into this mix those who believe in a Being greater and more authoritative than the UN or IMF also have a place. Of course organizations that wish to be seen as the ultimate authority do not like groups that claim to supercede their authority. This makes religious groups particularly threatening. But all the more reason that voices which worship God should be heard. For if commercial groups and ideological groups want to play God with people's live it would be nice to let God speak for himself through those that believe in him.

If Budweiser can speak to people of why it matters so much to drink their beer, or the UN can go to nations and say why it matters so much to follow their policies, Christians certainly have the right to go to the world and say why the gospel of Jesus Christ makes a critical difference in people's lives. It's sheer hypocrisy to say it should not do so, that this is wrong, an interference, the dirty word proselytism, when all the rest of the world does what Christianity and other faiths are condemned for doing. If all the others speak into the world's realities, its pains and pleasures and hopes and fears, and often for no other motives than power, greed and control, so should Christ. Portrayed properly, he only seeks the individual's good and the world's good, with no price tag attached and no hidden agenda of power for power's sake.

There is no shame in taking Christ's life and words to the nations of the earth. Not what he said. Not what he did. Not the love and courage he showed. No shame. No embarrassment. No disgrace. Especially considering the alternatives and the words they use and what they stand for. Let the gospel of Jesus be heard. Let people judge for themselves. Does commercialism save? Or capitalism? Or socialism? Are they ultimate? Are they transcendent?

Or is Christ's gospel unique set beside all the other gospels of the earth?

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