Sunday, November 04, 2007

"The Bible Way to Heaven"

The North Valley Baptist Church just recently left a little card stuffed into my front door. I must say at this point, all these religious people forcing their personally delivered junk mail through the door crack is annoying, and bad for my door frame's paint. If you feel you must leave something, just do what everyone else does and leave the item at my door step.

OK, so this card has a message. On one side, there's a directive to "Join us this Sunday!" for "Helpful Bible Teaching", "Christian Friendships", and "Exciting Gospel Singing". There's a picture of a life preserver with a sailboat in the background. The life preserver says "Lifeline Bible Class". There's also a lovely photo of what I guess to be the pastor and his family. Another photo below that shows what I guess to be the congregation that meets in "Room 214" at church. The only critical comments I'm going to say about this side of the card is that it is specifically geared to someone who is already Christian, yet most of the people in my neighborhood are more likely Buddhist, Hindu, other or nothing at all. The church isn't doing a good job at targeted marketing. It's the back side of the card that really drives this point home though.

On the back, there's 4 points that I guess are meant to cause someone to pray. At the end of the last point is a sample prayer. So, here's the review:

Point 1: "Recognize your condition". It quotes Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Then it makes an assumptive insult, "No one is good enough to go to Heaven on his own merit. No matter how much good we do, we still fall short." To someone that doesn't recognize Christian mythology (namely Buddhists, Hindus and other), this first point is both pointless and insulting. First, it assumes everyone has detailed knowledge of the Christian Heaven. It then says "Hey, you suck!" to anyone that wants to get into this Heaven. But, it assumes that anyone would want that. Without knowing much about it, I'm sure most readers of this card could care less. The card itself offers no reason to care, and in fact would put off some people from wanting anything to do with the Christian Heaven.

Point 2: "Realize the penalty for sin". It quotes Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death..." It then makes a barely comprehensible statement, "Just as there are wages for good, there is punishment for wrong." Who gets paid for being good? Is this some one's job? If so, I want in on the deal! Wow, can you imagine getting a nice big, fat paycheck each week just for helping old ladies to cross the street? Of course, this is a nonsensical statement to try to draw some sort of contrast out of the bible quote. It continues, "The penalty for our sin is eternal death in a place called Hell." That's funny. Whoever wrote this card previously assumed a universal familiarity with the Christian Heaven, but now presumes a complete universal ignorance of the Christian Hell! It does all this by skewing the words of Romans 6:23 way beyond their intended meaning too! Romans Chapter 6 is speaking of one's life and death in a spiritual metaphoric sense (that is, you are called alive if you believe in Jesus, and you are called death if you don't). It's not talking about a literal life or death condition. If one finishes reading verse 23 one will find, "but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." This is obviously a metaphor since almost all Christian religions believe that one must die (in one way or another) in order to get to Heaven, so one's life cannot be literally eternal. It's funny how they didn't quote that part of the verse at this point, instead opting for dot dot dot (...) to leave the reader with the wrong impression.

Point 3: "Believe Christ died for you". It again quotes the book of Romans at 5:8 "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Commendeth again? hehehe Again, they aren't doing a good job of knowing their audience. Most people in this neighborhood are not impressed by the gratuitous use of older English since they know English as a second language. Now about their comment, "Christ's great love for us was shown when He died on the cross to pay our sin debt." Huh? OK, here's the deal, when a Christian capitalizes a pronoun like "He", it means they think they are talking about God. So, Christ is God? God died? Why would God need to kill Himself (or allow Himself to be killed), effectively committing suicide? Wouldn't He just use his power to make things right without killing anyone? Why is suicide the solution to having a "sin debt" paid. Should I handle my credit card debt this way? What is sin anyway? This isn't explained by the card at all. It makes it seem like everyone sins and that sinning is bad. However, there is no qualification for what sin is. Even less explained is "sin debt".

Point 4: "Trust Christ alone as your Savior" It quotes the rest of Romans 6:23 (notice how it does this out of order to try to make the bible seem like it is saying something which is really isn't) "...But the gift of god is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." It then immediately quotes Romans 10:13 (again, out of order) "For whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." The comment on the card is, "Everlasting life is a gift purchased by the blood of Jesus and offered freely to those who call upon Him by faith." I'm not so sure I'd put my faith in anyone that thinks suicide is a solution for anything. Besides that, everlasting life is not desired by the Buddhist or the Hindu who are more focused on living each life in succession to be free from this world once and for all (including both its associated "heaven" and "hell" attributes).

I guess the writer of the card thought they moved the holy spirit (a Christian reference that isn't important if you aren't/weren't a Christian) into the person reading the card because they had the audacity to put a prayer at the end. "Let us help you word a prayer (Realize it's not mere words that save, but your faith in Jesus Christ)". Here's my prayer "Dear Lord!" That sentence has so much arrogance and assumption piled in it, it's hard to pin down a single point to criticize effectively. I'll just say that the card is too poorly written to do what its writer thinks it is supposed to do. The prayer only compounds this, so I'm not going to bother quoting it.

This card is a classic example of what most Christians think. 1. Everyone wants what they want. 2. Their path is the only way to get what they think everyone wants. 3. Other belief systems have so little merit, people caught up in those systems are looking for a way out of them. 4. Simply talking about their faith (no matter how poorly or incoherently) is enough to convince others that their particular version of Christianity is the right (and only) way to live. 5. The bible has all the answers to describe this life path even though they don't research (instead of just reading) it themselves.

So sad. The truth is that this card only remotely has a chance at catching a positive response from someone who already identifies themself as Christian. This is a sort of cannibalism among the Christian faiths. They don't know how to talk to non-Christians in order to attract them to join because they are so caught up in their image of this world and have so little understanding of others within it.

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