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September 29, 2006

Filed under: culture»religion»evangelical

Good Book

Fred Clark, AKA the Slacktivist, tells a story:

We were studying evangelism and the teacher was going over something called the "Romans Road" -- a series of passages from St. Paul's epistle to the Romans that described humanity's sinfulness and need for salvation. Evangelism, by definition, involves talking with people who do not already share our faith. Such people, I had noticed, also tended not to regard our Bible as their Bible, so I asked the teacher what we should say to someone who tells us they don't believe in the Bible.

"You show them II Timothy 3:16," the teacher said. And then she quoted it, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."

When I suggested that someone who didn't believe in the Bible wasn't likely to believe in II Timothy any more than they believed in Romans, she responded by quoting another passage, II Peter 1:21, and then another from the 119th Psalm.

It went on like that for a bit, like something from Abbot and Costello, with both of us getting more frustrated as she quoted Bible verse after Bible verse about the authority of the Bible and me not doing a very good job of expressing that someone who doesn't believe in Bible verses won't be convinced by a Bible verse that tells them to believe in Bible verses. Until finally she said this:

"Well if they still don't believe in the Bible after you've showed them all those verses, then I guess they just can't read."

In addition to his highly-entertaining and interesting Left Behind Fridays, the Slacktivist is always a good read because he has thought carefully about his evangelism, and clearly decided that the communication it implies cannot be one-way. So instead of making preaching the gospel his only contact with the secular world, he basically invites readers in to understand the culture surrounding the religion.

It is heartening to know that this communication takes place somewhere. I don't much worry about a disconnect between political parties. I am more concerned that the split between Left and Right in America reflects a basic misunderstanding between two subcultures--one of which is a paranoid rural mindset that shares a language and vision deeply rooted in the Bible, while the other is a more fragmented urban population that does not share in the heavily coded (and therefore incomprehensible) language of scripture and dominionism. Most of the people I know in cities, even those who are quite conservative, aren't really able to grasp the reality of the former. They are operating on a thought-experiment of what the rubes want, and catching a glimpse of the actual rural agenda is a rude surprise.

This works the other way, of course, as the story above shows. But frankly, the dominionists are better organized than we seem to be, and we are increasingly in their power. At the very least, we'd better be able to figure out what they're going to do with us.

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