Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Street Preachers in Sodom

In a nearby town there is a small independent Baptist church that does street preaching. During the warmer months you will see them at the busy intersection in the center of town with placards and Bibles in their hands, yelling words about hell and salvation at pedestrians and motorists. Although I enjoy this sight as street theater, on a spiritual level it makes me uncomfortable. I instinctively want to distance myself from this particular style of Christian proclamation.

I once met the pastor of that church, and asked him about his street ministry. He is a nice fellow, not the stereotypical bigot that one might expect. It is just that he believes strongly that this is the only way to reach some people. The people he wants to address would never come to him, so he goes to them.

In Revelation 11:3-13 two preachers appear in the streets of Jerusalem, symbolically named Sodom. They are pictured with fire coming out of their mouths that consume their hearers. Now that is "fire and brimstone" preaching!  Then it says, "These two prophets pricked the conscience of all the people on earth, made it impossible for them to enjoy their sins." In response to the pricking, the authorities kill these two witnesses. The people cheer, "Good riddance" and call for a celebration.

In an interfaith dialogue at Columbia University (which I mentioned in an earlier blog), I heard a Buddhist say with great sincerity that he believed that religious proselytism should become a United Nations human rights violation. (He said this in response to the Christian panelist's presentation of the gospel.) According to him, this would ensure religious tolerance for all. Now THAT'S scary. When intolerance is championed in the name of tolerance, then we are in the realm of Orwellian doublespeak.

I heard similar rhetoric recently concerning Focus on the Family's pro-life advertisement entitled "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life" to be aired during the Superbowl. Without ever seeing the ad, a pro-choice advocate denounced it as "hate disguised as family values," while clearly expressing undisguised hate for the sponsors.

The gospel will often evoke hate from its hearers. That is the meaning of the Cross. Christ was killed by the religious elite in the name of national security. May heaven help us if we become so intolerant of others that we need to silence their voices so we can enjoy our sins.

No comments:

Post a Comment