Evangelism: Replace or Reframe?
I didn’t grow up in an evangelical church or home. And I’ve never served an evangelical church as an adult. In my life, I’ve never knocked on anyone’s door to tell them about Jesus. With the exception of a few misguided moments in my youth (sorry, friends), I’ve never engaged in evangelism for evangelism’s sake. At least, not evangelism in religious terms. We’re all evangelical about something. For me, it’s Harry Potter and cloth diapers.
Have you read the Harry Potter books? Or at least seen the movies? That’s quality storytelling right there. And it’s chock-full of good social justice teachings. I can point at Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to teach my daughter about racism. Or look to Hermione’s crusade on behalf of the house elves to see lessons in economic justice and what it means to be an ally. Or consider Voldemort’s blind quest for power to examine questions about virtue and good and evil and things worth staking our lives on. Not to mention friendship, loyalty, belonging, kindness and pretty much everything else we look for in life. Seriously, you should read the books. See? I’m a super Harry Potter evangelist (you’re welcome, J.K.).
And then there’s the cloth diapers. This might seem like an odd combo, but hey, who’s to say what we should be passionate about? When I was pregnant, my friend, Jenn, evangelized to me about cloth diapers. It was weird enough to warrant an investigation. Which yielded solid evidence in the “we should totally do this column.” Here’s why: 1. It’s cheaper. Even if you go with the expensive, fancy, easy to use kind. Still cheaper. And yes, that’s including detergent, water and energy. 2. No toxins suffocating your kid’s genitals. That’s pretty good, no? 3. Did you know disposable diapers take something like 400 years to disintegrate? That means the disposable diapers you wore as a baby still exist. And will continue to exist long after you’re dead. And newborns go through 20+ diapers a day. The idea makes me ill.
Sure, cloth diapers take more time and hassle and are possibly slightly grosser if you’re squeamish about that sort of thing. But those things are totally worth it given the benefits. Also, cloth diapers are more interesting. They can look adorable. And to convince my TCU loving spouse to go along with this crazy scheme, I just had to point out that they were available in purple and then declare “Game Day Diapers!!!” with lots of fake enthusiasm.
See? I’m a super evangelist for Harry Potter and cloth diapers.
But that’s easy. Those things don’t come with the same baggage that evangelism in the name of Jesus does (Imagine. Cloth diapers carry less baggage than Jesus.). People have leveled some hurtful stuff in the name of Jesus. And the churches that claim themselves as evangelical—well they haven’t exactly done the brand any favors. Which leaves the rest of us feeling stuck. What are we supposed to do with evangelism?
On the one hand, the minute we think of evangelism, we think of all the bad stuff. So we want to walk away and forget all of that and just let people be. Which is the good, progressive response anyway. Just letting people be.
On the other hand, what is evangelism except spreading good news? So if Jesus or Christianity or church or God or any of it has been a positive force in my life, then isn’t it good to want the people I love to know about that? At least as much as I want them to read Harry Potter? Or as much as I want to see them shudder in disgust the second I say “cloth diapers”? Isn’t it good to talk about the stuff we care about?
I don’t think I have all the answers to it. But I’m hopeful we’ll come up with something together. Join us for a 3 week series starting May 7 in which we’ll talk about our evangelism baggage, the things we may have forgotten, and where we want to end up with regards to it all