Thursday, January 21, 2010


Witnessing, 2007

The other morning two nicely dressed ladies came to the door wanting to know if I’d been wondering why God “is punishing the people of Haiti.”

I don’t know if it happens much elsewhere. But here in the South rarely do a few weeks go by that someone doesn’t knock on the door seeking to “share God’s word” with us. I suspect the lady the other morning was one of the regulars trying to see if some new topical material would increase her hit rate, the traditional promise of burning in hell perhaps having lost some of its heat. She and her companion were, in any event, polite and weren’t visibly rattled when I offered that the tragedy in Haiti had more to do with a clash between tectonic plates than with the wrath of God.

It’s possible she was inspired by Pat Robertson’s recent cockamamie explanation about long dead Haitians’ deal with the devil. (Robertson, by the way, is another hallowed resident of, and broadcasts from his 700 Club tele-pulpit in our dear city here.)

Robertson is just one of many “extreme Christians” in our community. Virginia’s new governor is a protégé of Pat Robertson. There are more than a few people who were drawn here to live close to Robertson, but then determined that he’s not extreme enough for them. I don’t think it’s exaggerating any, therefore, to suggest that our local faith spectrum is a little wider and more finely segmented than those of many other communities. If nothing else, it makes for interesting politics and school board meetings.

Most of us who don't share an extreme faith perspective look upon those who do as a generally harmless and self-involved lot. This is meant as no disrespect to people whose faith is sincere and enduring. I’m referring to that category of people who aren’t content to let their life be an example. You know, the people who’ve got to be in your face, reminding you that God’ll smite you just as he did the firstborn of Egypt if you don’t get your shit together with Him.

One thing you learn putting on any large public gathering around here is that there are lots of extreme Christians anxious to hijack your function for their own purposes. They pop up like a jack-in-the-box at most any public occasion, especially during the tourist season. The young man shown above kept setting up shop here and there at a boardwalk history festival in 2007. I didn't see many people interact with him. Click on the picture and see a larger version. I think you’ll agree that his expression says he wasn't exactly looking for conversation.

I, for sure, didn’t have anything to say to him. I was even a little concerned that he might be one of those purpose-driven people who looks only too harmless until he pulls out a gun and mows down all the sinners in his midst.


  1. We get them here, too. Drives me nuts. My "ex" once invited them over for dinner, in VA, when they came to the door offering to "share their message of love!" They actually came, and I set the rules straight up: "No talk of religion whatsoever at the table." We had a nice cultural discussion about their lives instead.

    From the looks of the list on that sign, all my friends will be down there with me, anyway.

  2. I thought you said these people were nicely dressed.

    He seems to have completely missed the irony of standing there reviling people with a sign that tells us reviling is a sin.

  3. Yes, everyplace I lived here, this has happened.
    But I don't see them as harmless, and self-involved, at all. To borrow the word they use against EVERYone who doesn't think like them, I do believe they have "an agenda". Which is basically, in a nutshell, 'Be (Think, Believe) Like Me, because I AM Right.' ( and the rest of you poor sinners are of course, Wrong.)
    My town is now home to Patrick Henry College, which does indeed have a stated agenda: it's higher education for home-schooled kids ( heaven forbid they should mix with others who Don't Think Like Them ! ) offering one major, government, with the expressed purpose of sending these folks out to DC to change the country, in their image. Mike Farris, the founder, "joked" that his campus was shaped like a gun, pointed towards Washington....