Sunday, June 17, 2007

OA'ing an evangelist

Jim, April, Helen, and company at Off-the-Map run a website called Ordinary Attempts, in which they tell stories of otherliness. They are thinking "evangelism", but some of us who aren't christians still like the idea of doing free attention giveaways. From their explanation page:

Our culture’s equivalent of a cup of cold water is attention. OAs are free attention giveaways.

God counts, notices and works with our smallest efforts (including praying behind peoples back or even noticing them) to carry people along toward himself.

OA s have been borrowed by others who don’t care about the evangelism but simply want to participate in free attention giveaways and intentional acts of kindness in order to make the world a better place or someone’s day a bit brighter. We welcome this practice as well and don’t see any conflict of interest regardless of what motivates people to OA – it is better than not OAing.
So I got published over there last week with a story of my OA'ing an evangelist. Here it is:

So today I got to OA a fairly strange character named Brother Jed. He was sitting in a chair in red square on the UW campus, or standing near his chair, and in a well projected, well carrying voice he was … preaching, for lack of a better word. Some of the things he was saying sounded kind of nice, like maybe god cared about the smallish groups of students who would stop to listen a while. Other things he was saying were completely off, IMNSHO, like god is gonna send homosexuals and perverts and sinners to hell, and the point of sex within marriage must mainly be procreation, etc. etc.

I sat and listened to students mocking him, or haranguing him, or asking him pointed questions, and him responding in his loudish voice, often with what seemed to me rather outrageous responses. And I wrote him off fairly quickly. “What a quack,” I thought. But after I left, I thought to myself “That must get tiring, and he probably has lots of fascinating stories, and I wonder if he can speak at a normal volume level?” so I went back and sat down to take some notes for a little while with the idea of blogging about it and maybe connecting with him. And then he wrapped up.

So I said “Hey, can I buy you a drink?” and he said “sure”. so I got him a soft drink and we sat down and talked for 20 minutes, at normal volume levels. He preaches like that 5 hours a day on collge and university campuses all over the country all year round, and has been doing thus for 32 years. And he has a wife, and 5 daughters, and one is in the army as a chaplain’s assistant, but not in Iraq. And he used to be a history prof at a university, and then he left to go study under a guru in India, but along the way he got distracted into living in a hippie commune in Morroco.

And one day at the Hippie Commune in Morocco, in the evening, they were watching the sunset and chanting, and he looked behind him and saw the full moon rising as the sun was setting. And he thought “Wow! Someone must have created that”. Which led him to start reading the Bible, become a Christian, give up on India, return to the U.S., and start his 32 year old preaching career.

All that for a simple soft drink and a brief invitation. I was stoked. He seems like a fairly nice guy when he’s not doing the preaching thing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

a comment from Robert:
That was a cool story. I was inspired by your actions and their results. You looked past his rhetoric and persona and got a glimpse of the person.

The arc of his life was interesting to me as well in that it reminds me of other cases of one extreme leading to another. He was chilling out in a hippie commune and subsequently latched on to a fundamentalist Christianity (my interpretation). Similarly, the most strident and dogmatic atheists I know started as Christians (usually fundamentalist).