I was flipping through movie channels the other day when I came across the following scene: Two uptight church friends come over to visit with their latest project, a gay church member who they are determined to turn (make straight). They knock on the front door but there is no answer. When they realize that he is not home they enter the living room where they notice a video cassette sticking out of the VCR. Curious, one of them reaches out, turns on the television and pushes the cassette in, only to land them smack in the middle of an energetic and raunchy heterosexual porno scene! One of them quietly and in a puzzled voice comments, “Well!” Life has a way of taking us by surprise especially when we are busy trying to remake others into how we think they should be! Life has a way of bringing what we had convinced ourselves we either didn’t want, shouldn’t want or didn’t like and dangles it before our eyes like the apple in the Garden of Eden! We then blame our attraction to the apple on the apple rather than on the deep yearning of our own heart!
It is all too possible to engage in religious practices and yet remain unchanged by those practices, as if the simple performance of the rites and rituals will automatically turn us into being “holy.” Well, it doesn’t work that way! Holiness is not about walking on water, levitating or foretelling someone’s future. Holiness is about wholeness, about struggling to unite our inner and outer lives and to come into harmony with spiritual and Divine realties. The struggle for holiness demands that we come to know and admit to our heart’s secret thoughts, as well as fostering a willingness to unflinchingly look at how our living reflects and expresses whatever desires feed and lock us into our isolated self-centeredness.
The problem that I have with religious evangelism is that for the Evangelizer the emphasis is on changing the other into how we think they should be. Rather than going door-to-door trying to sell religion on behalf of the Divine, promoting on Facebook how good their life will be if they will come to such-and-such church, or how bad Hell will be unless they change their behaviors immediately, how about if we expend that energy on taking stock of our own inner life and work to address our selfish self-centeredness? How about if when a videotape, an apple or life shocks us that instead we investigate what that shock says to us about ourselves?