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Revelations column: We are all destined to be radical evangelicals

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Jan. 4, 2013 at midnight
Updated Jan. 4, 2013 at 7:05 p.m.

Jennifer Preyss

A few nights ago, I was curled up in my big chair - the chair in my living room a few inches smaller than a love seat and a few inches larger than a recliner - chatting with a friend about radical evangelicals.

As he described them, radical evangelicals are former drug and alcohol addicts or people who may have spent time in jail for (insert indiscretion here) who later "find God" and become outspoken, Christian evangelicals.

I've met a number of people who fit this description. Some of them seem genuine others, not so much.

But because I believe so much in God's ability to change people, I know change can happen in a man's heart overnight, as well as over a period years.

My friend has never clarified his beliefs on God.

He's only suggested that he's become more open about Christianity through a network of friends and co-workers who've demonstrated the best of what the religion offers.

But even though he's had good experiences with some Christians, he recoils when religion is shoved down his throat - especially when he's put upon by someone with a checkered past.

"It's just hard for me to listen to them when I know they used to be crazy," he said. "I have a real hard time believing they had some overnight conversion and now, suddenly, they know God. I don't think that can happen."

I typically welcome conversations on religion because it gives me the opportunity to listen and learn about how others perceive and digest faith. But this particular night, I wasn't sure I wanted to engage his criticisms.

I knew if I engaged him, the conversation could possibly become a passionate exchange.

And to be honest, I wasn't in the mood. I was in the big chair. The room was warm, and I was cozy beneath my favorite blanket.

But as he continued to speak about what he believed were annoying, outspoken evangelicals and his disbelief in their conversion, I knew I was going to have to speak up.

I didn't entirely disagree with his criticisms, but I passionately disagreed that God was not able to change the hearts of people with even the most wretched indiscretions to their names.

So, I spoke up and allowed myself to defend the radical evangelicals he mocked.

I explained to my friend that I didn't necessarily disagree with his observations, and that I will never fully understand why anyone would be turned on to Christ through someone beating them over the head with "turn-to-Jesus" messages at every turn.

But I also explained that the one thing I've learned during the past eight years in my own Christian journey, is that I don't have to be turned on to every stripe of evangelizing. Nor do I have to relate to every stripe of Christian.

What works for me doesn't have to work for you. What makes me want to spend hours reading scripture may put someone else to sleep. What I find annoying and inconsiderate someone else may find inspiring.

"It's not my style to spread the gospel that way, but it doesn't need to be. And you have to admit, there's something brave about the way they go about it," I said. "I wouldn't have the guts to do it that way."

I managed to continue my rant without raising my voice or lifting my head from the big chair's arm rest.

For the first time in the conversation, he went silent and let out an audible, "hmm."

"I never thought about it like that," he said, followed by a few thoughts on my unique faith perspectives.

Later that night, after we hung up, I thought about our conversation and how beautifully imperfect and flawed man is. Christians are no exception.

No matter what church we attend or denomination we subscribe to, our God-following will forever be checkered and mark-missing.

For that reason, we are all destined to be radical evangelicals at some point in our lives.

And at that moment, I realized I, too, was guilty of being radical evangelical that night.

I didn't wave a sign on a street corner or blast my views on Facebook.

But I vocalized my opinions and explained my position.

And I managed to do it from the comfort of my big chair.

Jennifer Preyss is a reporter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or jlpreyss@vicad.com

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