AFTER THREE DECADES OF INTIMACY with some of the world's greatest
wisdom texts and some of the West's most beautiful rivers, I assumed I'd
escaped the orbit of organized religion. Then came a night in
Medford, Oregon. After giving a literary reading to a warm,
not-at-all-church-like crowd, I was walking to the car when one of the
most astute men I know -- my good friend, Sam Alvord -- clapped me on
the back and amiably remarked: "I enjoy your evangelism."
I was flabbergasted. Evangelism? I was a story-teller, not one of
those dang proselytizers! The evangelists I'd known since childhood
thought the supposed "inerrancy of the Bible" magically neutralized
their own flaming errancy and gave them an apostolic right to judge
humanity and bilk it at the same time. The evangelists I'd known
proclaimed themselves saved, the rest of us damned, and swore
that only by shouting "John 3:16! John 3:16!" at others, as if
selling Redemption Peanuts at a ball game, could we avoid an Eternal
State of Ouch.
Then honest Sam tells me: "I enjoy your evangelism"?
Shit O. Deer.
That's pretty much the way I felt the first time somebody suggested to me that I might be
well-suited for ministry.
Friday, January 06, 2006
The new year might be time for some good reading. Especially since, as a form of self-punishment masquerading as "professional responsibility," I am trying to make it through the first book of the Left Behind series. Sack cloth and ashes would be easier. Forty days of fasting would be more pleasureable. But if I could break the fast with something from David James Duncan it might make the whole thing go down a bit easier. Duncan wrote one of my favorite novels, The Brothers K. It sits on my bedside table and I pick it up now and then just to enjoy the way he uses words. He tells stories of faith better than just about anyone I know, and obviously it gets him in a bit of trouble now and then, as this passage suggests: