Posts Tagged ‘christ’

Spring Thaw of the Religious Salesmen

April 14, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender

Lots of things changed in college when the snow melted and the mercury rose.  The clothes people wore got thinner and smaller, the music got louder because the windows got opener, and the once wintry and serene campus became inundated with soldiers from various religious armies.  In particular, the Krishnas and the Gideons wrestled for us students’ attentions and affections, with the occasional evangelistic twentysomething thrown in for flavor.

The Krishnas were for pure entertainment value, near as I could figure.  Humorous hairstyles and wardrobes, matched with unimaginative dance moves and song lyrics.  It seemed to be a bad roadshow musical without a decent manager.  When we’d walk by with our books, we’d hear “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna,” and in the spirit of friendliness, I’d offer, “Merry Christmas to you, too!”  When approached by one particular fellow, I asked, “Have your parents seen a recent photo?”  The chap did not seem in the mood for conversation, so I went about my way . . . which was, of course, what I was doing when he intercepted me in the first place.

The Gideons, on the other hand, were well-dressed, well-groomed gentlemen, all in their early to mid-sixties.  Under rather intense new-spring sun, they stood on every conceivable campus street corner in their three-piece suits – without sweating, mind you! – offering tiny shrunken Bibles to absolutely everyone who passed their post.  Most of my friends ended “Gideon Day” with one carry-along copy, to wave at the other pitchmen to illustrate “Got one, thanks.”  One friend in my dorm, however, saw it as an opportunity to break some sort of imaginary world record.  He collected Gideon Bibles from absolutely every passer-outer he came across that day!  I don’t think this is the goal of the Gideons, as I’m sure the dashing hawkers are aware that each copy reads pretty much the same as every other copy.  Still, I had to admire my friend’s determination and dedication.  To this day, I don’t know what he did with all those Testaments.

Once the Krishna courtyard and Gideon corners were maneuvered, you would run into the occasional stranger with the glassy-eyed frozen smile who would approach you with an already extended hand, saying, “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?” before even “Hello.”  Quite an interesting conversation-starter in some circles, I imagine.  Without taking the hand – and thereby implying that I wished a conversation – I’d say, “Yep, thanks,” and keep walking.  It’s terrible when people can make you squirm about something that normally feels good.  Then there were the Campus Evangelists.  Those who stand on short brick walls in open areas, shouting fire and brimstone to a wide open space full of moving targets.  The show I caught involved one energetic lad pointing at as many people as he could find, shouting, “You’re a sinner!  And you’re a sinner, too!”  How instrumental can this tactic be in recruiting folks for whatever army he was representing?  Had I been more interested in controversy than simply making it to class, I would have challenged, “Did you skip over the ‘Judge not, and ye shall not be judged’ passage, there, Brother?”  Sure, it’s an easy leap to assume everyone in sight – who happened to be human – was a sinner, but how rude to scream it to the public, without at least an “I’m a sinner right along with you!” in there somewhere.

I try very hard never to judge people.  I word things carefully, so as not to even appear as though I’m judging.  To this end, I would not say that these sects are peopled with weirdos.  I would say that these sects have . . . unique! . . . ways of bringing people into religion.  Is that nonjudgmental?

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Heavenly Motives, Heavenly Hash

April 7, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender

Happy Lenten season!  I must admit that, prior to last year, I knew very little about the hows and wherefores of Lent.  All I really knew was that Christians give up something for a few weeks.  In college, and a few Lents afterward, I used to joke that I was giving up sex for Lent, because I wasn’t having any, anyway.

Only last year did I learn more about the mechanics of this season, and put forth an honest effort.  In doing so, I ended up learning even more.

I found myself in church last Ash Wednesday, although I must also admit that I had no clue that it was, in fact, Ash Wednesday.  My church at that time held simple dinners on Wednesday evenings, and I partook on occasion.  This particular Wednesday, I was asked if I was staying for the holiday service, and while trying to hide my surprise, said, “Sure!”

During the short gathering, I learned that Christians give up doing something they normally love doing, and are meant to then spend the time they would normally devote to this activity communing with the Lord.  It is something that should be a personal decision, and something they should not share with anyone else but God.  I was very moved and intrigued by this, and made a decision to give it an honest try.

(According to the rules, I’m not really supposed to be telling you the rest of this, but I hope in passing on my lesson, I’ll get a pass.  Also, someone with more power than I broke the rule first, so hopefully, he will be my scapegoat.  More on that later.)

It just so happens that my birthday falls during Lent.  Last year, I took a Monday off and headed to my mom’s winter home in Florida for a long weekend of “mom time.”  On my last day there, which happened to be the big day, Mom had ice cream and cake for me and several neighbor friends.  It was a very nice time, with only one little glitch: I had given up ice cream for Lent.

In retrospect, it may not have been the wisest of moves to give up ice cream during a period of time that includes your birthday.  Keep in mind while pointing and laughing that I made this decision weeks before the event, and prior to making plans to see Mom.

So, I had a conundrum for a few seconds.  Do I politely explain that I can’t actually eat the wonderful Heavenly Hash ice cream that she had specifically bought because the amazing combination of chocolate ice cream, marshmallow, chocolate chips and almonds is my favorite?  Or do I throw sacrilegious caution to the wind, and dig in?  I decided not to insult my mom’s efforts, but it wasn’t an easy decision.  I spent the next six days sweating it, until I got back to church.

During the next sermon, my pastor told us his Lent story, which included what he chose to give up, and why it was a funny thing in the weeks that followed.  After the service, I approached him and began, “I realize I’m not supposed to be telling you this, but since you told everyone what you gave up, I don’t think I’m going to be in too much trouble.”  He laughed, and I explained the Lent/birthday issue, ending with the exaggerated puzzler, “Am I going to Hell?”

“Actually, no!” he replied quite enthusiastically.  It seems that it is a far greater moral crime to refuse a host’s hospitality than it is to keep your Lenten vows.  Leave it to Jesus to protect us from punishment for eating Mom’s ice cream.  Again, in a way I’m breaking a rule by sharing this tale, but I hope it teaches others about the intricate contract that is Lent, and how sometimes hurting your mom’s feelings is a greater sin than breaking a promise to Jesus.

Dear Santa

December 20, 2010

by Thomas M. Pender

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Dear Santa,
What should I wish for this year
That you can actually grant?
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A newer TV
A fancier gadget
A flashier car
Or some stunning clothes?
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I don’t need these things.
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A tropical vacation
An in-ground pool
A sprawling estate
A Learjet at my beck and call?
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Not bad.  Nice, to be sure.
But these are not essential.
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This is what I need:
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Health enough to last
Work enough to keep me busy
Compensation enough to bring me
Food and air and water and shelter.
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Time with my children
Time with my friends
Time to fall in love.
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I need to grow old
Smiling and laughing
Delighting in all that this Life
Has to give.
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But you cannot build me this
In your fine workshop
You cannot buy this
In some mall south of the North Pole.
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This Christmas list is beyond you,
No offense.
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This year, all I need from you, Santa
Is a favor:
Could you please pass this list
On to Jesus?
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written by t. michael pender 12/19/10
©2010 T. Michael Pender. All rights reserved.