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Evangelism revisited

Why evangelism is important for me. (Sept 14, 2006)

A few months ago, resisting Fr. Andrew and hearing Rabbi Stephen, I wrote that Evangelism should no longer be important to the Christian Church. Today, hearing Father Nareg, Rabbi Stephen, and others, I have some new thoughts. The setting is the gathering of 100 people, of whom 2 or 3 are from the press, to hear the protest of Boca Raton clergy to the genocide in Darfur. Many spoke of evil and I was hearing "incarnate" in my mind. But when I googled "evil incarnate" I found a rock band. The 2 or 3 from the press, I'm afraid, aren't going to be heard over the rock band of "my job, my kids, my loneliness, my business". This genocide will continue and will become more horrific than Rwanda.

I once knew two secular people -- by that I mean two people who were remarkably effective in the secular world (Jim Rouse and Gordon Cosby). They were important friends to each other, and I was lucky enough to know both quite well. As I learned from them, the most important lesson I got from both was the same. "When I am not heard, when I meet someone difficult, what has happened is that I have not succeeded in communicating my truth." They would choose different words for what "my truth" was, and I'd choose other words, but the meaning of the words each of us would choose is the same in its essence. It's essence is that we must learn to love one another and to create peace and justice so that our children have a better chance than we and our brothers and sisters have had. I like the expression "love one another", so I use it easily. If it seems maudlin or sentimental to you, subsitute "allow each other the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". I can't imagine that we don't agree on peace and justice and a better chance for our kids.

But, we are reminded today that there are a gosh awful lot of people in the world who just don't have room to get to "peace and justice and a better chance for their kids". So, today, "Evangelism" has a new meaning for me. There are things we need to communicate that are of immense importance. They have to do with:

I believe the essence of our species is
  1. our opposable thumb and more synapses than other species,
  2. our appetites, and
  3. our freedom of choice.
Those gifts give us immense capacity to create, but also capacity to hurt our environment and one another. But they also give us the ability to learn, to form values, and to take on faith. We are in deep peril if we do not learn to evoke wholesome values whereever possible, to learn restraint, to know that we are all in process, and to take responsibility for our failures, including our failures to love one another. And, dear one, do not think that I am maudlin or sentimental in talking about loving one another. This is a very tough calling. For quite a long time, I've been working on Gordon Cosby's Becoming the Authentic Church and Elizabeth O'Connor's Marks of the Liberating Community. I'll be helped if I can summon up the commitment of the fundamentalist to do these things, but I truly hope that the checks and balances of community and examina will keep me wholesome. Here's what evangelism means for me.
Evangelism is about summoning ourselves and others to our better instincts. It is about making it possible for each of us to live safely and empowered on a planet which has immense capacity for destruction.
God bless you.

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