The other day, June 13th to be exact, was my cousin's birthday party at his house in Conyers, Ga. I think he turned 27? I was that guy who didn't bring a gift because I forgot...BUT I did bring the chips and dip, which me, him, and my brother Jon promptly inhaled. Also, I did eat the pizza, drink the coke, and play the xbox360.
Now for those of you who know my cousin, Josh, you know that the most odd things happen to him all the time, so it seems. He always has a story from something that happened recently at work or church or, heck, just about anywhere! They are not always good stories but they are stories none the less. Not to say he doesn't tell them well. He tells a story very well. Not to say that his vocation is a "story-teller" but I think he could be. I think he should be, actually. He tells a good story. At any rate...
When I got to his house the other day he was sitting on the couch with his daughter, Tybee, and he was playing MOH (Medal of Honor. Don't all the cool people just abv. it?). Well being that it is a two player shooting game I obviously wanted to play and try to shoot him!
Before we began though he had a story to tell me. He said that the other day when he was dropping off some things at the Goodwill bin he found "THIS!" *at this point he whipped out his laptop and hit play on the DVD that was on the screen*. The first thing I see is a sea of people in a huge auditorium and I think to myself "He has found some crazy preacher or guy that thinks he is Jesus. Maybe Yahweh-Ben-Yahweh?" Josh is notorious for finding the craziest preachers or cult leaders so I was ready to laugh. I didn't laugh. Yet.
The first words I heard were actually not words...well I couldn't understand them anyways. The first words I did understand were something like *In mumbly voice. The kind that creeps you out in old b&w science fiction flicks* "I had a hat. And I wore that hat... *some words I don't remember* other people don't wear hat...And they looked for the pyramids and they searched for them. They tried to figure out how to use them. Lexamystics, congraguaty, triangle, knowledge!" OK, so I made that last sentence up but there were so many odd words I didn't understand. I knew this DVD was gunna be good. But I didn't laugh I just sat with my mouth a-gape like a hole that's been blown into the side of a mountain: deep, dark and silent.
Then after what seemed like a 15 minute introduction (and boy was it an introduction! It was so good that I had NO IDEA what was going on! A CGI world floating and CGI books and tape sets zooming around the world. Sound clips and excerpts from these books/tape dubbed over the video. Then an anouncer voice saying other things I didn't understan) a man walks out onto a stage in front of the huge crowd of people that I had seen before and the crowd goes wild. Jumping and screaming, hootin' and hollerin'. People of all types. The set looks like an elaborate set like the ones you see on TBN or in John Hagee's church (*disclaimer: I am not saying anything bad about either one of them. I am just saying they have elaborate sets sometimes and I know what they look like because I grew up seeing them on the TV). The camera pans across the front row: Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, John Travolta, SCIENTOLOGY!!! This is when I began to laugh. Mostly because Tom Cruise was jumping out of his skin, clapping and screaming and his wife (Katie Holmes) looked like she just lost her best friend. Her mouth was in a downward spiral, her eyes seemed dark and sunken, and she flopped her hands together like two dying fish fighting to revive themselves.
The man on the stage was young and good looking. He had a head full of hair, a nice suit, a strong jaw line and piercing eyes. His voice was the voice of a speaker and his confidence was through the roof! He began to speak and this is what I heard: "Avboadoifkjlw adhoviefa oadskw0i anavo ariyru nvfoaiwer aowlmfaalei fgybbnvr oainfae. Uaiioae bvai 948hai9 qg30 nvqp83q367v*/aa jhaif. Nvoaiufaerh aouva 9w84hakj!!!" the crowd goes wild! What was going on?
OK, he did not say that exactly but he might as well have. I did not understand a bloody thing the guy was saying. Was it even English?! Then they kept showing really weird, old movie clips with L. Ron Hubbard's mumbly voice overdubbed on them saying all sorts of weird/creepy things then they would cut back to the speaker on the stage and an eruption of applause would ensue.
I have been a Christian all my life and have never known anything else religion wise. I don't know what a lot of other religions really believe and I didn't know what it felt like to be a "non-Christian" until I watched that DVD. I felt totally lost to what these people were talking about. I mean it seemed great the way they were acting and they had lots of money and big movie stars and flashy things and big stages and beautiful people! Who wouldn't want to join!? Other than the fact no one who didn't already know stuff about Scientology could understand anything that was going on.
Then it dawned on me: this is probably what it feels like for a "non-Christian" to walk into most churches without having any former knowledge of Christianity. We use all the Christian terminology and such and they can't understand it. We clap and sing (well some of us...but that is another subject) and they don't know why. We smile and laugh like we are happy about everything and they don't get it because life isn't always that good, and we speak of God like he is, as my friend Paul Wilder would put it, some Pie-in-the-sky God, some mystical thing in the outer realms of the universe that has supreme control over us and our actions. It just sounds bazaar!
Now this just may be my opinion but I don't know that Jesus called us to be flashy and big and lights and stuff. There is nothing wrong with that stuff and sometimes it does help to draw some folks in to the church building but if that (and some fancy lingo) is all we have to offer we are missing something. God called us to love. Love is a thing that I think everyone can understand or feel or see. You know when you have seen or experienced love. You just know.
John 13:34-35"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
While I have always been taught these truths growing up (that life and being like Jesus was about love and not flashy things) the light finally came on 25 years after that fact. I finally understood why it was about love and not fancy words and lights and sound and looks and stages.
So, with that said I would like to say thank you to my parents, my pastors, everyone older and wiser than me that has ever taught me anything, my wife, my father and mother-in-law, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, L. Ron Howard, and the good looking speaker for making me look at being a Christian and Christianity from a whole different perspective: From the outside in.