Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Death of a Salesman

I think my last post has left the impression that I'm frustrated by peoples' unwillingness to buy what I'm selling. I feel like an aggressive homeless person who stands at interesections and rushes out and washes your window with newspapers, and you're left suddenly digging through your cupholder trying to find change because you clearly can't use a debit card. You sheepishly hold out a couple of Coke-covered nickels and you get cursed at. You start trying to find another route.
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But then again, homeless people at least have an obvious reason for their hard-sell. Let me amend my analogy. I'm coming off like a drug pusher who's way too emotionally invested in people buying a dime bag.
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Did you know that a two-ounce bag of brown-sugar heroin sells for under three dollars in Afghanistan? It used to bring about eighty cents. The fields are planted with poppies; bomb-blasted buildings are full of men with needles in their arms. Ten percent of the population are addicts. Bin Laden sold them death with a few simple promises: seventy virgins, significance, and drugs.
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Teen boys born in the US to moderate Muslim parents were joining the jihad after watching some of his videos. A few of them were from St. Paul. Bin Laden had to have been the best salesmen of all time.
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The Christian message, by comparison, is almost laughable. Muslim men picture an eternity of hot sex; Christian men picture an eternity playing the harp. And so earnest Christians, convinced that the gospel is true but not quite sure how to sell it, say something like this: Christianity isn't a religion, it's a relationship. You were made to want God. The only thing that stops you from a relationship with God is your sin, and once you accept Christ's payment for it, you'll have access to God. Your desires will be met (try it and see.)
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It is a distortion so close to truth that the Christian can overlook the fact that it's not exactly what he experiences.
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The truth is that the space in time between faith and the culmination of faith --believing that you will see God and actually seeing God-- cannot possibly satisfy a human heart. We go from blind to having sight, but the sight is blurry. The more you squint, the more you realize how little you see.
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And you're suddenly required to be an Art major too.
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So Christians take up their studies. They talk about what they saw in their textbook, about how much they loved the Raphael, and they work diligently on their assignment to copy the Mona Lisa, but in the end they know that they could barely see Raphael's piece because of their stigmatism and that their version of the Mona Lisa will never look like the original.
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They eat their carrots to improve their sight and they listen to lectures on Art History, and they're glad the professor has such good vision, but they'd rather see it themselves than have to be told how beautiful the composition is on the screen. And most days, they'd rather skip the lectures completely and sit around watching football.
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You see enough to wish like crazy you could see more: that is all.
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Because it's not only sin that keeps us from having a relationship with God, it's being not-dead.
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I have at times diminished Heaven so much in my mind that I tried to paint this present reality as fulfillment itself. I've acted as though dissatisfaction with seeing "as through a glass, darkly" were something to be silenced. It seemed so unholy, a reality to be embarrassed of and ignored. The truth is that I'm not particularly good at art, and I can barely see The Crucifixion. And yet, I know it's the most beautiful thing I've never seen.