Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel.
Jesus ~ Mark 1:4
Repent: Change your way of thinking.
Gospel: The Good News, the best news ever.
This is the secret of good storytelling: to lie, but to keep the arithmetic sound.
Kurt Vonnegut ~ Palm Sunday
These two quotes together are not meant to imply that the gospel according to Jesus is a lie; rather they are to illustrate how far the gospel according to Christians has deviated from the original gospel. Nowhere is this more evident than in the word “repent.”
In most Christian circles, the word “repent” is accompanied by the unspoken caveat “or else you will go to hell.” This was certainly true at the commune. The Patriarch was especially adept at this inference. When we went witnessing, he would say “Reeepent!” in a deep, strong voice that always attracted an audience. It was like a bullhorn. I think that because he had repented of his whoremongering ways, he thought everyone else should “go and do likewise.”
(Note: On time the Face’s dad asked him about the Patriarch. The Face replied that he used to be a whoremonger, to which his dad replied, “Well, hello dere!”)
In my opinion, wanting everyone to go and do likewise is the impetus behind all the witnessing that goes on. A person has a life experience and assumes that it is the same for everyone else. (“If it happened to me, it happens to we.”) They operate on the ubiquitous “we.” I myself am not too keen on the Ubiquitous We – UW. I don’t mind when a person marches to the beat of his or her own drum, but I resist being dragged along in the parade.
My first encounter with UW was in the book Psychocybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. My dad gave it to me to read when I was in high school. I was okay, but the author kept telling me what I thought and how I felt. It was his particular gospel, but it was not good news to me.
I never did like witnessing and sharing the Christian gospel; however, it was expected of all disciples of the Christian faith, so I tried my hand at it. Besides, there was the Apocalypse to consider. It’s a pretty good story, despite the faulty arithmetic. It has a simple, direct, end-of-the-world scenario that people can relate to. It keeps people reading and, at times, is even an accurate representation of life. It’s as good a reason as any to repent, so I went witnessing.
On one memorable occasion, I was at Fashion Fair mall in Fresno with the Angela. We struck up a conversation with two teenage girls at J. C. Penney’s. I don’t know how it came about, but we ended up praying with them near the cosmetics counter with “You’re So Vain” playing in the background. Before we parted company, I gave the girls my name and the house phone number.
That evening I got a phone call from one of the girl’s mother wanting to know what the heck I said to her daughter. She informed me that she and her family were Christians and attended church on Sunday and what was I doing praying the sinners’ prayer with her daughter. She also wanted to know if my mother knew where I was and what I was doing. She was definitely annoyed with me. Thank goodness I didn’t tell the girl that her mother was going to hell!
Another Memorable Moment in Witnessing took place at night on “G” Street in Fresno. G Street was a known prostitute hangout. (Note: One of the brothers loved going to G Street to witness; it was his favorite place to share the gospel and spread the love. He was one of the brothers I ate the onion sandwiches for.)
Anyway, one of the ladies grew irate at our presence on the street. Love – that was her name – read us sisters the riot act. She took each one of us apart, ranting on and on about how sheep-eyed, pasty-faced, and baggy-shaped we looked. We endured her insults in solemn and sanctimonious silence because, as the communies knew, few things are as spiritually satisfying as a little painless persecution.
Since the commune days, I have reflected on the whole witnessing thing, and I still don’t like it. It’s rather odd that the Good News, the BEST NEWS EVER, has been left to us humans to share. I suppose God is okay with that even though some of us make a muddle of it. Nevertheless, I prefer Christianity to other major religions because its founder taught that people should love God and love each other. I can buy that. A religion that teaches hatred, intolerance, or even indifference just doesn’t work for me. But what do I know? Someday I will know nothing, and then I will have a story to tell.
Note to self: Since I am telling this story, does this mean I actually know nothing? Naa….