Bringing eternal life to strangers is a thankless task.
Sometimes it’s a wordless task. Type Ones half-open their doors and see the suit and the pamphlets and they slam them without a word.
The Type Twos are little better. They notice it all and check my badge to discover which variety they are rejecting with; “No, thank you. We’re Baptists and happy about that, thank the Lord”, or “No, thank you. We’re not at all religious; we’re all Church of England in this house.” That sort shuts up with a whoosh and ‘have a good day,’ as if hoping another church’s evangelists will make a convert.
It’s hard; this door-to-door, but no-one said it would be easy. True; on the rare occasions when someone’s interested it’s the most satisfying feeling in the world and so worthwhile. One gets an overwhelming sensation of joy when one’s in a home and there’s an opportunity to make a conversion. It doesn’t always last, of course; there are all kinds of resistance and doubts and sometimes they switch to outright hostility in the blink of an eye and one can find oneself becoming disinvited. It’s painful when one is no longer welcome.
But even being shown the exit is better than the Type Threes. They’re the clever ones; the intellectuals; the living embodiment of ‘a little learning is a dangerous thing’. On the doorstep they have to beat you down with how Genesis parallels many Creation myths or how the resurrection of the flesh and the return from Death’s kingdom is a story common to many deities: Osiris, Orpheus, Persephone, J***s C****t. And they’re right, of course; most religions address the fear of death and offer some comfort or escape. Don’t get me started on what they say about Holy Communion. Just don’t.
But it’s the rudeness that upsets me; the attitude that because they’ve read anti-religion articles in The Guardian or New Atheist blogs they’re experts on the Church’s persecutions of heretics, witch-burnings and all that burial-at-the-crossroads nonsense. All of which happened, of course, but it’s also insulting and an example of the Devil quoting scripture to serve his ends. Even though I was perfectly aware of that stuff before my own conversion, I still hate it when they talk about the C*******n Church. It’s painful to me.
I love Type Fours. They’re the dubious, wavering ones: the anxious, lonely hopefuls; the would-be seekers if only they had the time but ‘I’ve got dinner on the hob and I don’t want it to boil over’ brigade. One can get to them. There’s a way in with Type Fours if one’s careful and not too pushy. I usually employ humour. “I know it sounds funny in this day and age when you hear someone say ‘Let me tell you the good news of how you can find eternal life,’ but I promise you that it doesn’t hurt a bit and will only take a few moments of your time. Ten minutes, tops, if you’re interested.”
Take this evening, for example. It was just after the teatime rush before the evening’s TV and before the soaps had started. I knocked and a lady answered. She was blonde and thirtyish and healthy-looking and lacked that happily married glow or the optimistic dating-and-still-excited Match.com aura which warns I have no chance. I started my pitch and I could see she was less than thrilled by my wholesome appearance. There was a Simpson’s umpteenth-time rerun playing in the background: the one with the three-eyed fish. She wouldn’t reject me for a mutant fish, surely? Somehow we got on to the topic of workplace stress (I’m in second-hand jewellery myself and despite the upward pressure on gold prices since 2008, reset gems just aren’t selling the way they did before Freddie Mac was valued at round about a Big Mac and fries), and then we spoke about workplace rudeness and loneliness in crowds…and at that point something from Corinthians seemed to do it and she invited me in.
Her living room was cosy and all the photos were of nieces in
rather than anyone who could be anybody’s strapping sons. Her bookshelves ran
to cookery, historical fiction (I like a nice Georgette Heyer myself in the
dark lonely hours before dawn) and some Dark Romance which might be unfortunate,
but I ignored those. No Bible. There was neither PC nor laptop so perhaps no
friends would miss her on Facebook and phone her. There was no crucifix on the
wall so she was probably tabula rasa
theologically. No mirror to indicate vanity and hence worldliness. She wore an angora
cardigan with slacks and pumps that spoke of scraping together spinsterish
savings before the sale ended. She also had a nice enough pearl set that I
doubted any admirer had troubled his Platinum card to lay before her. No
silverware anywhere. Perfect. Australia
She smiled and looked a little embarrassed and a lot sheepish. “So tell me, Dennis,” she asked, “what is the Good News about finding the Path to Eternal Life?”
“It doesn’t hurt very much at all,” I amended, smiling toothily into eyes that right at that moment saw the light just an instant too late.