A Little Mercy, Please
By Gary Amirault
The letter appearing below is a composite of thoughts I have heard expressed by a number of people outside the Christian community. Before entering the Christian community I had and still have some of these thoughts myself. The writer of this fictional letter is a reasonable person WHO feels he is basically a good person who would like to see peace on this earth. He is well read and likes to see both sides of an issue before making up his mind. The letter is addressed to a typical evangelical Christian, perhaps living in the same community--same kind of house, lifestyle, and income. This person is very much like many of your neighbors who you, perhaps, work with every day.
I saw you go off to the big crusade this morning. I suppose you are going to be one of the ushers or counselors. This kind of event really amazes me. I really don't understand the thing at all. It is not because I haven't tried to figure it all out, but because I tried to figure it out that I find myself amazed. And so this letter. Perhaps you will have some reasonable answers to a few of my questions.
You might be surprised by the fact that I know quite a bit about "crusades." I enjoy reading, particularly history books. It is really impossible to read history without constantly running into church history. I have read much about the earliest crusades when the church gathered mobs of peasants without hope and promised them many spoils if they joined the "crusade" to recapture Jerusalem from the Moslems. The images of tens of thousands of Moslems, Jews, and Orthodox Christians mercilessly killed by ruthless mobs led by Catholic priests are very vivid in my mind.. Quite frankly, if I were trying to bring people to my cause, whatever that cause may be, I don't think I would use a word such as "crusade" particularly if my cause were a moral one, such as the cause of Christ. This decision of naming these events "crusades" seems to me a very unreasonable or thoughtless decision, especially in the light of the fact that Christians spend much money, time, and efforts to try to win Jews, Moslems, and Greek Orthodox in these crusades. The memory these groups have of "crusades" is not a favorable one.
I probably know more about these modern crusades than you think. But you wouldn't know about that. You have never come to my house to share your faith. I wouldn't know you are a Christian except for the fact that I see you dressed up every Sunday morning leaving at the time when most churches have their Sunday morning services. The little fish on your bumper sticker also gave a little clue.
Those are the only signs I have seen, that let me know you are a Christian. Other than that, you look very much like the rest of the neighbors, some of which are Jewish, Mormon, and many like myself athiests or agnostics. Now I know the Bible says one will know Jesus' disciples by their love, but I haven't seen any difference between how you treat me or how my Jewish or Mormon or atheist friends treat me. Like I said earlier, I am a reasonable man. Some things need to make sense in order for me to accept them. For example, this "crusade" you are supporting-it makes absolutely no sense to me. Let me explain. Your church and many other churches have gotten together to spend thousands of dollars advertising this man. You bought billboard space, radio and television ads. All the media were sent media kits. You organized efforts to receive contributions from businesses, many of which sell products and services you otherwise find "un-Christian." You give the community a picture that the denominations are united, which you know is not true.
Having read a couple of books on modern "crusades" and how they are put together, I have discovered that you use all the same techniques any other entertainment business would use to gather a large audience. There seems to be no need for this "Holy Spirit" your evangelist talks about.
Now the fact that you use all the tricks of Madison Avenue to bring in the souls doesn't disturb me. If you want to sell something, use techniques that work. But I hear these speeches of all the things the "Holy Spirit" has done. Well, I think you ought to be honest. I think you should say, "Look at what good marketing has done!"
Like I said, I am a reasonable man. I try to analyze things and make sense out of them. Perhaps what upsets me most about this "crusade" business you are pushing on my community is this: This big name evangelist is going to come into town for a few days and he is going to preach "the gospel." This is what all the churches have united for. He will give a message of how the world is all lost and on its way to a place of eternal torment called "hell." That is not what God planned for mankind, but mankind through Satan became deceived and is now on the road to "hell." But God found a way to get some of mankind out of this dilemna. He sent His Son to die in their stead. All who "repent," ask Jesus to come into their hearts will be delivered from the fate of "hell." All those who don't will go to the fate of all mankind that does not make this decision in this life time. This preacher says that if one does what he says, they will receive the gift of eternal life. Just come forward and talk with one of the counselors. Now isn't that pretty much what is going to happen at this "crusade" which you are supporting?
Now let me tell you why I have written this letter. As I mentioned, I try to make reasonable decisions in my life. Now I understand that "faith" is something outside the realm of "reason" But facts are not outside the realm of either. Tell me, how do you reconcile these facts. Most of the churches participating in the "crusade" do not believe or teach the very "gospel" this evangelist is going to preach. Now either you haven't thought this through or you don't mind being a hypocrite and a deceiver. I am going to assume you haven't thought this through rather than that you are being deceitful. I will extend mercy and give you the benefit of the doubt.
This evangelist will preach a "simple gospel message." He will give an invitation to receive the "gift of life." No cost, he will say, just come to receive your "eternal life." My Christian friend, I once did exactly as this evangelist said. I came forward, went through the "sinner's prayer," was given a King James Bible, asked which church I belonged to (a dumb question, I thought) and when I told them I didn't belong to a church they sent the card I filled out to the Roman Catholic church, the very church that used to torture and burn people who preached the "simple gospel message." I quickly found out that the "simple gospel message" wasn't so simple. I didn't receive "eternal life" after all, and it wasn't free, somebody had to pay for all those expensive ornaments and the pope's big mansion, me! I found out that I would not know if I had eternal life until I died. The priests could excommunicate me and send me to hell if I didn't obey them. I had to call a piece of cracker the very body of Jesus Christ. I saw things called reliquaries which contained pieces of dead people. These men and women were chopped up after their death by priests. The pieces were then put into expensive jars and sent to various churches. They were pawned off as remedies for healing sicknesses. (They were also very profitable for the Roman Catholic Church.)
I found out that most likely, I would have to spend some time in a place called purgatory before I entered "eternal life," but my relatives could shorten my stay there by paying off the priests. In reading the canons of the Roman Catholic Church, she still declares that there is only salvation within itself. All the other churches are apostate and heretical. I had to call men "Father" even though the Bible says, "Call no man father." Dear Christian, the list of rules, creeds, vows, works and various things which require much money which I would have had to abide by to receive "the free gift of eternal life" is much too long to list. I won't bore you with detail. I will just say this. When the evangelist declared that salvation was a "free" gift and that the life I was to receive that day was to be eternal, he must have lied on both counts! Either that or he was totally ignorant of the teachings of the churches he uses to support his work. In either event, this man is not doing the cause of Christ any good by promoting all these misrepresentations.
In studying some of the teachings of the other churches that participated in the "crusade," they also had many strings attached to this "free" gift. Some declared you had to be baptized a certain way, others said you had to sign membership cards, others said you had to keep the Ten Commandments, some said you had to give 10 per cent of your income, most said you had to regularly attend their church. The list of things one had to do to stay saved or to show that you were truly "born again" is too lengthy to mention in this letter. I ran into someone who was told that if he didn't shave off his mustache, he was going to hell. In this church facial hair, smoking, drinking alcohol, and for women short skirts or pants would send them to hell and take away their "eternal" life. Now, my Christian friend, to me the word "eternal" is not hard to understand. Eternal life is not something one has one minute and then loses. One cannot lose something that is "eternal." But the majority of the churches that participate in these "crusades" will take away that "eternal" life if you don't keep their rules. Many of these rules also cost you something, sometimes quite a lot. So how do you feel justified in calling it "free?" Many companies employ a technique call "bait and switch." I feel that was used on me by the evangelist that roped me into his "good news." It may have been advertised "good," but I found little good in the church he sent me to.
As I mentioned earlier, I am a reasonable person. I also consider myself honest. This "crusade" concept is far from honest. As a matter of fact, it is very dishonest. As I said, I did all the evangislist said to do, I don't feel any different, I don't feel I have been "born-again." I was told not to go by my feelings, but friends, if God Himself moves into my house, I think that should make a little stir, don't you think?
I decided to visit other churches on my own. I just couldn't handle being told I had to believe that silly stale cracker they called the Host was really Jesus Christ. And the questions they asked you at confession would make an X-rated movie! At these other churches I discovered that "free gift" also was not free, nor was it eternal. I could blow the whole thing. Every church had its own rules, most very vague, as to how to blow the whole thing.
I finally got disgusted enough with the whole thing that I quit going to church. Well, now they are all in agreement. Surely, I couldn't be saved . . .no fruit. By no fruit I think they mean no cash in their coffers! I thought Jesus said you will know them by their love, not by the one hour spent in an underused building on Sunday. Well, I feel better now. I had to get this off my chest. I believe in God. I also know that I don't know Him. You and your evangelist claim you do. You also claim the Bible is the Word of God. The Bible says all liars will have their part in the lake of fire. Your crusades are not truthful. The methods are not honest and your participation in them make you an accomplice to a lie. I hope that the true God is a merciful God, because of all the people I know, Christians will need to be forgiven for much evil they have done in the name of God.
One last thing. The Bible says that when a person is truly "saved" Christ then comes and lives in them. If this is true, then why do you need to hire an big promoter to come in to preach the "simple good news." If Christ truly lives in you, why not use these many thousands of dollars to feed the poor and let the Christ that supposedly lives in you talk to me? Does He really live in you? You see, my Chrisian friend, I am a reasonable man. I expect people to produce what they claim they have. If they can't, and they have to hire a public relations person to explain why I can't see what they really have, that tells me something. I will let a company take advantage of me once, but should they treat me dishonestly, I will find another company with which to do business. My friend, there are millions like me, who have tasted what your evangelist sells and have felt taken advantage of.
Like I have said several times now, I am a reasonable man. I also feel I am fair minded. If you feel that I have seen this "crusade" business incorrectly, please tell me so. I am willing to listen. But please don't give me a bunch of excuses for the clear lies and misrepresentations that are being perpetrated by these evangelists and the churches that organize them. Please read the articles of faith, by-laws, and canons of these churches that participate in these "crusades' and show me that I have not read them correctly. But if what I have observed is correct, then please tell me why you would be an accomplice to this kind of deception.
In the mean time, I will take comfort in a few scriptures which I read in the Bible and wait. "No one can come to me unless My Father draws him." and the other is "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth will draw all mankind unto myself." I can't really give you an explanation of this, but somehow, something deep inside me finds great comfort in these words. There is a hope that is stirred, a hope which rings true in contrast to the false promises given by the "crusader." These scriptures, and many others like them, give me hope for you too. You see, my neighbor, I have not seen Christ in you, whether he is there or not, I do not know, but he certainly hasn't manifested Himself to me through you. But these scriptures give me hope. You see, I wouldn't find any comfort being in heaven knowing you, my neighbor, were in a place of unmentionable suffering. Heaven wouldn't be very heavenly in such a circumstance. I would do everything in my power to set you free. Somehow, I feel, God's heart and power would find a way. Somehow, I feel, the Savior of all mankind, will become, in fact, the Savior of all mankind, not just the Savior of some. Now I don't personally know this Savior. You claim you do. One day, I suppose we will find out. May He have mercy on all of us, whether we know Him, or claim to know Him, or are waiting until He draws us.
This letter was composed as a tract to give to Christians who seem to have lost their ability to see the inconsistencies they often express without realizing them. Hopefully, it will cause some of them to think!
Some of the great movers of mankind, who had good minds, were turned away from the True Gospel because they saw through the kind of activity seen in the above "crusade." They didn't reject Christ, they rejected unreasonable substitutes for the True Gospel. While faith does not come by reason, reason is certainly usable to discern hypocrisy and untruthfulness. Those of you who know that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the Whole World have such wonderful opportunities to go to the millions who have been fed religious lies in the name of Christ and to love them with the Christ within. Why would churches who really do not truly believe in salvation by grace through faith participate in these crusades? Maybe it is because they bring in people and people equals tithes and offerings, power, and prestige. Maybe it is because they are blind.