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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Have you ever done something knowing that action was correct, but at the same time were completely aware opening your mouth could have a pretty significant backlash?  Hello, I am about to do that because, well, I seem to be doing that fairly often, so keeping with the theme seems like a good idea. A bit.

I am going to tell you a little about the world I come from, but do not assume I am going to enter into a closed-minded tirade of any sort as this is applicable to most positive motivations in life.  Growing up in church, we were told to "Spread the Good News", reach out to the community, draw people into Christianity, so forth and so on.  As a Christian, the Bible tells us to convert people, or at least take a pretty good stab at it ("stab" not being the best choice of word, but moving on).  With this idea in place, my church did some things from my childhood to teenage years that seemed normal enough to me as an effort to make this happen.  Just to give you a few examples over a two year stint: A group of us walked around a neighborhood and invited people to church, about twenty of us walked down a very busy street playing guitars and singing hymns,  that same group also went to the fair that year and handed out little "tracts" (papers with scripture on them) to random strangers, and we had these t-shirts made up with a logo and "inspirational" saying printed on them that was styled after the John Deere logo and slogan, which I actually designed and still have one of.  Now,  to a church person or someone who grew up within a Christian church, all of this seems run-of-the-mill-normal, and chances are those same people have done similar things at some point.  There is a problem...  While all of this seems fairly typical and like a great idea to Christians, those who are not Christians generally find it all completely insane; in a bad way.

I did not realize how the rest of the world looked at the actions of those with similar beliefs to mine until I spent about a year away from the church.  You see, growing up in the church, I always heard some of the congregation talk about how Muslims were strange because of their daily prayer rituals, or how Catholics were off because they prayed to saints instead of directly to God, and until I stepped away I was, ashamedly, on the same page with those making such comments.  After spending that time away from the church and most of the people in it, I started thinking about how crazy the evangelical Christian people looked to even me;  someone who grew up thinking it was all normal.  

Now, I get it, I spent five years of my life in Seminary, I know Hermeneutics, Greek Interlinear makes sense to me, and I had a GPA to back all of that up;  so I know that Christians are supposed to spread the love around in such a way that people are drawn to them almost magnetically.  But, if the evangelicals would take a step back and look at how most of the world views their attempts at converting people or reaching out, they may all realize why it is not really working.  Hey, I was one for most of my life and happened to run away from the church but still kept my faith intact while most others leave their beliefs sitting in the pew.  I left the church, but I did not leave God behind.  Yet, I had a moment where I was at the fair (the same, yearly one as I mentioned earlier) two years ago when some preacher tried to hand me a Bible while saying "Son, leave the life you live, the tattoos, and sinning behind you.  Repent and be saved."  It took everything in me to not give him a little lesson in Theology and explain that the tattoo he made reference to was none other than a first-century translation of the name of not only his God, but mine as well.  Instead, I just went on my way and brushed him off as a disconnected lunatic.  

All evangelicals are not like this, I know that.  The outreach things I did as a younger man were not quite as extreme as the Bible-thumper in the suit at the fair, but for those who were not brought up around that environment... they could feel much differently than I do.  And is that not the point of anything where you are attempting to make a difference?  Anyone who has a good motive to do good things or make a positive impact must have a presence that anyone can relate to.

Allow me to give you another example.  Certain groups of people are making a big push to legalize marijuana on a federal level and as far as I am concerned, well, I am not concerned, nor does either option bother me at all.  These people are not making much progress and part of their problem is perception.  The only people I see fighting for marijuana legalization are exactly the same people who fit the pot-head stereotype.  (Maybe more professional examples exist, but I have not seen any;  which could just be the media throwing a blanket over reality, but we still do not see them if they are out there.)  Most people cannot relate to the stereotype they see, so they do not pay attention to whatever those pushing for the legislation have to say.  Again, I could not care less if weed gets legalized or not, but I know the marketing for the cause is not effective and the mark is being missed across the board.  The powers that be are not taking the effort seriously, nor are the people the supporters are looking to influence.

This idea follows anything and many more programs or movements would do much better for their cause if they found a way to appeal to everyone without looking like they have a few screws loose.  Anyone heading up a cause with the intention of reaching out beyond their own niche or circle should probably think about the way the public views them.  I know that we are not supposed to really care about how other people perceive the way we look or act to a certain extent, but let me pose a question.  If you were shopping for a brand new BMW and one dealership had a coffee bar and salespeople wearing suits who were properly groomed, while the other dealership across town had dirty bathrooms and chain-smoking salespeople wearing dirty t-shirts, which one would you find more appealing?  They are both selling for the same cause, and both have a similar pricing structure on their cars...That would be a no-brainer.  

This is how the general public decides upon becoming involved.  They need a common denominator and something they can relate to in order to give commitment or support.  Any of this can be applied to religion, non-profit organizations, fund raisers, business marketing, anything.  Being selective within your consumer/support market for whatever your venture is comes down to personal choice.  You will never be able to sell a dump truck to an attorney, but as far as causes go and good things that people believe in are concerned, they can be tweaked in a way that the public will accept them without losing the identity and personality lying at the core of their movement.  Our families and our friends know us personally and are very aware we are (mostly)  not crazy, so they will usually support our motives within reason;  complete strangers can easily walk away.  Maybe those of us who are pushing to make change should step back for a minute and ask how we look to the general public or inquire a few strangers to be honest and tell us what they think.  Crazy does not cause change,  crazy does not sell anything, crazy hinders progress.

At one point, I lived the role of crazy.  
Two entire decades later, I opened my eyes.
Think it over before people start ignoring and you miss your target.
I am not giving a solution to anything though;  I simply found the kink in the hose.

Grace and Peace,

The lyrics in the title of this blog came from this song:



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