I read what I found to be a disturbing article in the current issue of Harper’s Magazine this week. Normally, the Harper’s Index is the first thing I turn to when my new magazine arrives in the mailbox. However, an article written by Rachel Aviv entitled Like I Was Jesus: How to bring a nine-year-old to Christ jumped off the front cover. The title used terms very familiar to anyone who has been brought up in a religion that stresses personal salvation and evangelism. It was a little disconcerting to see them in the context of a cover article in Harper’s.
Though I never resorted to use of an EvangeCube, I recognized some of the techniques being described from my college summer missions assignments. I was always somewhat uncomfortable in those types of “ministry” situations. Several questions usually arose: Where are the parents of these kids? What would they say about this? What will be the long-term result of these “conversions”? What does that type of conversion mean when made outside the context of a nurturing community of Jesus followers? Activities the religious/evangelical/revivalist culture of our churches considers almost normal practice look manipulative and predatory to those outside that culture.
Maybe more damning is this observation of the writer:
The missionaries attempted to present the Bible as clearly and simply as possible, but it was the rigidity of their lessons that ultimately disoriented the children I spoke to. As they discovered that, in fact, the Lord had not swooped down to heal their wounds and scrapes and disappointments, the new beliefs they had adopted seemed destined to break down, along with whatever was driving them to have faith in the first place.
What effect does this have on the long-term possibility of mature faith?