Missionary religions have the task of persuading people to totally transform their lives. In pursuit of this objective there is a temptation to over-egg the pudding. The old life is painted in vivid language as being one of unrelieved misery totally immersed in wicked sin. By way of contrast the new life of the convert is portrayed in glowing terms full of happiness, joy and general goodness. Unless the person being evangelised is in a particularly vulnerable emotional state or has the wisdom to see a core truth concealed within the apparent hyperbole they will not be convinced. They will seldom think of their own lives in such bleak terms or of themselves as being such moral reprobates. If, moreover, they know many religious believers they will but rarely observe them to be significantly more happy or more virtuous than their unbelieving neighbours.
A fiery Christian preacher might argue that what they are saying constitutes an objective truth and that only a false consciousness (to borrow an expression from Marxism) prevents their unredeemed listeners from accepting it. This may be so but a personally experienced subjective reality has more power to convince than the truest of objective truths not directly felt. Most lives, I suspect are lived in a neutral zone, islands of misery or of happiness occasionally loom out of the fog and then are more or less swiftly left behind. click here to read more
I have become all things to all, to save at least some. — 1 Corinthians 9:22
Is there a more challenging place in America for sharing the word of God than the pro-life arena? There’s always that “gotcha” impulse, on both sides, with people waiting to jump on each others’ misstatements or awkward phrasings or just plain outrageous assertions. I know one activist who has dedicated his life to pro-life work because he thinks aborted babies go to hell. He may have saved some babies, but I’m skeptical that the dear man – and he is a dear man – has touched the hearts of any adults with his cockeyed theology.
I have a vocabulary with which I’m comfortable when I’m talking about the life issues. Pro-life, not anti-abortion. Pro-restorative justice, not anti-death penalty. Preborn, not unborn or “fetal,” however clinically accurate “fetus” may be.
And yet if I am to be all things to all people, my vocabulary has got to expand. How far can I take that and still deal in truth?
But there are St. Paul’s words: all things to all. He didn’t say be a word snob.
Today, I was challenged by someone who objected to my use of the term “preborn.” Not trolling, but a sincere objection. Why not “unborn”? Why not “fetus”?
While I’m edging out of my comfort zone, I’d like to hear from people who’ve learned more about the art of dialogue.