Just thought I'd get these passages of the book up on the blog... to me, these words of Siljander's really resonate with the orientation of our cohort:
- excerpts from pgs 16-19, A Deadly Misunderstanding by Mark Siljander
We chatted for a few minutes, and then he got to the point: if I didn't mind his asking, as a follower of Jesus, what was my strategy in relation to other people in my travels around the world? I replied without hesitation: it was to convert them to the Christian faith. He nodded thoughtfully, then asked a deceptively simple question: "And why is that?"
I was taken aback. Why would he ask such an elementary question? "Well," I began, "of course, converting people to the Christian faith is the basis of Jesus's teachings. It's our duty as Christians. It's...what we do. You know this, Doug." Silence. "I mean, it's in the Bible."
"Really." He paused and fixed me with his gaze. "Would you name one verse?"
Now I was baffled. Was he serious? This was first-grade Sunday school stuff! "Doug, come on. What are you driving at?"
"No, really," he pressed gently. "Go ahead. Just one."
Okay, I thought, if you insist. Let's see ... And a moment later I was stunned to realize that I could not bring a single verse to mind -- not one. I felt humiliated.
After Doug left, I began combing through the Bible, determined to find the answer, and I continued to comb, not for an evening or a week but for a solid year. I searched the entire New Testament high and low, looking for personal vindication, until I finally arrived at the disturbing conclusion that it simply wasn't there. The strategy of converting people to Christianity, a strategy that I had so fervently held as a God-given, biblically based mandate, was never mentioned in the Bible -- not once.
... Following Jesus, according to Jesus's own disciples, was not a matter of religion; it was about the revelation of God's truth as conveyed by Jesus's influence on the human heart. As I continued poring over the text, I came to an inescapable conclusion: the teacher from Nazareth never intended to start a religion. What he was creating was a movement, a relational revolution of the human heart.
So where did this leave Christianity? Where did it leave me? I thought of myself as a devout Christian--but what did that really mean? Was it an illusion? Had I been brainwashed? I felt a victim of my culture, heir to a long tradition of assertions by countless articles and books, teachers and preachers, about truths they all insisted were in my holy book. I had accepted what I had heard.
An even more unsettling thought occurred to me: if I had been misguided on this critical strategic point of my faith, were there other areas where I was just as misinformed? Was my personal mission in life based on erroneous information? Was my faith based in truth--or was it a blind faith? All at once my belief system felt incredibly fragile. It was as if the ground I stood on was crumbling under my feet. As devastating as it had been to lose my reelection campaign, this was worse.
I thought of the phrase "paradigm shift," which had been coined by social scientist Thomas Kuhn in the 1960s and was just starting to enter popular usage at the time. But the term seemed to pale next to the intensity of the experience. This was not a paradigm shift. This was a paradigm crash.