From known and unknown persons, the letters come. Stringing together scripture passages and personal testimony from edge-to-edge on paper, they attempt to demonstrate to me the truth. Finding excitement and meaning for their own lives, they are convinced that I need to find what they have found in order to have what they have. From those I know, who have been converted, I can only be happy for them and touched by their concern for me.
I find myself disheartened. Shoehorned into a few carefully selected scripture verses is the vibrancy of the Bible's recording of two millennia of people's encounter with the Divine, the magnitude of another two millennia of men and women living out their friendship with Jesus, and the magnificence of the diverse ways in which Christian believers today struggle to be faithful.
A touchstone for these people are Jesus' words to Nicodemus, "Unless you are born again, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven." I write back that Peter and Andrew, James and John simply left their nets and followed Jesus without being "born again." That people out of their diversity in a highly diverse world may respond in diverse ways is lost in their lockstep linkage of few scriptural passages.
Although most evident in those converted religious believers, such zeal for the state of my soul also pops up in other places. The couple who went to Marriage Encounter to heal their floundering relationship became evangelists for that which 'saved' them, and they imposed their enthusiasm and their tracts on me. Then there is the person who discovered compounding of interest and is an evangelist about financial wealth and future security.
Given the fact that there are so many unhappy individuals who have no clear focus for their lives, I cannot but be pleased that something captures a person's dreams and passion. Much good can happen when dreams and passion are joined.
Too frequently, I find conversions leaving people with a desire to squeeze the exhilarating diversity of life into the narrow confines of a newly discovered passion. Too frequently, such conversions draw lines of acceptable and unacceptable between those who have, and have not, been blessed with the truth.
Too frequently, a good pushes out the best.
--Robert H. Tucker
20 July 1998