If this is Good News…

Somewhere, and I can’t find where, I read about an Eskimo hunter who asked the local missionary priest, “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?” “No,” said the priest, “not if you did not know.” “Then why,” asked the Eskimo earnestly, “did you tell me?”
(Annie Dillard, in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

Sadly, this rings so true. Far too much Christian ‘evangelizing’ over the centuries has sounded something like this: Good news! You are going to suffer an eternity of pain and agony. Unless you believe what I tell you to believe, and do what I tell you to do.

This is Good News - how, exactly?

Of course we don’t believe that! we cry indignantly. But, hand on your heart, you preachers. Have you really, never, given a message that sounded something like that. I couldn’t swear to it for myself, even though it appals me that religion can be presented that way, even though I would be horrified if people had heard me tell them there was a free gift, a gift of grace for them, and all they had to do to enjoy it was [complete this space].

I felt a call to be a preacher, before ever I realised I was being called to be a priest also. But now that I have stopped (or maybe just paused) preaching, I ask myself more and more anxiously: How did I ever dare? And how will I ever dare again?

Written on January 9, 2017