Saturday, January 14, 2006

Insect Evangelism

I've been slowly plodding through Tillich this afternoon, but have had to stop many times. This frequent stopping has not been due to deep thoughts on which I must ruminate more. This is not due to frustration over not understanding one of his points. It's actually because I've been reading it with the TV on. Spiderman 2 was on HBO, and then I switched over to all those 'make fun of pop culture' shows on VH1. You know those's like if the artsy group in high school got together and produced a show to rag on the popular group (and as president of the Drama Club, I would have had my own feature report each week). It's all the celebrity screw-ups you can fit into half-hour time blocks.

Well, recently a new show has been added to the lineup called Web Junk, where they gather a bunch of video clips from around the internet and point out how hilarious, embarrassing, or stupid they are. If you've spent enough time on the internet, you've probably seen clips that might warrant a mention. The Carlton Big Ad comes to mind. Perhaps an on-air flub by a local news personality has been making the rounds. And who can forget those loveable dancing badgers? This show rounds up twenty clips each episode and delivers them with gusto.

The episode that was on this afternoon (apparently the first) featured a doctored clip of Tom Cruise attacking Oprah, a narcoleptic dog that suddenly collapses in the middle of a full sprint, and Tyra Banks yelling at a model wannabe. The number one clip this week was less funny and more least to me. In this last clip, a young woman (college age, I'm guessing) is dared to eat a live praying mantis. She passes it back and forth between hands, trying to figure out the best angle to start chomping. She's a little squeamish about the whole thing, but in the background can be heard the howls of encouragement from a bunch of 20-something-year-olds. She eventually takes the plunge, even giving us a show mid-chewing to see the remnants of a bug that was probably just minding its own business in the campus park that afternoon when here comes this dude in a backwards baseball cap who just scoops it up and places it in a mayonnaise jar.

Of course, we can take some consolation that if the mantis was male, it would have been eaten eventually anyway.

Now here's the other interesting part of the scenario. The woman wasn't in the midst of a kegger getting egged on by the local frat. The group that filmed this apparently made a deal with some friends that if she ate little Mr. Bugeyes, the friends had to go to church with them.

Praying mantis. Get it?

My feelings are mixed on the actual implications of this stunt. Hey, the friends have to go to church now. Are they atheist? Merely disillusioned types? 'Seekers?' Bug haters? I can recall an occasional deal of outrageousness being struck in college to come to the campus group, but it was more between people who had no personal stock in the event rather than between 'innies' and 'outies.' It was more along the lines of, 'If you go, I'll go.'

Nevertheless, the chick ate the bug. Now y'all have to come sit in church! Boo-yah! Hallelujah!

I'm not one to dismiss the influence of the Holy Spirit once it gets started. Perhaps these atheist/disillusioned/seeker/anti-mantis friends would end up connecting with the worship in some way. Perhaps a seed would be planted, a door opened, an egg hatched and a larva born. I tend to think of evangelism in terms of one person who truly loves another person sharing the truth he or she has discovered in ways appropriate to the relationship. In a dorm room, this is the type of stuff one might do.

I was originally going to get all cynical about the levels to which people stoop to drag people to church, but I can't do that with any honesty in this instance. You know, the friends for whom this tape was made probably watched it with a smirk and a chuckle. In fact, the deal was probably made that way to begin with. I highly doubt that the ones in the atheist/disillusioned/seeker/loathing-of-insects camp watched the tape and afterwards raised their arms shouting, 'Curses! I am foiled by the oppressive and despicable depths to which Christians sink in order that I might be heinously forced against my will to suffer the manipulative effects of hymns and sermons and bake sales and hardwood benches! I must stand proud and not be moved by the destruction of of one Stagmomantis carolina! Its death shall be avenged with great ferocity as I refuse a second invitation to this thing you call church!'

I'm not sure whether that satirical rant was aimed at Christians more cynical than myself or atheist/disillusioned/seeker/those-who-seek-the-destruction-of-all-things-Arthropoda. Or perhaps this is part of my openly processing the video right before your very eyes. You be the judge.

Anyway, the point of all of this (if there is one) is to say that with the exception of dearly departed Mr. Bugeyes, there were no sad faces and evangelism, no matter how hideously creative, should be done with love. It should be done with genuine feelings of respect toward another. These kids decided to make fun little wager (again, Mr. Bugeyes gets the short end of the stick on this) and anticipate a new wrinkle in what is probably already a series of complicated, deepening relationships. What I love the most about the witness of this clip is that there is no superficiality to it. There's no temporary aspect to it. Long ago I became disillusioned with the 'wham-bam-thank you Jesus' style of evangelism where a kid gets approached with a little booklet and the endurance of the relationship might be contingent on whether he accepts or not. A couple friends making a bet to eat bugs, believe it or not, is deeper than that.

Still, I'd prefer to skip the bug part. That's just me, though.