Egypt to Fall. The Watchman. God’s Flock Will Return to Him. Zombie Army. A Feast of Kings. Revelation Comes Early.
It’s true, I get bogged down by the details. It would happen in church all the time.
I never liked altar calls, which for the uninitiated is when a pastor asks members of the congregation to come forward to the altar in order to make a spiritual commitment. It usually occurs immediately after a particularly stirring sermon – usually at the end of a high school ski retreat or summer camp. It comes as a culmination of emotion. For a religion that hinges on the moment of salvation, altar calls are an enormously effective strategy to win souls. With such a public declaration, it inclines the person towards permanence, rather than with a quiet prayer only within the mind.
But they always felt manipulative to me, even at a young age. It was the context – typically, a pastor would deliver a message based primarily in guilt, about humanities inherent weakness and our useless place in the universe. But the hope… the hope came from Jesus, riding in with the gift of eternal life. And then:
If you want that gift, then come up here in front of everyone and kneel in prayer.
I don’t know, it always felt phony to me – a product of exaggerated circumstance, not a changed heart.
Anyway, those moments stuck with me, and when I fell out of Christianity, I used them as weapons to prove my case against faith. It’s manipulative, I said. They prey on emotions, I said. And then I would tell the stories, about the altar calls, the request for alms, the vilifying sermons, the social scare tactics. It sounds scary recalled back-to-back over a cup of coffee.
But then I realized that these negative experiences constituted a small fraction of my experience. They were distractions, momentary diversions from the actual message being presented. I’m no good with distractions. They end up being the most and only reported factor in my experience – not fair but I’m a devil’s advocate, it’s what I do.
The Old Testament is full of distractions.
Take Ezekiel 37 for instance, which finds our protagonist in a valley filled with the bones of fallen men. God tells him to breathe life into their nostrils and raise the dead. He prophesizes, bringing together bone with sinew with muscle with flesh until… an army of zombies stands before him.
And then, on to the next chapter, with no explanation or action taken. I can only assume that army is still standing there thinking, Really? We’re zombies and that’s all that they’re going to do with us? Make us stand here?
Then, later in chapter 39, the Lord predicts the ultimate destruction of mankind and the ultimate redemption of Israel. When His enemies of Gog receive their due punishment and are annihilated, God declares, “You will eat the flesh of mighty men and drink the blood of the princes of the earth as if they were rams and lambs, goats and bulls—all of them fattened animals from Bashan.” (18)
Really? More cannibalism?