buy a soul for $504
I was reading AngryAsianMan
and I saw this interesting article
Basically, an Indian American grad student named Hemant Mehta (studying to be a teacher!) who's an atheist auctioned his soul off on eBay, promising that for every $10 of the winning bid, he'd spend an hour at a church service. It set off a frenzy of bidding, and when it was all said and done, the winning bidder was Jim Henderson, who runs OffTheMap.org
, a progressive Christian website dedicated to reforming how many Christians currently "do evangelism" (ambushing non-Christians, full frontal Bible verse attack, guilt trip, etc.)
Anyways, Henderson came up with an unusual proposal: instead of the 50 hours of church service his bid won, he wants Mehta to attend 10-15 different church services and write a critique of them from an atheist viewpoint on Henderson's website.
An excerpt from the WallStreet Journal article:
|A few weeks ago, Hemant Mehta posted an unusual item for sale on eBay: a chance to save his soul.|
The DePaul University graduate student promised the winner that for each $10 of the final bid, he would attend an hour of church services. The 23-year-old Mr. Mehta is an atheist, but he says he suspected he had been missing out on something.
"Perhaps being around a group of people who will show me 'the way' could do what no one else has done before," Mr. Mehta wrote in his eBay sales pitch. "This is possibly the best chance anyone has of changing me."
Evangelists bid, eager to save a sinner. Atheists bid, hoping to keep Mr. Mehta in their fold. When the auction stopped on Feb. 3 after 41 bids, the buyer was Jim Henderson, a former evangelical minister from Seattle, whose $504 bid prevailed.
Mr. Henderson wasn't looking for a convert. He wanted Mr. Mehta to embark with him on an eccentric experiment in spiritual bridge-building.
The 58-year-old Mr. Henderson has written a book for a Random House imprint and is currently a house painter. He runs off-the-map.org, a Web site whose professed mission is "Helping Christians be normal." Mr. Henderson is part of a small but growing branch of the evangelical world that disagrees with the majority's conservative political agenda, and wants the religion to be more inclusive and help the disadvantaged.
Days after the auction, Mr. Henderson flew to Chicago to see Mr. Mehta, who is studying to be a math teacher. The two met in a bar, where they sealed a deal a little different from the one the student had proffered. Instead of the 50 hours of church attendance that he was entitled to for his $504, Mr. Henderson asked that Mr. Mehta attend 10 to 15 services of Mr. Henderson's choosing and then write about it.
Mr. Mehta also agreed to provide running commentary on the church services on the off-the-map site and take questions -- bluntly sharing a nonbeliever's outlook on services that many consider sacred. The deal called for Mr. Henderson to donate the $504 to the Secular Student Alliance, a group headed by Mr. Mehta that has 55 chapters in the U.S. and abroad.
"I'm not trying to convert you," Mr. Henderson said at the bar. "You're going there almost like a critic....If you happen to get converted, that's off the clock."
While I'm sure many Christians are uncomfortable or even offended by the idea of an "outsider" (an atheist, oh no!) critiquing the Church (I use the term to describe the universal institution), I think it's still an interesting premise. So much of the modern Christian Church, especially here in America, has lost track of its purpose and its calling to be a place where the less fortunate and rejected are cared for, a place where those who are hurting emotionally and spiritually are comforted, and most of all, a place where people can find a community based in hope and love.
As my friend David
is so fond of writing, the Christian Church in America has become an entity more concerned with "majoring on the minors" rather than the difficult tasks of contextualizing the Gospel message, fighting injustice, and ministering to those in need. Maybe having an atheist sharing his perspectives about the bizarre hypocrises and misplaced priorities exist in the Church is just the sort of "head(and heart)-check" the Church needs these days.