Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The argument from total non-sequitur...?

I knew a couple of guys throughout middle- and high school who were really into Jesus. No, like really into Jesus. During college one of them entered China under false pretenses to evangelize while pretending to teach kids English - that's how into Jesus they were. They were nice guys and good friends, but they were probably the first really, really, really Baptist guys I ever met. They were the first people to ever relate to me, among other things, how "Dungeons and Dragons" is supposed to be evil.

They also introduced me to the Power Team.

At the time I wasn't used to the apologetic arguments typically made by Christians, I had essentially no grasp on Biblical criticism, and in general my interest in religion was nil. I was also like 14. I was already beginning to view my parents' Catholicism as hokey (Oh, that's something else these guys introduced me to - Catholics as non-Christians.) and I guess my two friends decided they were going to save my soul by giving me a flier for an upcoming performance of (dun-du-da-duh!) the Power Team!

Nope, that's not Hulk Hogan teamed up with the Macho Man (That's the Mega Powers, and as you'll recall they exploded at Wrestlemania V.) The Power Team is in fact a group of 19 (or so) really big dudes. Humongous even. They have lung capacities so mighty that they can explode a rubber hot water bottle by blowing it up like a balloon, forearms big enough to shear telephone books in twain, and heads hard enough to leap safely through huge blocks of ice. I know that because I'm watching them do it right now. What sets these guys apart from other really big dudes is that these really big dudes are, like my friends, really into Jesus.

Even as a kid, something about these guys bugged me just from looking at the flier, which was pretty much like this. What in the hell do really big, possibly juiced up, guys with swords have to do with whether or not the Bible is the inerrant word of God? What exactly does a guy being able to run through an outstretched 2 x 4 (or not) have to do with the veracity of his theological claims? Does it really make any difference? Or is it maybe the case that these gigantic guys come stampeding in to "upbeat Christian music", break a bunch of stuff, and then ask stupid teenagers to accept their God while they're still digesting the fact that one of these dudes just bench-pressed a tree trunk while laying on another guy who was laying on a bed of nails?

I didn't end up going to see the Power Team with my buddies. Something about it was just so absurd and hokey that even my feebly non-skeptical 14 year-old mind resisted it. I knew deep down that I wouldn't trust a guy to teach me math because he was great at basketball, and that same part of me was just slightly too on the ball to allow myself to be converted by a handful of buff guys based solely on their ability to lift heavy things and wreak destruction upon various breakables. The whole thing left me with a lot of nascent questions which, at the time, I couldn't quite form into really solids lines of thought.

Maybe, just maybe, seeing some guys perform admirable feats of strength lowers your resistance to detecting the silliness of the message that follows. Maybe their alleged "20% Salvation Response" rate (which is ambivalently portrayed on their website as maybe conversions and maybe increases in donations) is an artifact of catering to a predominantly Evangelical Christian audience to begin with. Indeed, perhaps the Power Team is really just for Evangelical folks who want to see a stunt show but can't bring themselves to watch worldly entertainment like "American Gladiators" or "Mortal Kombat Live". And perhaps, just perhaps, the tales on their site of mass religious conversions of, say, 57 of the Detroit Tigers (Are there really 57 people on a baseball team?) were something more along the lines of some of the players publicly affirming their religious affiliation in front of a supportive audience rather than accepted Christianity anew. I'll also have to try and get in touch with Chuck Norris to ask him if the Power Team was solely responsible for his "acceptance of Jesus", as they claim.

One way or another, I'm just not at all convinced that the strongest argument (or even a coherent argument) for Evangelical Christianity is going to be made by, well, the strongest Evangelical Christians.

Conversely, maybe if Sam Harris could bend a crowbar with his bare hands there would be more atheists. Or not.

No comments: