The Kitschy Commerce of Conversion

I have a friend who does clerical work for a big utilities company, and among her job responsibilities is putting incoming bill-payments into a bill-sorting machine. When one pays a bill to this company, there are specific instructions on how one should do it. Not everyone follows them. For example, one must not employ the use of staples or tape to adhere the bill stub to the check because the machine will spit out the whole envelope. My dutiful, clerical-working chum – we’ll call her the Clerk – will then have to go through what the machine rejected and remedy the error of the original bill-payer, a phrase which here means removing the staples or tape or foreign objects that have been unadvisedly inserted into the envelope.

Foreign objects like tracts.

Ya know, those little pamphlets that get forced into your hands by the most friendly, well-intentioned people in the world. Tracts are conversion devices that they say things like, “Do you ever feel like nobody cares?” and inside will be a bunch of Bible verses selected to answer that someone does care, and that someone is Jesus, and he wants you to accept him into your heart lest your soul be swallowed in fiery, eternal torment, and, well, no one likes to be barbecue, do they?* Or, they will announce a “great public meeting you will have to attend”, and inside the small pamphlet it’s all about Judgment Day and it gives a version of the Sinner’s Prayer for all those who are interested in not going to hell.

It’s not like they’re in every single envelope that the bill-sorting machine spits out, but they do come up: several, scattered, mystery proselytizers, with the most lovingly-intentioned care, seal a tracts in with their utilities bill, with the noble hopes of converting the unconverted and sparing one more soul from the inferno that awaits them. Some unconverted soul, perhaps, like the Clerk, who does not spend her Sunday mornings in a pew will come across this tract, and say, “Yes, I would like to know more about the saving power of Jesus Christ”, and will end up saying the Sinner’s Prayer. Right there in the mail room. Posthumous-soul-barbecue averted.

Or that’s what one might hope (if you’re the well-intentioned proselytizer who stuck the tract in the envelope).

However, when the Clerk comes across these tracts, she thinks, “OMG, KATHRYN IS A CHRISTIAN, SHE’LL THINK THESE ARE GREAT!!!” The Clerk will then pocket them and the next time we convene for another irredeemably low-grade slasher flick (because we ran out of Twilight movies), she will excitedly offer me these paper conversion devices, the logic being that they are hilarious and Jesus-y, and so am I.
I’m not the intended audience (the tracts might not be intended to be funny either, come to think of it). As far as tract-theology goes, I already have my Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free ticket. If no one new recited the Sinner’s Prayer because of the tract, and the tract now merely sits with all the other tracts collected from the bill-sorting machine in a pile my desk as if they were a bobble-head Jesus or some other token of Christian kitsch, has the Mystery Proselytizer failed?

You made us smile, Mystery Proselytizer. And that’s pretty cool.

* Tell that to cows.


  1. That is pretty hilariously told, my friend. Also, bonus points for giving us insight into the bill-processing world!

    And I don't think Mystery Proselytizer has failed, because I believe God is mainly concerned with our actions (and reasons for them) rather than the actual results.

    P.S. You make me laugh. Keep writing!

    1. Thanks, Noël!

      I don't think Mystery Proselytizer failed either. :)