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.