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Bad Evangelism

A trip to the autoparts store makes me examine my writing.

BY Pat Archbold

| Posted 2/5/14 at 10:47 AM

 

With another winter storm looming on the east coast and my windshield wipers shredded, I headed over to the auto parts store to get some replacements.  I wasn't sure of the sizes, so I needed help from an employee.

When I walked into the store, there were already 5 people on line for the employee behind the counter.  I looked around for another employee but none could be found.  So I got on line.

I could see from the outset that at least 2 people on line were already seriously disgruntled and the rest of the folks on line did not look much more gruntled.  Moments after I joined the line, one man left the it and the store, clearly exasperated and with an audible huff.  The employee looked up, rolled his eyes, tossed his head in a manner to indicate that the exiting man should be careful not to let the door hit him in the derriere.

I wasn't sure what lead to this moment, but I was about to find out.  The employee was about as slow as humanly possible, the kind of slow that takes enormous effort.  At each question he grumbled, eye rolled, and sighed.  When he went in back to find a part, to say he ambled would unwarrantedly suggest speed.  Mosey would be an exaggeration. 

His general state of dissatisfaction was not limited to the people on line.  The inanimate computer was also the target of his lazy fury as if he was annoyed that something in the store worked more slowly and less helpfully than he.

Five minutes on line turned to ten and then to fifteen.  Since I really needed the wiper blades, I hung in there as another customer left the store in a huffy hurry.  Finally, it was my turn with the disagreeable Mr. S. Low Poke.  I asked my question and he asked his.  I repeated my answers 3 times because it was impossible for the man to remember during the long trip from the register to the computer 8 feet away.  Each time he asked, he was visibly and audibly annoyed at me for dragging him into this ordeal. 

Eventually he told me the types and I retrieved them from the shelf.  I returned to him for purchase with now just the two of us in the store.  As I ran my credit card through the machine and declined options for cash back and receipts, he glanced out the window at the sunny warm day between storms. 

"What a beautiful day!  Isn't God good?  Don't you think?"

"Yes, I do," I replied.

"We should always trust God for God is good.  Don't you think?"

"Indeed I do.  Have a blessed day."

And I walked out of the store thinking that is some bad evangelism.  Doesn't the guy realize that all his huffing, puffing, eye rolling and general bad attitude about his job says much more about his faith and trust than what he said?  Doesn't he realize that if I was not already a believer that I would be turned off that a supposed believer would act in such a shabby manner?  Doesn't he realize that the way he treats customers should be the way that Christ would treat them?  That is the worst way to do evangelism.

Boy, I am glad I am not like that guy!  Oh, wait.....sometimes I am just like that guy.

It hit me shortly after that sometimes I am the same way.  When I write, for better or for worse, I represent Catholicism to some degree.  How many times have I been short with people, lazy in my writing, overly critical, and generally unchristian?  When people read me, do they see Christ?  I suspect rarely.

But even when I am not writing and I am at my day job (I am an IT Architect), how often do I represent Christ there?  Oh sure, perhaps it is a less overt connection, but many people there know that I am the Catholic guy.  How many times do my laziness or shabby manner make people think, "If that is what Catholic looks like, no thanks."  I suspect too often.

I suppose it is a greater responsibility for those of us who write on things Catholic to behave as Christians.  How many times have I seen "Catholic" writers behave in despicable ways just to win arguments or score points.  How many times have I?  How many times have I seen lazy writing intended to sensationalize rather than inform?  How many times have I done it?

But even if I stopped writing tomorrow, the same would apply.  Every day that I go through life with the tag of Christian, I have a responsibility to behave that way to the best of my ability.  When we behave like the guy at the auto parts store, we speak volumes before we say a word.