Shocking Apologetics

We've all read the statistics about the younger generations drifting away from Christianity. As a college professor, I have a front row seat for this trend, so I often find myself engaged in apologetics with my students, making an appeal for the faith.

In these appeals, I've noticed something about my strategy. It takes a cue from Flannery O'Connor.

O'Connor used her novels and short stories to communicate spiritual truths and realities, but her stories where often violent, shocking, and disturbing. People would question and push her on her method, and she once shared the logic of her strategy:
The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may well be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal ways of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock -- to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.
I've noticed with my students that in my conversations about faith I tend to draw "large and startling figures." I tend toward exaggeration and farce. I'm not saying this is wise or effective. It's just what I've found myself doing.

An example. I'll be in a statistics class. The students are on computers following along with what I am doing projected on the big screen. As you might expect, most students stay with me but others get lost and fall behind. So as we get started, I'll go on a long, comedic, come-to-Jesus sermon, pretending to be some revival preacher, about how we need to look to the left and to the right, noticing when our neighbors are struggling and falling behind. When you seen your neighbor falling behind, what would Jesus do? Jesus would lean over and guide his neighbor, getting them caught up. "THIS IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD, PEOPLE!!!" I'll shout (seriously, I really shout) "WE DON'T LEAVE EACH OTHER BEHIND!!!! Sure, you can just look at your own screen, not caring about anyone else in this world but yourself. You can be selfish! God will turn you over to your depraved mind. BUT IF YOU REALLY LOVED JESUS, you'd lift your head and look around for the people who need some help!!!!"

All this is said with great comedic exaggeration. I'm playing a character. A tent-revival preacher making an altar call, baptizing down by the river. Farce, exaggeration, and clowning.

Like I said, large and startling figures. Something small and minor is turned into this huge, momentous thing. All to make a point about Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

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