The ratio of ridiculous to relevant snail mail that I receive as a Southern Baptist professor is directly proportional to the number of times Nicholas Cage has made a terrible movie in the last ten years. In case you do not get the comparison, allow me to be explicit. I get a lot of bizarre mail. Please forgive me if you truly love Nic Cage. I still firmly believe that National Treasure is his best work, but that was 2004. Most of the snail mail I get ends up in the trash, although if confession is good for the soul, some of the more interesting pieces end up shoved under our Criminal Justice professor’s door.
For the past two years, I have received the monthly installment of Freedom magazine. If you are not familiar with this publication, it is the official update for those who are members of or interested in the Church of Scientology. For the record and our trustees who may be reading this book, yes, I am a Southern Baptist professor and preacher that has affirmed the Baptist Faith and Message. No, I have never had my electrodermal activity audited by Tom Cruise.
One of the hallmarks of a successful college professor is intellectual curiosity. That is my fancy way of saying that I thumb through the Scientology magazine every month before passing it off anonymously to Brady. You guessed correctly, Brady teaches Criminal Justice at Hannibal LaGrange University and his door is near my mailbox. He also has a lot of connections to local law enforcement. Maybe I should start sliding the mail under the Biology professor’s door? By the way, never let anyone convince you that college professors live a boring life. We know how to party.
One particular month as I was perusing the importance of E-meters and the benefits of psychological auditing, I turned the page to find an article on a group of young college age Scientologists who were building homes and digging wells in sub-Saharan Africa. The pictures which accompanied the piece grabbed my attention. I will be so bold as to say that if the pictures of these college students were placed on the same table as pictures from a Southern Baptist youth mission trip, you would not be able to tell the difference between the two groups.
My first response was disgust. Who does this false religion think they are, stealing tried and true Southern Baptist methods for doing missions? The revulsion quickly turned to repentance. Who do we think we are offering a false sense of community revitalization divorced from the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Please understand, I am in complete support of improving infrastructure and providing clean drinking water to remote villages. But when such an endeavor is separated from evangelism and discipleship, we create a false god centered on the worship of our own good works baptized in a spirit of radical egalitarianism and secular humanism. Without the person of Jesus and his power to transform lives, our mission efforts would look no different than the ones in the pages of the latest Scientology magazine. I am certain that no one is ready to ordain John Travolta as a deacon.