Life as I know it… plus commentary

Religion reaches the Del Taco

with 5 comments

I was off to the office the other day, running late, but needing to eat.  Nothing easy to assemble at home, I was forced to pick up the combo burrito (no cheese) and an iced tea at Del Taco…  about 420 calories and right on my meal plan.  The line went past the drive through and out onto the street so I decided to park and get in line.  That’s always a mistake because they give priority to the car line but I forget this each time.

Inside is a stunning array of business men, stoners, homeless people, soccer moms, day workers and, as it turns out, young Mormons on their mission.  They were dressed in black pants, crisp white collared shirts and accompanied with cheap but filling Mexican food.  One of the guys got up and refilled his drink and as he did, the 50 or 60+ cashier says very matter of factly, “so the Baptists and the Episcopals and the Catholics, they’re not saved?”  The young man replied in a friendly tone that was loud enough for me to hear him speaking but quiet enough that I couldn’t hear his answer.  Later, after I got my order, I noticed a young guy in his 20s was engaged in conversation with the Mormons.  They looked like they were engaged in a serious but still friendly conversation.

I was somewhat surprised to see how welcome and open people were with the guys.  I can still remember when comedians would make references to Mormons on bikes in their uniforms.  Instead, these guys seemed available, winsome in their delivery, and guys who looked like they’d be cool to hang out with.  As I thought about it more, part of what made people want to talk with them is two part… people like talking about religion and spiritual things and there was no question what they stood for what they were out there to do.

I think many Christians today are of two camps (yes I know there are exceptions and that you’re one)… the loud mouthed Bible thumpers and the blend in, global-local, missional, don’t-make-waves-people-will-eventually-ask-you-about-God Christians.  The thumpers are how many non Christians know the faith… they see Christians as these people protesting at soldiers’ funerals and supporting Bush & the war.  The other camp is very well intentioned, but I wonder how effective at sharing the good news they are, as opposed to just being known as very nice and very moral people.  I suppose there’s a third camp… and these are the Christians who focus mainly on the betterment and enrichment of other Christians.  In my opinion, what good is it to continually make the party better if no one new gets invited?

In one sense I’m happy the Mormons were so adept at engaging the local culture.  It shows me that the culture still is interested in eternal things and that, with the right approach, direct dialogues can still happen.


Written by arnold

August 28, 2006 at 8:40 am

Posted in Religion

5 Responses

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  1. Very good and challenging points, Arnold.


    August 28, 2006 at 11:07 am

  2. I would probably put myself in that third category, but I feel like that’s due to where I’m forced to be than where I’d like to be. I’ve found that people are much more hostile and angry with evangelical Christians than with any other type of people. Some of those hostilities are well-founded, I’m sure, but hopefully not because of anything that I personally have done. However, by most I’m lumped into a certain category of “person” that brings up those feelings. Consequently, I have found it necessary to “go in through the back door,” if you will, in conversations (Incidentally, if you ever want to kill a conversation with anyone, tell them you’re a pastor. It never fails.).

    I will point out, however, Arnold, that both of those Mormon guys did have people come up to them. Granted, they were wearing the unmistakable outfit (probably with a nametag included), but from your description it sounded as if neither of those of conversations would have happened had not someone else approached them.

    I will also say that a main reason people don’t like talking to Christians about Christianity is because we’re not just offering a set of rules and regulations. People like talking about “religion” because it’s objective and safe. Christianity is definitely not safe, and it’s not really objective, at least by human standards. Scripture says in Romans that if you believe with your heart and confess with your mouth, then you are saved (10:9), but it also says that only the Lord knows someone’s heart, so consequently it’s difficult for me to judge, or anyone else for that matter, making it difficult to be objective. We aren’t guided by rules, but by a relationship. And relationships are tricky. They constantly ebb and flow, and are rarely predictable, and people like something that’s predictable, so that they can control it.

    What Christians are offering is something that, at its core, makes people uncomfortable, because it calls them to be out of control. So I’ve always felt like I had to go about it carefully, knowing that, at first glance, it’s not going to be received well. Yet what compels me to continue to engage in those conversations is that what I’m offering is still better than anything else they could engage in, and infinitely better than any “religion,” so I press on.


    August 28, 2006 at 12:27 pm

  3. Good points Cubby. The thing is, I think the topics you’re talking about are the two and three conversations in, after the subject has been broached and you can start to get deep.

    What I would like to get at is why people felt comfortable to approach and initiate with these guys. Eventually, yes, you do need to get to the issues you talk about but I would love to figure what the spark is that ignites the fire.


    August 28, 2006 at 5:05 pm

  4. It may not have been genuine interest in Mormonism that drew people to these guys. We’ve all seen these young men out on their bikes, and they’ve been the butt of many jokes over the years by comedians and friends. It’s quite possibly curiousity about why someone that young would be THAT religious that drew people to them, more so than any real interest in what they believe. I know people who are fascinated with the bike limitations.

    On a similar note, there is a Jehovah’s Witness that makes the rounds at my local Carl’s Jr. If I go through in the mornings and get my favorite heart-attack-in-a-wrapper, then park to eat it, she always comes over and offers me a few magazines for light reading.

    Peggy C

    August 29, 2006 at 8:09 am

  5. Arnold,
    When I was in college I went backpacking in Utah with a couple of friends. After we climbed out of the woods, we went to the main temple in Salt Lake City. We were greeted by two nice, young women and led around the temple on a tour. During the tour one of the guys I had been camping with, who would definitely fall into the first category of Christians you identified, began questioning/harassing the two women leading the tour. I was so embarrassed! Here we are, guests in their place of worship, and my friend is mocking and challenging all of their beliefs. The women were great, and obviously skilled in the art of dealing with a category one Christian, but it was still an embarrassing situation.

    I honestly think that a big reason people will approach Mormons out in the community is to challenge/mock their mission and belief. I think that Mormons have discovered a great way to engage people in conversations about their beliefs by learning to take a couple of low blows, and then turning that around into a conversation about their faith. I find it difficult to imagine a category one Christian being able to take a couple of shots from someone about their faith, and then turn around and engage them in a meaningful conversation. Maybe we could learn something from the hardworking, bike riding, ridicule absorbing Mormons.


    August 29, 2006 at 8:00 pm

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