God’s Harvard: The New Grooming
Ground of the Evangelical Movement
Posted on August 23, 2007, Printed on August 23, 2007
When I first began covering religion for the Washington Post, more than ten years ago, deflecting conversion attempts became a routine part of my work. Although they are unfailingly gracious, evangelicals are not so good at respecting professional boundaries. What did it matter that I was a reporter doing my job if I was headed for eternal damnation? To a population of domestic missionaries, I presented as a prime target: a friendly non-Christian who was deeply interested in learning more about their beliefs.
The first time someone tried to share the gospel with me, I naively explained that I was Jewish and born in Israel, thank you, thinking this would end the conversation. This was a big mistake. In certain parts of Christian America, admitting I was an Israeli-born Jew turned me into walking catnip. Because God’s own chosen people had so conspicuously rejected Jesus, winning one over was an irresistible challenge. And the Holy Land glamour of Israel only added to the allure. Preachers told me they loved me, half an hour after we met. Godly women asked if they could take home a piece of my clothing and pray over it. A pastor’s wife once confided to my husband, “You’re so lucky. She looks so … Biblical.” Once, at a Waffle House in Colorado with some associates of the influential Christian activist James Dobson, a woman in our company stared at me so hard it became uncomfortable for me to eat. Finally, I looked up at her. “When I look at you, I see the blood of our Savior coursing through your veins,” she said.
“Thank you,” I gulped. “More maple syrup?”