An Onion article out today, like most good Onion articles, works off a premise that’s largely true. The headline reads “Rock-Bottom Loser Entertaining Offers From Several Religions” and the money quotes are:
“I’ve finally reached a point in my life where all the big religions want me,” said [Owen] Pritchard, whose two failed marriages and mounting gambling debts have left him penniless and in a state of blind despair. “Christianity, Judaism, Buddhismâ€”you name it, they’ve come to me. I have no job, no family, no direction whatsoever. So right now, I’m totally in the driver’s seat”….
“Obviously, I bring a lot to the table,” Pritchard said. “I’m a broken shell of a man with nowhere else to turn and I will believe just about anything at this point, so if a religion really wants me, they’re going to have to sweeten the pot. For instance, Hinduism is promising me rebirth as a king and the unlocking of all the secrets of the universe. But at this stage, that’s not enough. How about throwing in some final redemption, or a car, or complete and total spiritual transcendence?…
“You’re going to have to do better than eternal life,” Pritchard added. “Everyone’s offering that.” Pritchard has been showered with gifts as the religious institutions attempt to curry favor and sway his decision. He has received a free Book Of Mormon from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a 2008 wall calendar from the Christians, and was even visited at his home by two representatives from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which Pritchard said was flattering, but “came off as a little too desperate”….
Pritchard has recently visited a number of churches, synagogues, and tabernacles to check out the facilities and meet with members of the various belief systems. The Mormons reportedly showed great interest in Pritchard, saying they would be happy to welcome him to their faith, while a Columbus-area priest is rumored to have informed Pritchard that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself “loves” him….
I think many of those who have served missions or worked in some capacity with their ward missionary programs can think of down-on-their luck investigators who plausibly filled this bill. Back on my mission, most areas had eternal investigators along these lines who we’d hit up when we were struggling to find other things to do. I tended to approach these situations optimistically, even when I knew these investigators had just met with Jehovah’s Witnesses and likely had another appointment on the books for next week. Perhaps it was the mere fact that someone was interested in talking with my companion and I after a particularly rough week of tracting, or maybe we were just infused with the hope of baptizing the next poor, shoe-less investigator who would go on to accomplish great things.
Unfortunately, I think I’ve become a little more cynical over the years. I don’t know what the answer is to this sort of sad, satirical commentary. I certainly yearn to reach out to everyone who is down-and-out, but I guess I question, with the limited time and resources we have, how much of our proselytizing efforts should be devoted to those who seemingly require a tremendous amount of work or possibly may have other motives in investigating the Church. My hesitation with this mindset, however, and it’s a big one, is that one of the last baptisms on my mission was an eternal investigator that we almost gave up on.