As a teenager, I was trained to give my testimony. A testimony in its simplest form is just telling people how you became a Christian. Most of us who grew up in the church had very boring testimonies. Mine went something like this: I accepted Jesus at the age of three and have been a Christian ever since. As testimonies go, it lacks excitement.
At the weekly chapels in High School, guest speakers would share their testimonies. They all tended to follow the same story arc. The speaker would tell us how they got involved with sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll, then told us wild stories about how drunk and high they got; how many orgies they went to; and crazy adventures that make The Hangover look like a church board meeting. After twenty-five minutes of telling us how exciting and dramatic the life of a sinner was, they would explain they experienced arrest or overdose or ennui. This pivotal moment would lead to them re-evaluating their life, accepting Jesus, and now they were as boring as the rest of us.
These testimonies that glorified the sinner’s life became known as the “I was all messed up on sex and drugs, but now I’m all messed up on Jesus” testimonies. When chapel was over, we all talked about how cool the speaker was. “Can you believe he rode a motorcycle naked through a circus while drinking an entire case of vodka and tossing amphetamines to the audience?” We never really discussed the short five minute part about “. . . and now I’m a Christian.”
I guess these speakers thought they should tell a story about a dramatic life change like St. Paul. He went from killing Christians to spreading the Gospel as a missionary. The real problem was that many of the stories were just made up. When one of these guys was called out for lying, their justification would be the impact they were having for Christ. Yes, they lied but people got saved. In other words, the ends justified the means.
One of the biggest frauds with a dramatic testimony was Mike Warnke. He claimed he was a hippie, drug pusher, and a Satanic High Priest. His tale of leaving Satanism to become a Christian sounded like a cross between a James Patterson spy thriller and a Stephen King horror movie. He wrote the book The Satan Seller based on his false testimony. Christians gobbled it up pushing the book to the best seller list. He was outed as a fraud in 1992 when Cornerstone Magazine fact checked his claims. Cornerstone gathered their collection of exposé articles into the book Selling Satan. Some fundagelicals were upset that Cornerstone would expose such a popular speaker who had been used by God to save so many kids.
Did you catch that? The very people who held me to high standards of truthfulness and trained me to be rigorously honest were willing to accept a lying fraud because he racked up “saved souls.” As Alvin McEwen says, “lies in the name of God are still lies.” The very people who told me to hold fast to the truth were willing to compromise it for a collection of decision cards. Let’s face it; If Jesus needs lies and propaganda to attract people, then He isn’t worth following. We have to ask ourselves questions like: If religious leaders lied about their testimony what else did they lie about? Can liars be trusted?
The list of frauds is a long one just check out the Prodigal Witch series over at Swallowing the Camel. Fundamentalist and Evangelicals who claim to know the truth and believe they are morally superior because they know it, suddenly become morally relative when they figure out false advertising increases their numbers. Why aren’t they fact checking and demanding rigorous honesty from the Evangelical Speaking circuit superstars?
Let me suggest an easy fix. Instead of focusing on our past and trying to manufacture a “dramatic conversion story” how about we just become the kind of people that other people are drawn to. You know like Jesus.
Don’t forget to subscribe and thanks to all my current subscribers! You can catch me vlogging at Rev’s Reels over at YouTube.