Tuesday, January 08, 2008

How to Be a Relevant Witness to Today's Generation

"Hey man, can I score some pot?"

The question is directed specifically to me, not to my drinking buddy, whose short hair, button-up shirt, and large, nerdish glasses apparently exclude him from consideration. Should have known better than to go drinking on my first night back home without bringing adequate provisions.

It's the sort of question I'm getting more and more often these days. That's probably a result of my increasingly unkempt appearance. I've taken to hiking around campus with uncombed hair nearly down to the small of my back, some barely-controlled facial growth, a well-worn 65-litre hiking pack, and clothes which - not incorrectly - lead passersby to conclude I buy most of my wardrobe in bulk from the nearby Value Village. Unless I wear my nicer clothes, it's getting hard to pass as a grad student; eyes narrow when I add that I'm actually in the international affairs school here, known mostly for training the polite, well-spoken future generation of Canada's diplomats and international trade bureaucrats rather than cynical long-haired anarchists who apparently resemble drug dealers.

This youngish-looking brat, though, has just set a record. I've been back on campus less than an hour and already I'm being reminded of how easily I could have supplemented my meagre grad student income with some illegal agricultural experimentation. He's clearly not very bright, either: he's asked the question in the middle of a well-lit hallway not thirty yards from the nearest security office (which, on campus, could presumably at any time mean a few armed police, of which we have our own detachment). Granted, it's 1 a.m. here, but still.

I decide I can give him a few tips on the on-campus drug trade - I don't regularly smoke pot myself, but my hair has earned me enough friends who do that I know exactly where to go and who to talk to, plus a couple of their preferred secluded locations nearby also makes excellent places for quiet studying outdoors. Thus passes another opportunity to proclaim the glory of the Orange Sky, or even the love of Christ, to the heathen and hedonistic undergraduate students who infest this school at all hours of the day.

Since I'm not cashing in on the drug trade, though, I've instead decided this is a message from the Orange Sky that I need to dissociate from the riffraff by adopting a cleaner, more professional, drug-free hairstyle, like maybe dreadlocks.

In the meantime, it seems to me that proselytizing groups really need to update their techniques. Christians are apparently still using the tired old Matthew Party concept (read more here, which hilariously calls it "socializ[ing] strategically"; and here, a more critical commentary on evangelism by impressively radical if disturbingly emergent Mennonite pastor Mike Perschon), which basically involves inviting a few select non-Christians to a Christian "party," assuming they're stupid enough not to realize they've become marks, then impressing them with a combination of fun times with friends and a positive spiritual message.

The problem is that the "party" isn't really the sort of "party" most of the marks are probably used to, which is why it seems so obvious to them. "Where is the beer?" another of my friends recalled remarking to her brother, upon arriving at one such party last week. I think even Matthew probably would have served some good alcoholic drinks at his party. We should emulate the apostle's example by creating an appropriate atmosphere. The on-campus groups already habitually serve pizza and nachos at their events; unfortunately they've missed the crucial preceding step to such cheap junk food, the pot, which might be enough to attract such impressionable first-year students as the one who approached me this evening.

Maybe the combination of religion and psychoactive plant products is going too far, though the Native American Church and the Rastafari would probably disagree vehemently on that point. However, at least some alcohol would help people relax. It might even make them more susceptible; most people, by the time they finish university (if not high school), have a few stories of things they were talked into while drunk that they probably would never have agreed to while sobre. Granted most of those stories aren't about religion as such, but perhaps that's because it's never been tried.

Of course, this would require a paradigm shift from "Jesus really drank grape juice" towards "Jesus helps people get drunk". Defenders of the former position, including the reverend at the cited link, are invited by the Church of the Orange Sky to explain why the book of Proverbs makes the rather disturbing suggestion that alcohol be given to poor people to comfort them in their poverty. I was one of those pious abstainers once, and I remember being surprised and righteously uncomfortable when bottles of Molson Canadian actually were passed around at an outing of the UNBC InterVarsity chapter.

Here endeth the lesson. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord or the Orange Sky, as is your custom.