Sunday, March 16, 2008

How to Speak to an Evangelist, by Paul Theroux

Riding a bus in Zimbabwe Paul Theroux is confronted by his seatmate: “’Are you a Christian?’ he asked.

“This impertinence I found to be a frequent inquiry in Africa.

“’Let’s say I have a lot of questions.’

“’I was like you once,’ he said.

“Where do people learn to talk like this? … The African man next to me was smiling the triumphant patronizing smile of the true believer.

“’What sort of questions?’ he asked.

“’Like, do you eat crows?’ I said, and I quoted Deuteronomy, chapter and verse, and added a few more inedible abominations of the Mosaic law that most people in Zimbabwe would have been delighted to eat in a stew with their evening sadza porridge.

“The man equivocated.

“I said, ‘How do you interpret chapter ten in the Acts of the Apostles, when Peter has the vision of the unclean animals in the house of Cornelius?’

“’I asked you a simple question and you are asking me ones that are not simple.’”

After some discussion of indigenous Zimbabwean customs the evangelist brushes all aside with: “’If you trust in the Almighty God you will be saved.’

“’And if Almighty God had been an immense duck capable of emitting an eternal quack, we would all have been born web-footed, each as infallible as the pope. And we would have never had to learn to swim.’”

How do you respond to that? Theroux says it was a conversation ender.

source: Dark Star Safari, Theroux’s journal of African travel

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