Thinking back, I can probably pinpoint the general time when I began to think that maybe, just maybe, I didn’t really fit in with the Body of Christ. At least, not the part of the body that resided here in my neck of the woods (that being Evangelical America,Midwest devision):
Late December, 1992. Something’s Happening, U. S. A.
Something’s Happening, U. S. A. (henceforth referred to as SHUSA) was (or is, I haven’t really checked to see if it was still a thing) a gathering of High School and college age kids involved with the organization formerly known as Campus Crusade For Christ (now known as Cru, because if there’s something we excel at here, it’s PR marketing and re-branding) at a regional location for a few days of lectures, programs, and fellowship with other Christian youth from different parts of the country and society. The main thing was emphasis on prayer to impact our culture for the better. It’s a pretty cool experience, especially for a heady and idealistic 19-year-old who was just beginning his journey as a Christian.
That particular year, SHUSA was held in Houston, Texas at the Astro Dome Hotel. For the most part, the experience was a largely positive one. The speakers were stimulating, the music was probably the best Contemporary Worship Music the early 90s had (one guy with an early 90s-pantented permed mullet, a Ray Bolz style mustache, an acoustic prop guitar, and a backing track tape of his own worship recordings; while chatting briefly with him at his merch table, he found out I was into metal, and told me he was going to pray for me…actually, now that I think about it, that should have been my first clue, but I digress), and while there were maybe two other metal-heads that I knew of there besides myself, I was just soaking in the fellowship with the other students from different areas around the country – some even from different countries – and rejoicing in the fact that we were all shiny happy Christians who loved Jesus and each other despite our differences, and every day would be full of sunshine, singing and unicorn farts. Because those smell like Marshmallow Peeps, you see.
It wasn’t until a couple of days into the conference, when they herded all of us into a series of chartered school buses for the scheduled afternoon of Street Witnessing. This was fairly common with these Campus Crusade for Christ/Student Venture conferences–one afternoon out of the whatever-many days the conference lasts was designated the day we all go out to share our faith with whatever community was hosting the conference. As far as I know, it still is, though I haven’t been to an official Student Ven…er, “Cru” conference in nearly twenty years now. We would have a brief on-stage presentation on the finer points of street witnessing, then we’d load our pockets with several copies of the “Four Spiritual Laws” tracts and hit the public square, or whatever passed as a high-traffic public place in the city. I rather enjoyed doing this, in all actuality. I had a genuine desire to share Jesus with others, and it also afforded me some time to check out at least a microchasm of the city of Huston, Texas. Didn’t really do a lot of sight-seeing while at the conference, so I jumped at the chance to stretch my legs a bit, in a manner of speaking. In this case, it was a mall. So maybe it wasn’t a highly-lauded cultural hot-spot; still, a field trip and a chance to shine your proverbial light into the eyes of the local populous? Two birds with one stone, baby.
You’ll have to excuse the sarcasm. I’m not bitter, nor mean any disrespect; this is just how I tend to cope with recalling my youthful indiscretions in matters of faith. I can only imagine how many times the Holy Spirit had to face-palm due to my foolishness. Anyway…
As we were boarding the school bus that was earmarked to take the group I was in to the mall, I was seated next to a girl from…somewhere else in the country, I can’t exactly recall where she said she was from or if she actually did say. We exchanged your basic common pleasantries and small-talk. I had my Walkman along, and had my well-worn copy of Stryper’s To Hell With The Devil loaded in there; at one point before we set off for the mall, I took the tape out and held it up for my bus companion, just in case she somehow was interested in knowing what I was filling my earholes with. She glanced at it, and gave me one of those polite-ish nods that come with a “isn’t that nice?” kind of looks. Then, she remained oddly quiet for the rest of the ride to the mall site. Which, I didn’t really think much of, considering I just came off of several years of Junior High and High School experiencing the exact same kind of reactions from the female populous of my school. I was a bit too odd to be considered dateable by the fairer sex. I was used to it.
We all logged in our hour at the mall, chatting with the people who had time to do so and politely listened as we hacked our way through the formula for saving souls (and secretly ducking into the surrounding stores to check out the shiny baubles), when we all climbed back onto the bus for the trek back to the hotel. As chance would have it, the same girl that sat next to me on the ride to the mall sat next to me on the ride back. We exchanged polite nods, and she maintained the same cool demeanor…for the first five minutes or so. Apparently, as I was flipping over my tape in the Walkman to begin playing the next side, she got a better look at it, and startled me by saying, “Oh…To Hell With The Devil? So that’s a Christian band?” I confirmed that it was, a bit incredulous that someone existed that didn’t know who Stryper was (irony, I guess). She then proceeded to inform me that, on the ride to the mall, when I showed her the tape the first time, she only caught the “Hell” and “Devil” part. Which explained her previous demeanor. Completely understandable. Had a nice chuckle about it, and that was that.
Well, until she immediately then leaned over to the two girls sitting in the seat in front of us, and said out loud, “It’s okay, he’s not really a Satanist after all.” Apparently, she told her friends that she was sitting next to a Satanist. I can only imagine what was going through all of their heads at this bit of misinformation. A Satanist somehow infiltrated a massive gathering of Evangelical Christian youths to…do whatever it is that Satanists would do when they find themselves in that situation, I guess. I wouldn’t know.
Looking back now, of course I can laugh at this bit of innocent Sit-Com grade misunderstanding wackiness. I could laugh at it back then, too; if the rumor spread from there, I was unaware of it. I wasn’t hit by a drive-by exorcism or was confronted with concerns about my worship of the Dark Lord at the time (though, I’m sure someone may have at least cocked an eyebrow at the Black Sabbath album I brought along), so I can only assume nothing ever really came of this. And it makes for an amusing story in my ever-growing Adventures with Christianity file.
Of course, this was just the beginning with my adventures within the great Body of Christ, U. S. of A. edition. Some good, some bad, all of them having a hand in what has shaped–and is still shaping–my world view as I follow my Lord and Saviour.
And it’s all become blog fodder. Cheers for now, my wonderful freaks…