Annoying Others For Jesus

Dear Fellow Pent-up Evangelists:

I fear we’ve all become my Aunt Betty. She wasn’t my aunt, but my mother’s aunt (grandmother’s sister), but the nuance of great-aunt was pointless to clarify when we were little, so we, like my mom, called her aunt.

Ethel “Betty” Bettin Bruechart was an amazing woman, at one point serving as senior editor for The King’s Business, the nation’s largest Christian magazine. She was also the executive administrative assistant for Dr. Lewis Talbot, president of Biola University and founder of Talbot School of Theology in Los Angeles, California.

Born in 1903, Aunt Betty’s talent as a speaker, writer and editor was eclipsed by the powerful men in her life. Her diary is filled with the names of her colleagues, a who’s who of mid-twentieth century American Fundamentalist evangelism. She had corrected the grammar and punctuation of the likes of T.C. Horton, Lyman Stewart, Donald Barnhouse, R.A. Torrey and Charles Fuller, names not recognizable today, but in the evangelism circles before Billy Graham they were household words. Honored to serve their mission, Aunt Betty was driven to prove herself worthy of God’s calling, but as a woman her job was subservient to the more public work of men.

She held a quiet admiration for Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944), woman evangelist and founder of the Foursquare Church, but McPherson’s flamboyant motorcycle-riding Pentecostal style was off-putting to my fundamentalist aunt. Such showmanship (or show-womanship) seemed to her untrustworthy and not sufficiently Biblical, although on many occasions Aunt Betty snuck over to the 12,000-seat Angelus Temple, McPherson’s grand auditorium church, to watch Sister Aimee ride her Indian motorcycle onto the platform dressed as a cop with the message, “Jesus Wants You to STOP Sinning!”

So, Aunt Betty busied herself with the woman-approved Kingdom work of moving commas, un-splitting infinitives and coordinating subjects and verbs. The one realm where she was allowed witness equal to men was personal evangelism, something she relished with the enthusiasm of a pit bull greeting a junkyard fence jumper.

When she traveled, she would always book a seat in the smoking section of the train, or later, airplane. This, she believed, would place her square in the seat of sinners. Armed with rapid apologetics, sharp wit and ready Gospel literature, she would berate her unsuspecting seatmate with the divine message of deliverance and salvation, the likes of which I hadn’t seen until the advent of our modern Facebook and Twitter comments option.

Which brings me to the vent-hole of social media. I’m beginning to see the vitriol expressed on my communications platforms as the escape valve provided for socially repressed. Unable to do anything truly productive about the world’s problems, we grab the seat we’re given and harangue our random neighbors with our view on how the world should be and how they should behave.

I always felt a little bad for my aunt’s traveling companions; they boarded their chosen conveyance assuming they were going to see their grandchildren or classmate alumna in Omaha. They had no idea that random fate of seat assignment would land them next to an encounter with eternal values and possible condemnation to hell. I never said anything; I was young, and it wasn’t my place. Besides, what if Aunt Betty really was saving souls? It was her place to feel like she was doing something good in the world.

The same odd place I find myself hammering out this Monday Musing.

Buttonholing you only because you were seated next to me, I remain,

With Love,
Jonathan Krogh
Your Pastor