I finally got around to reading Hemant Mehta’s book, I Sold My Soul on eBay. Hemant is an atheist who is still curiously questioning the possibility of God’s existence. He was raised a Jainist primarily by his mother in his childhood, but jettisoned his beliefs when he hit the teenage years. The story of how he felt freer after losing his religion makes the book intriguing. His comments and impressions of Christians on college campuses are worth the price of the book. Though, uh, it was only $4.99 in a discount bookstore in Myrtle Beach.
And then he came up with the idea of agreeing to attend any church for one year for whatever anyone was willing to pay him on eBay…and to honestly listen and learn. Turns out my friend Jim Henderson (who was on staff here several years ago and never short a creative idea!) beat the bids and came up with an alternative idea for Hemant: visit lots of different churches and give your no-holds-barred impression of Christians, church methodologies, styles and traditions. Be honest and don’t hold back. Journal what connected with you and what left you scratching your head. It’s your basic “pay-a-friendly-atheist-to-go-to-church” deal.
The results were a fascinating quick read for us “churchologists”.
Turns out Hement is extremely respectful and an engaging writer. Understanding where he’s coming from, his age, his background and his personality (which shines through easily) make his “reviews” easier to process. The churches that he felt spoke a clear engaging message may surprise you…and make for great questions. I heard one of his interviews on NPR some months back along with Jim and was captivated by the story.
Here’s the bottom line for me: if a church’s mission statement defines weekend services to be focused on believers, the sacraments and “family business”, then one can skip this book. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, as long as there are other methods of evangelism taking place. But if a church claims their weekend services are one of their primary ways of reaching not-yet-believers, then this book holds invaluable insights for a particular demographic.
And be careful, you Joel Osteen-bashers; that chapter alone will bend your gray matter. Yeah, there’s the obvious: did Hement hear a clear call of sacrificial surrender or did he simply respond positively to a “feel-good” message? Interestingly, he says he heard the gospel message, both obvious and between the lines. But the package was enough to pique his heart…and even get his Jainist mom reading Your Best Life Now and watching Lakewood on TV each week!
Atheists and Jainists watching Joel Osteen? Wow. Different strokes for different folks.
But it got me thinking…