News Articles

FIRST-PERSON — Listen up: Jesse Ventura’s got a message for Christian

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Minnesota Gov. Jesse “The Body” Ventura, former professional wrestling star, told Playboy magazine last year that organized religion is a “sham” and a “crutch for weak-minded people.”

Well, you can’t accuse Ventura of being a typical politician. He may spend more time giving interviews than governing, but he speaks his mind. As for his knowledge of “shams” that attract “weak-minded people,” late-night comedian Jay Leno had a snappy comeback: “Gee, isn’t it good that professional wrestling isn’t like that?”

Let’s resist, however, the urge to body-slam “The Body” long enough to examine ourselves. It’s a given that America’s cultural and media elites generally loathe Bible-believing Christians. But why do so many other folks outside the church hold us in contempt?

True, Jesus said the world would hate his children as it hated him. But he also told us to love the world as his Father does. Does the world sense God’s love in you, or your own indifference? Your right doctrine means nothing to the world — except as an object of ridicule — unless it senses his love.

Too often, American churches resemble that floating pleasure palace reportedly being built off the coast of Honduras, one of the hemisphere’s poorest nations. Builders say it will be the biggest boat in history — more than 4,300 feet long and 750 feet wide — with parks, sports centers, theaters, luxury condos. It will carry up to 115,000 wealthy residents on a perpetual (and tax-free) search for sun and fun. “An ideal place to live,” says the promo. “Friendly, safe and secure.”

Its estimated construction cost, $8.5 billion, is twice the size of the entire annual gross domestic product of Honduras. Minimum-wage workers there, who earn an average of $2.50 a day, need not apply for a cruise.

“I think the market is not really intended for Hondurans,” a spokesman for the mega-boat enterprise admitted in response to a reporter’s question. No kidding. This gives new meaning to the term “gated community.”

What is the “market” for your church? Do you throw out lifelines to the poor and the lost, drowning in an ocean of darkness? Or do you sail on in search of ever-sunnier worship services, retreats and special events — heedless of those left behind?

They’re out there, bobbing around in the cold shadows, struggling to keep their heads above the waves of life. And they’re watching you — at least the ones who even notice your existence. Some 24 million Americans reject any religious affiliation; tens of millions more are nominal church members, cult followers or embrace a vague “spirituality” that gives and demands nothing.

Guilt or sense of duty will never consistently motivate us to reach over the sides of our bright, comfortable boats into the darkness. Only the love of Christ will. If it’s missing, if we just sit on our padded deck chairs and soak up the rays, what will the drowning think of us — and our faith — as they go down for the third time? The word “sham” comes to mind.

“The cry of the people who don’t yet know [that] God has provided a Savior is [the same as] that of the disciples on the storm-tossed sea, ‘Carest thou not that we perish?'” observes Jerry Rankin, president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.

Jesus cares. His love starts at home — inside the boats of family and church — then moves in concentric circles to our neighbors, cities, nation — and all the nations. It’s not easy. It’s not convenient. But it’s real.

During last year’s dark, week-long Carnaval street party in Salvador, Brazil, a disheveled woman with a beer in one hand and cigarette in the other hurled abuse at Christian volunteers preaching the gospel across the street from her balcony.

“She must have screamed insults and curse words down on us for 15 minutes,” relates Southern Baptist missionary Karen Gray.

The volunteers prayed for the woman, laying hands on her building. The landlord warned them that she often had screaming fits and seemed to be under demonic influence. Yet after their prayers, she watched them from her balcony in total silence for the rest of that night — and the next.

“The Lord impressed upon me the need to physically touch her,” Gray says. “On Sunday night she came down to the street, well-groomed, and I introduced myself and shook her hand. She grunted her name at me: ‘Marcia.’ Later I again touched her arm and prayed the love of Christ would flow through me.

“On the last night, I gave her my Bible and explained that we wanted nothing from her, but only hoped she would see Jesus in us. For a long time she said nothing. Finally she called me by name and thanked me for the Bible. She got up off her stool, kissed me on both cheeks and gave me a big smile.”

Even Jesse Ventura would understand that.

    About the Author

  • Erich Bridges