From time to time on this blog, I will do book reviews. I am currently reading Vince Antonucci’s new book Guerilla Lovers, and I plan to review it very soon. Vince’s first book, I became a Christian and all I got was this lousy t-shirt , remains one of my all time favorite books. The following is an excerpt from that book:
Excerpt from “I became a Christian and all I got was this lousy t-shirt: Replacing Souvenir Religion with Authentic Spiritual Passion” by Vince Antonucci
Staff members at my church take one day each month to fast and pray. It’s a day designed to get away and get close to God, to focus on him and pray for the church. I decided to spend one prayer and fasting day at Burger King. I know this sounds bizzare, but I wasn’t going to eat. Normally, I go to a park or the beach on my prayer day, but it was cold outside, so I wanted a place where I could be inside but by myself. When I do my fasting day I don’t eat, but I do drink, so I thought, I’ll go to Burger King, get a Coke, sit there for a couple hours, read my Bible, and write in my journal. So I went in, got my Coke, sat down, and started reading.
Two minutes later a dirty, smelly guy came walking up. He was obviously extremely poor, probably homeless. He started pacing in front of my table. I glanced up several times but tried not to make eye contact because I wanted to keep reading my bible. After all, this was a day for me. My goal was to get me closer to God. Finally, I felt guilty and thought, This isn’t right. Vince, you need to take some time, die to yourself, and love this guy. So I asked, “Hey, can I help you with anything?”
Turns out the guy was from India. He started talking, but I could barely decipher his words. Finally, he handed me a piece of paper. It was a job application for Burger King. I said, “Oh, you want to apply here. Do you need help filling this out?” He nodded yes, so we got to work. It was difficult. One question asked about experience. I think he said he used to be a cook. In Florida? India? Indiana? Another requested his home address, but he didn’t have one. It took nearly an hour. Finally, we were done and he walked to the counter to turn it in. I thought, It’s good that I helped him, but I’m glad that’s over. I went back to reading.
One minute later he was sitting back at my table. I said, “Oh, Hi.” He sat and stared at me. I thought, Maybe he’s hungry. “Do you need something to eat?” I asked. He said yes, so I gave him a few dollars. And he appreciated it. He really appreciated it. He grabbed both my hands and started rubbing them all over his face and neck. I thought, Oh…my…goodness! This is so weird! Finally, after the thirty most awkward seconds of my life, he grabbed my money and disappeared. I thought, Wow. Well, it’s a good thing that I helped him. But I am so glad that’s over. I went back to reading.
Two minutes later he was sitting back at my table. This time he had a burger and fries. I thought, Maybe he just needs someone to talk to. I started a conversation, and then he asked me about the Bible I was reading. I started to explain that I believed in Jesus. A smile erupted on his face and he pulled his wallet out. He proudly showed me a picture of Jesus. I said, “Yeah, that’s who I’m telling you about!” Then he proceeded to show me pictures of Buddha, Muhammad, a goat, Reggie Jackson, there may have been some pictures of Regis Philbin, the Dali Lama, and Bea Arthur in there as well. He became very serious and asked, “Do you know what God’s name is?”
I said, “Yes, I’m trying to explain to you –I believe his name is Jesus. Jesus is God’s Son.”
He said, “No! God’s name is twenty-one!”
“God’s name is twenty-one. Do you understand?” he demanded.
“Yeah, you just said God’s name is Twenty-one.”
His voice was rising, “No. No! God’s name is twenty-one.”
I repeated, “God’s name is Twenty-one.”
“No! God’s name is Twenty-one!”
“Got it. God’s name is Twenty-one.”
“No! God’s name is Twenty-one!”
Finally, I put an end to our Abbot and Costello routine and asked him to please explain what he meant. He tried. I think what he was struggling to say was that he believed that all religions worship the same God and that God is called by twenty-one different names in the various religions of the world, and so he has twenty-one names.
“Okay, I understand now,” I said. “But I believe there is only one God, and Jesus was his Son.”
“He asked, “Do you know who is God today?”
I answered, “Twenty-one?”
“No,” he said. “Today, you are God to me.”
“No, I’m not God,” I responded.
“Yes, you are,” he countered.
“No,” I explained. “I’m trying to show you the love of God, but I’m not God.”
“No. Today you love me,” he said. “You help me. You feed me. Who is God? He loves, he helps, he feeds. Today, you are God to me.”
In one sense he was theologically wrong, because I’m certainly not God. But in another sense, he was right. Because God has asked me to represent him, to be his ambassador.
We need to be the good news before we share the good news so that our gospel has integrity. We need to make the gospel beautiful again. We need to lose all the trappings so people can experience the natural beauty of God’s good news. We need to show people what life in God’s kingdom is like before we invite them into it.
To read more from Vince Antonucci, check out his website VinceAntonucci.com, and I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t mind if you buy either or both of his books, either. Just saying…