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From “Like I Was Jesus: How to bring a nine-year-old to Christ” in the August 2009 Harper’s. Rachel Aviv is a writer living in Brooklyn. This is her first article for Harper’s Magazine.
Last summer, forty Christian missionaries, members of the Child Evangelism Fellowship, roamed the housing projects of Connecticut telling children the condensed and colorful story of Jesus’ life. The goal was salvation, but the missionaries rarely used that long word. They employed monosyllabic language and avoided abstract concepts and homonyms. “Holy” was a problem, the missionaries said, as children thought it meant “full of holes.” “Christ rose from the dead” was also tricky because children mistook the verb for a flower.
One afternoon in July, on a basketball court in Waterbury, Scott Harris, a black nine-year-old in an oversized sleeveless jersey, was inspecting a wound on his knee. The wound was sloppily stitched and looked grotesque, like a pair of lips. “I’m mad at Adam and Eve,” Scott said to a missionary named Isaac Weaver. “If they hadn’t eaten that apple, there would be no more bushes, prickers, and bugs. I wouldn’t have busted my knee open.”
“But do you ever think,” Isaac asked, “‘What if I were the first one?’ I think I’d probably make the same mistake as Eve.”
“No, I wouldn’t have tasted that fruit,” said Scott, his voice high and hoarse. “I’m trying not to get in trouble all the time. People say, Sit down, and I’m already sitting down. They say, Be quiet, and I’m not even saying anything.”
Isaac, twenty-six years old, blue-eyed, tan, and willowy, picked up his EvangeCube, a plastic toy of eight interlocking blocks that tell the Gospel in pictures. (The cube comes in a box that bears the slogan unfolding the answer to life’s greatest questions.) He pointed to the image of Heaven: a pastel hole in the clouds emanating milky rays of light. “You were right about Adam and Eve,” Isaac said. “Where they lived, everything was perfect.” He asked Scott if he knew his ABCs, and when the boy nodded, Isaac explained that “accepting Jesus is as easy as A B C. ‘A’ stands for Admit you are a sinner. ‘B’ is for Believe that Jesus went on the cross and died for your sins. And ‘C’ is for Choose to accept Him as the boss of your life and go to Heaven forever.”
The crisis began with the advent of the ballpoint pen. Early ballpoints were also very messy and if, immediately after writing, you ran your finger over the last few words, a smudge inevitably appeared. And people no longer felt much interest in writing well, since handwriting, when produced with a ballpoint, even a clean one, no longer had soul, style or personality. –“Umberto Eco: The lost art of handwriting,” Umberto Eco, The Guardian (via)
Burning the world to live in it is wrong,
As wrong as to make war to get along
And be at peace, to falsify the land
By sciences of greed, or by demand
For food that’s fast or cheap to falsify
The body’s health and pleasure—don’t ask why.
The ratio between the country’s shelters for battered women and its shelters for stray animals stands at three to one in favor of the animals. –“The God in the Machine,” Lewis H. Lapham, Lapham’s Quarterly
Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:
A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.
Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”