Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Scare Tactics of the Dental Office

Today's post is brought to you by David Halberstadt. If you enjoy his post, you can also follow his Twitter feeds at @thetrouseredape. Enjoy...


Next to the office where I used to work before I was laid off, there is a dental office. Outside this dental office, they have a large marquee that they update every so often with pithy “Christianese” quotes. Stuff like, “Jesus died for YOU!” or “You've got to pray just to make it today.” Currently, their sign reads, “If you knew what Hell was like, you would accept Jesus.”

First of all, doesn't almost everybody already know what Hell is like? They may not believe in it but I'm sure that everyone knows that Hell is a place of burning flesh and suffering.

Secondly, I'm not going to say that the “turn or burn” approach to ministry has not had its converts but I've personally never seen it work. Let us step into the shoes of the average, non-religious man walking the street. What would be the reaction of the average man when he reads this sign? There are a few options.

One: he laughs at those silly Christians and their silly slogans.

Two: he shakes his head angrily at those idiot Christians and their idiot slogans.

Three: he falls to his knees and prays for God to save him from the fiery chasm of Hell.

Now, I can only see two of these reactions as being feasible. I really don't see this working for anybody. For crying out loud, my own reaction to seeing that sign was the second option. The only place you'd see option three happen is in the make-believe world of Christian film.

I believe that this method of “getting the message out” causes far more harm to Christianity than good. You need to build a relationship with people or they aren't going to give a damn about what you have to say. You aren't going to convert to Buddhism just because a Buddhist tells you that you that your karma will be bad if you don't.

Do we really need to resort to scare tactics in order to fill church seats? Does God really want followers because they're scared of what will happen if they don't, or does He want us to follow Him because we love Him? Any good Christian will tell you that we are supposed to imitate Jesus. So what does He have to say about this?

If you look in the gospels, you can find a number of passages where Jesus calls out the religious folk for their hypocrisy and sins [Matt. 23; Mark 11:15-17; John 8:7]. You'd be hard pressed to find Jesus telling the non-religious folk that they are going to burn in Hell if they don't abandon their sinful ways and follow Him. When He does interact with the so-called sinners (really, who isn't?) and hated groups He eats with them [Mark 3:15-17], He sits and talks with them [John 4:5-30], He stands up for them [John 8:1-11].

What were the results of this? Jesus had followers everywhere He went. He was practically swimming in them.

I wonder how many people have been turned off to Christianity because of a stupid sign.


  1. What I'd like to know is why should a dental office be concerned about some one's salvation? The last time I checked, you see the dentist to get your teeth cleaned, not to save your soul.

    Great post, David!

  2. i think it's hilarious that one of the most scariest places is discussing hell @_@

    totally agree with travis, this is a great post!

  3. Great post!

    You need to build a relationship with people or they aren't going to give a damn about what you have to say.

    Isn't that the biggest part of the problem? My pastor just preached for a few weeks on us as a "fast-food nation" and how the same thing has seeped over into our faith. Rather than taking the time to build a relationship first with God and then with the people you want to reach out to, too many people are looking for an "easy fix." We seem to want it to be like a microwaveable meal or a trip through the drive-thru rather than something lasting.

  4. Awesome, David.

    to harp on what you and Sarah said (I love her "fast food nation" bit), relationships are key.
    Really. Jesus was such a relational person. Everything he did he did it in community. And what do we think? We think we should "Fight for Independence!" We're missing the point, and I'm disturbed.

    Thanks for sharing! Love the write up.

  5. Thanks for the kind words all.

    Interestingly enough, a couple days ago I went by there again and at the nearest street corner was a group of people standing around with signs saying things like "God will judge" and "Judgement is coming soon". I have no idea who they were affiliated with but the timing struck me as being kinda funny.

  6. "I wonder how many people have been turned off to Christianity because of a stupid sign."

    In a word: me.

    I grew up with the word of God in my house, but had a falling out years ago. I don't know where I lay in the religious spectrum, but while the word of Jesus seems appealing to me in his love and compassion Christians themselves have displayed so much hatred and prejudice that I find myself turned off from the religion. I probably shouldn't judge the religion based on the people that practice it but it's difficult to separate the two.

    I will say this: I stumbled on this site through my cousin and it's nice to see that not all Christians act like that. Unfortunately in my personal life I haven't met too many Christians that I could respect or like.

    I'm not trying to insult anyone here so I hope no one takes this response that way. What I've read so far is really different from what the Christians I know say and it is honestly refreshing to see people with intelligence talk about Christianity. It doesn't seem to happen enough.