Friday, August 17, 2007

The Evangelical's Dream... And God's Nightmare



“It’s ready, sir.”


I nodded and double-checked my tie in the mirror. It was hard to believe that we’d accomplished the impossible. Harder still to believe that the commission had selected me to fulfill the prophecies of two millennium. I’d been preaching for the past thirty years, blessed enough to see my little church in Norfolk grow to become one of the largest churches in America. My congregation knew where I stood; I’d made it clear enough times from the pulpit. Jesus was about to return. We needed to be ready.


There was a knock on the door, and my wife came in wearing a blue skirt and white top that brought out the color in her eyes. She smiled and kissed me on the forehead. Thirty years and Trish still made my heart pound.


“Jack, are you sure about this?” She looked down at the ground, her voice strangely hesitant. “I mean, do you really think that we should be doing this?”


I found it hard to contain my shock, and disappointment.


“Honey, we’ve talked about this for years! We’re about to usher in the kingdom! For the first time in history, everyone will hear the real message of Jesus. The whole world will hear the words of Scripture! How can…” I stopped, unable to continue, unable to fathom her objection.


“I know.” She said, her voice small. “But, it doesn’t feel…” She stopped again, and this time kissed me on the lips. “I support you.”


She turned quickly and left the dressing room. I rubbed my beard and took a deep breath. Of all the people in the world I expected to hear some form of objection, Trish had to be the last. I knew Satan would object to our mission, I knew that he would throw obstacles in our path. I expected that. But Trish…


I sighed again and looked around the room. Flowers and cards covered the walls from churches all across the world. It was all so very humbling, and I took a moment to thank the Lord for the great honor of ushering in the final kingdom. Honestly, I felt unworthy, but someone had to do it, and God, for whatever reason, had chosen me.


Another knock on the door.


“Pastor, they’re ready for you.”


“Coming.”


I said one last quick prayer, adjusted my tie, and put my wife’s strange visit out of my head as I headed out.


The hallway was quiet. Security had tightened the last couple of days, the CNTV headquarters emptied of the usual mill of fans and media swirling around the largest Christian network’s broadcast center. I walked down the hallway, glanced at Nick, the former secret service agent assigned for my security, and followed him to the booth. I’d written my sermon about a hundred times. I went over in my head now, again. The words had to be just right, because I’d probably only get one shot at this. The Bible was clear about the end times. Once every nation and every person had heard the gospel, Jesus would return.


My thoughts strayed as I thought about the rapture, thought about what it would be like to be taken into the skies like Enoch, whisked away in a chariot from heaven. Another deep breath and I was in the studio, a mass of cables and computer equipment. I didn’t understand the technology, and as I’d often joked with my congregation, the fact I’d learned how to check my email was a major accomplishment.


From what I understood, six months ago a young Christian at Bob Jones University had made an important technological breakthrough, something to do with quantum physics and sound waves. He’d found a way to alter the radio signal so that it was no longer dependent on the signal source, but was able to release itself somehow onto connecting particles. In essence, whatever transmitted through the signal separated itself from the source and retransmitted to other sound waves as an independent signal. A signal that would reverberate for the lifespan of the original wave, in this case, for twenty-four hours. I still didn’t understand it, but I understood the consequences. One message over the altered transmitter would broadcast itself to every human being on the planet.


That’s why my message had to be short. The hundreds of translations necessary would fill the entire twenty-four hours. I had sixteen seconds.


Danny greeted me at the booth, a huge smile on his face.


“It’s a good day, Pastor. Finally!”


“It’s God’s day, Danny.”


Danny had been with me for years, since our first church back in Hickory.


“You deserve it, Pastor.”


“God’s glory, my friend. God’s glory.”


He nodded and stepped back as the technician hooked a small speaker into my ear and attached a small microphone to my chest.


“Are you ready, Pastor?”


“I am.”


“You are aware of the time limit?”


“Yup. Where are all the translators? I thought-“


“The computer will translate your message, sir, as soon as you are finished.”


I nodded absently, going over the message in my head. The media had gone into frenzy when the student refused to sell his new technology. One purpose, he’d said. Gospel only. Even if the new technology hadn’t been able to broadcast to every human on the planet, the media frenzy would surely have notified the civilized world. All the networks, even the cable outlets, had cancelled their programming to cover the greatest media event in the history of the universe tonight.


The entire world was about to hear the gospel. The entire world was about to be changed forever. The Bible said that the Word did not come back void, ever.


My broadcast will change the world forever, I thought. I could feel the sweat on my forehead.
Another technician who’d appeared from seemingly nowhere and rechecked my microphone.


“One minute, Pastor.”


I nodded and cleared my throat. I thought about all the blessings of my life, about the people who’d spoken against my ministry, calling me a ‘one trick rapture’ pony. All the people Satan had used to tempt me and scourge me. I had not been beaten. I was pure. I was strong. My church had separated themselves from the impurities of a wicked and heathen society. It occurred to me that I was tired, that heaven would be a nice break from a life of warfare. I was ready to hang up my sword and shield. First, however, I had one final duty.


“Okay, Pastor. Whenever you’re ready.” The technician said.


“Hello, everyone. This is Pastor Jack Haynes. I have a special message tonight for you, citizen of the world. Jesus loves you. If you confess your sins and proclaim him Lord and Savior of your life, you will be forgiven and live to rule and reign with God for eternity. If you reject him, you will be condemned to all eternity to the pits of hell. I urge you to repent and join with us in ushering in the Kingdom of God.”


I stopped and the technician looked at the digital clock on the far wall. Seventeen seconds. Close enough. He smiled and gave me a thumbs up. I slowly removed my microphone and earpiece and walked down the corridor.


It was done. The world had heard the gospel. I didn’t know whether to shout or cry. When I entered the small meeting room, I was met by a large ovation. My wife rushed over to kiss me and held me tight.


When we finally left the building a huge mass of people had gathered outside the broadcast center, and they thundered their approval. I waved and piled into the back of the limousine.


“Well, what now?” My wife asked.


“We wait.” I said. “The world has heard the gospel. There’s nothing left for us but to wait. Are the kids home?”


She nodded and looked away.


“What’s the matter?”


“What if… what if we’re wrong?”


I clenched my cheeks.


“I can’t believe this. You, of all…” I took a breath. “I’m the spiritual leader, you’ve always respected that. I don’t understand. You are supposed to support me.”


She turned away, and I saw the flash of tears in her eyes.


“Look, I’m sorry, Trish. It’s just that we’ve waited for do long for this. Don’t you see? We’re done? It’s all over? No more battles and fights and everything else. We can go home now!”


She sniffed and I pulled her close. It would all be over soon. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, I thought, come quickly.


A month had passed since the broadcast. Nothing had changed. Once the broadcast had aired, Congress had passed a law declaring the new technology a monopoly and that it must be shared, but the student from Bob Jones had refused to give it up, stating that the devil already had the internet. The media had invaded his personal life, the paparazzi hounding him mercilessly. A week ago they’d found him hanging from the basement of his house, an apparent suicide.
Our church had stopped meeting. I’d told my congregation to get their families together, that we’d finally preached the gospel to the world, and that it would be best if they waited quietly at home for Jesus to come. Most of them had quit their jobs, and now they were starting to call. So often, in fact, I’d made sure that our housekeeper stopped answering the phone.


In the fifth week after the broadcast, Trish approached me in the bedroom.


“You have to do something, Jack. You have to tell the people to go back to work.”


“What, I guess you don’t think Jesus is going to come either, now?”


She looked at me for a long moment.


“What if we were wrong? What if the gospel is more than…”


“More than what! They heard about Jesus! Everyone heard! It’s been confirmed that the technology worked!” I ripped my fingers through my hair. “We did our job! We spread the gospel, can’t you see that? Now it’s God’s turn!”


She looked at me for another minute, and I couldn’t read her expression.


“What if the gospel is more than words? What if Jesus meant we were supposed to love and-”


"Stop it! I won't have this! Not from you!"


With that, she walked out of the bedroom, her head high. I tried to calm down, but my thoughts kept running to what Trish had said. What else were we supposed to do? We'd done everything, or had we? What more did God want? Despite my years of ministry, I didn’t have an answer. It was a long time before I finally fell asleep.

-The End

-Steve