Growing up in a fundamentalist environment, you can bet I’ve seen a lot of proselytizing. From missionaries converting the heathens in countries far and wide to In-N-Out’s Bible verse-emblazoned cups to the dude who used to treat football audiences to his home-made JOHN 3:16 sign. Some of these methods are overt, others sneaky. But not a one of them can match a membership drive so ballsy and innovative that I’m astounded I’ve not yet seen it repeated: Christ-Crashing.
I like a nice house party. I’ve never really cared for big, anonymous keggers with their dense oceans of sweaty, beer-sloshing yahoos and 130-decibel rumble, and still view raves as enervating ‘Tard-fests set to a shrieking 4/4 beat, suitable primarily for the procurement of drugs. House parties, on the other hand, with no more than 100 guests (and usually fewer), were a lot more my speed, because you could actually carry on a conversation with another person. Back in my single days, this was practically a requirement–although I’m a handsome enough guy, for whatever reason, I just don’t have the the kind of looks that make the ladies weak in the knees. So back in the day, if I had any hope whatsoever of getting lucky, it was my mouth that would get me there (my mouth could also queer the deal with a quickness; I walked a razor-thin line in my youth). So house parties were always more my thing.
About ten years or so ago, I attended a house party in Auburn, Washington. By 9:00 PM the house was loud and packed, crowd runoff spilling out onto the back deck and into the wide, sloping back yard. Cigarette smoke mingled with the meaty tang of dogs on the grill. The volume steadily increased. But what none of us knew was that on the street outside, sinister forces were already advancing upon us.
Another thing I like about house parties is that inevitably, clusters of people form at various points in the house and yard, with people leaving groups and joining them, new ones forming and old ones disappearing. The addition of one new face to a cluster of people slightly changes the complexion of the conversation, which grows and changes as long as the party lasts. This facet of the house party experience was the vulnerability the Christ-crashers preyed upon.
The clandestine force had by this time breached the intimacy of the gathering. No one yet knew that a cadre of insidious strangers already walked among us. No one would until it was too late. About twenty minutes earlier, a group of about a dozen unremarkable twentysomething men and women arrived at the party. They arrived in groups of one or two, either through the front or garage door, which was wide open.
Once inside the party’s perimeter, the operatives split up, sidling up to different groups throughout the home and property. One of them joined the conversation I was having. I didn’t recognize him, but assumed–as the Christ-crashers were counting on–he was friends with other people at the party. Meanwhile, everyone was making this same mistaken assumption.
We started to get an inkling that something might be wrong when, in the space of no more than ninety seconds, every conversation at the party had turned to the redemptive works of the Lord Jesus Christ. No matter how base, inane or vile the conversation had been prior to the crashing, every conversation was now a theological one. Still not realizing we were being invaded, some of us debated the Christ-crashers politely, others turned abusive.
It didn’t take long to understand the problem and identify the perpetrators. They were dressed nearly identically, in dark blue track suits. They were shortish, men and women both, with traces of an Eastern European accent. I am very intrigued by accents, and asked where they were from. Their spokesman, a compact man with boyish features grew visibly uncomfortable and said, “We’re Americans.”
“Yeah, but you’re not from here originally, are you?” I asked, not accusing, simply curious (and I go through this little dance all the time; folks, if you don’t want me to ask where your accent is from, then fucking lose it. And if you don’t want a whole host of other questions, don’t fucking tell me it’s British–not all Americans are that stupid). The closest he came to saying was answering me in the affirmative when I asked if he was Slavic. The matter was quickly sorted out, and the newcomers revealed to be members of a local fundamentalist church. The spokesman explained that they were a sort of youth outreach, bringing a message of salvation to iniquitous gatherings like this one.
Even in the face of the Christ Crashers’ machinations, the host proved a class act by inviting them to stay. Sadly, the strange little man took the position that the Heavenly Father frowned upon drinking, clearly forgetting why Jesus was in such high demand as a wedding guest throughout Canaan circa 30 AD.
The host’s not-inconsiderable patience by this time exhausted, the Crashers quickly found themselves back on the street. Undeterred, the Jesus Jihadists set off to find someone else who wanted just a little more Son of Man at his or her party.
It happened once; it can–and almost certainly will–happen again. So if ever you find yourself at a party, and all at once every conversation turns to the joy of having a relationship with Christ, don’t panic–you’ve just been Christ-crashed.