Earlier this year my sister in law, a lovely woman with two kids and a dog who jumps atop tables, took in a foreign exchange student with no place to live.

The kid was a high school senior from Thailand, and Leah (my sis in law) felt bad for his plight: He had been in the U.S. for a good chunk of time, but something had gone wrong with his host family, and either he found a new a place to stay, or he would be sent back home. I’ve always thought what Leah did represented true, unambiguous kindness—sight unseen, she gave up a place in her home. Beautiful.

The kid stayed with Leah for several months. I don’t think he was overwhelmingly happy. Leah’s children are young, his English was spotty, she works long hours. He was certainly lonely.

Anyhow, the student eventually left for another home in Ohio. We’re Facebook friends, and yesterday we received word that he was finally returning to Thailand. And that the family in Ohio had changed his name to Marc. And that they had introduced him to Christ, and now he’s a devout Christian.


On the one hand, I don’t care. Whatever is whatever. But on the other hand—Marc?! The kid’s new name is Marc? That’s the best they could do? Were I to have an exchange student living in my home, and his English is mediocre, I’m changing his name to Tollbooth. Or Malikyoba. Or Freddiegotfingered. Something creative and cool. Furthermore, the whole Christian conversion thing … well, no good. I don’t care if it’s a Christian conversion, a Jewish conversion, a Muslim conversion—an 18-year-old kid away from home, half-adequate in the language, head spinning, should not be indoctrinated. Really, he shouldn’t. Why? Because he can’t possibly know better. He’s a kid. In a foreign land. Shuffled from one home to another. Suddenly surrounded by happy happy!

Again, it’s one of my problems with the whole recruitment element of organized religion. You rarely hear of some Harvard Ph.D being sold on religion, or a construction worker with three kids and a mortgage in Pittsburgh. It’s always the poor and vulnerable; the exchange student from Thailand; washed-out celebrities like Hammer and Tiffany. The sell is that your life is incomplete … that your life will get better … that we have the answer, and you can, too!

And, to show I’m not only giving it to Christianity, yesterday the wife and I visited with our friends who are ultra-, ultra-, ultra-Orthodox Jews. By ultra, I mean the beard, the endless stream of children, the aversion to most modern devices. These are wonderful people, but there is, undeniably, something perplexing about some of the actions. The school their children attend doesn’t allow families to have televisions. Literally, it is not allowed. Why? Is it because TV is damaging? Or is it because TV might show young Orthodox kids that there’s a world out there with color and fun and bacon? I don’t know the answer.


Faith used as a dagger—not so hot.

12 thoughts on “Marc”

  1. People typically make major life decisions during transitional times. That’s true whether you’re talking about something like joining a religion, buying a house, choosing a career, or anything else. The reason? Because when someone is established in something, that has followed a transitional time when they made a choice.

    I’m not totally sure what the problem is here. Why would someone (like a Harvard professor, in your example), make a major life decision AFTER they’ve already made those decisions? There’s nothing sinister going on that the Harvard professor gets that the kid out of college doesn’t; it’s just how people are.

  2. The family in question would doubtless argue against the term ‘indoctrination’ (though the morphology of that word pretty much speaks for itself); they were just sharing the most important ‘knowledge’ ‘known’ to man, about a loving omnipotent god who, if and only if you believe that his son died 1,977 years ago (just for you!) and then came back to life, will forgo burning you for all eternity as punishment for something naughty your remotest ancestors did. These people sincerely believe they are doing the best and most important work humans can do by spreading this ideological manure as widely as possible. I keep on sayin’: people who are absolutely convinced they know the thoughts and wishes of an unsummonable supernatural intelligence are scary and deranged and must be avoided at all costs.

  3. It would be one thing to, say, try to convert someone who was just waking up from an operation, and drugged up on painkillers. That would be taking advantage of a vulnerable person. Helping a lonely kid to find meaning and hope through a relationship with Jesus Christ is something else altogether.

    If you really believe that Jesus Christ was telling the truth when he said that He was the only way to be reconciled to God (John 14:6), and that He commanded that His message be preached to all the earth (Matthew 28:19-20), then it makes perfect sense to share that with all kinds of people, including foreign exchange students.

    To the evangelical Christian, not preaching Christ is like seeing your neighbor’s house on fire late at night and not caring enough to wake him up and make sure he gets out alive.

  4. “To the evangelical Christian, not preaching Christ is like seeing your neighbor’s house on fire late at night and not caring enough to wake him up and make sure he gets out alive.”

    And there’s not something fundamentally wrong with this? To be blunt, it is a crock of shit and I feel pity for people that are unable to see that.

    It’s COMPLETELY normal for a kid at this age (high school-college) to feel lonely or depressed. They don’t need to be saved, in the religious sense.
    But it’s much worse when you’re a foreign exchange student who has been from home-to-home, can barely speak English, have no friends and can barely hold up a conversation. You’d be a LOT more desperate. And I’m assuming you look up to America more than your own homeland.

    So right, that’s not being vulnerable at all. That’s not getting at someone when they’re impressionable or desperate.

    Nor is it vulnerable for those people in 3rd world countries who need outside help. Because, hey, they aren’t coming out of surgery or on painkillers.

  5. You are going to be indoctrinated into something.
    Some are indoctrinated to believe Science has all the answers.
    Some are indoctrinated to believe God has all the answers.
    So What?
    They believed they helped him, he apparently does too.
    You don’t like it because he wasn’t indoctrinated to believe like you do.

  6. To the evangelical Christian, not preaching Christ is like seeing your neighbor’s house on fire late at night and not caring enough to wake him up and make sure he gets out alive.

    but in reality, its more like you waking your neighbor up in the middle of the night to tell him his house is on fire, but only YOU can see it, and you tell your neighbor that if he believes hard enough, he would see his house was on fire too, and that it will come crashing down soon, but you just dont know when. its kind of like when batty christians talk about armageddon.

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