The trillion dollar question

tract1On a recent visit to Birmingham’s Railroad Park, I had a very brief encounter with a polite gentleman who handed me a church tract that was made to resemble money – “One Trillion Dollars” of American money with Abraham Lincoln (not the vampire hunter version, of course) on it.

Growing up in the South, and in church, I am familiar with tracts, and while I’m not religious and do not attend church, I don’t begrudge a polite gesture from a stranger who cares enough to share his beliefs, even if printed on fake money.

However, I’m also reminded of the Mitch Hedberg joke:

“Whenever I walk people try and hand me a flyer. And when someone tries to hand me out a flyer, it’s kinda like they’re saying, ‘Here, you throw this away.'”

The more I thought about it, though, the more I had questions, and the more I thought it would have been much more interesting to have a conversation with the man. He was long gone, however.

The back of the tract begins with “The trillion dollar question: Will you go to heaven when you die?”

The rest of it is pretty standard verbiage – you’re a sinner and need to ask Jesus for forgiveness – but that first part, and the money part, raise some questions.

tract2I do wonder who actually reads these things and thinks, “Wow. I really do need religion!” (The best tract I’ve seen so far was one titled “The Gospel According to Karate.” The writing in that one is hilarious, comparing Christianity to potential martial arts-based violence and self-defense.)

But I also wonder how the question of eternal life has been monetarily quantified into a trillion dollars, specifically a trillion American dollars.

So why is eternal life worth one trillion American dollars? Does the value of an afterlife change with a strong economy? Does it follow the stock market or adjust for inflation? Is this good news for the European Christians with the exchange rate? Are there brokers and banks in heaven (to calculate the value of golden streets, of course)?

And what is the implied connection between the Christian afterlife and American money? And is Lincoln the best choice to put on the front?

But it seems that these questions, like most matters of religion, shall remain a mystery.

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4 thoughts on “The trillion dollar question

  1. “I do wonder who actually reads these things and thinks, “Wow. I really do need religion!”

    Only those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. It’s hard to tell a deaf man who won’t acknowledge you that he has a crane about to fall on his head nor does it get any easier to tell a blind man who wont listen that he is about to walk off a 1,000 ft. cliff. Whether or not the crane is falling or the cliff is real is irrelevant to them since if they continue the path they are going both will die of the fate you are trying to warn them about. But if they take a moment to trust what is being communicated to them as truth, then at least they have the chance to be saved from what could have been a horrible accident. Then they can look back at you and say, “Wow, I really did need to hear what you had to say or see what you were showing me.” Information like that is worth telling.

    • This post is more about the method than the message. Wouldn’t a friendly conversation have more potential than a fake-money flier? If the blind person in your comment were really in danger, would you try to help them or would you just hand them the braille version of a tract? Have you had any personal experience where handing a stranger a tract like that had made any difference in his or her life?

      • You do make a good point about the tract. Tracts are good but one thing they do convey is exactly what you mentioned and that is the less imminent danger of the oncoming cliff or crane. The answer is no, I obviously would not hand them a tract. Instead, I would go and snatch both away from the danger lying ahead. However, how would you feel if a Christian came and forced you to believe in the crane or the cliff? So sometimes tracts is the only way. You may still not believe in the crane or the cliff, but at least you have been given the appropriate information of the imminent danger that lies ahead that you do not hear or see. Next time we get together, I will come and force you to believe and see how far that gets both of us. Does that make sense?

        • I get what you’re saying. Of course, I don’t think you can force belief on anyone. Sure, you can force a confession of belief, but I don’t think you can force actual belief.

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