On Monday, November 23, I found myself in a theater surrounded by “Whovians.” For those of you who don’t know – a “Whovian” is a fan of the British television show Doctor Who, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. The show’s recent popularity is due to its return in 2005 after a long hiatus. Many young people on both sides of the Atlantic have become fans.
The show follows the Doctor, a Time Lord, who travels through Space and Time in the TARDIS that looks like a British police box. When mortally injured the doctor can regenerate into a new body. This is the reason the show has lasted for fifty years, with eleven (or is it twelve?) different men portraying the Doctor.
I first heard of Doctor Who a two years ago from a student named Elizabeth. Elizabeth came to CSF to observe us for a project she had to do in one of her classes (a mini-ethnography). We have had a few students come to CSF for this reason before and usually they don’t hang around after the project is over. I don’t think Elizabeth planned to either, but she did.
She found a welcoming and life-giving community in CSF. When she interviewed me for the assignment we discussed her Catholic faith and whether that was a barrier to being a part of CSF. I recall explaining that CSF seeks to be a place where all Christians can come and grow in their faith in Jesus. (Of course, we also hope to create a place where people who are not yet disciples of Jesus can come and learn too.) I know there are things Christians disagree on, and we discuss such things sometimes, but we try our best to lay those aside on campus so we can focus on what really matters. On a campus filled with broken people there are more important things to do then argue our particular theologies. What matters on campus is learning to love Jesus and spread this love to others.
Soon Elizabeth became good friends with many members of CSF. She was part of an especially tight-knit group of ladies. The next year, which was last year, she served on our leadership team as secretary. Now in her senior year she continues to be involved in CSF. Just a few weeks ago I took a group of students to the Penn State football game to work in a concession stand with the CSF group up there. Elizabeth could hardly hold in her excitement as she got to see Hannah, one of her best friends, and one of the first students to welcome her to CSF two years ago.
Elizabeth is a huge Doctor Who fan. When you meet Elizabeth you soon find someone who enjoys good books, movies and television shows. I suppose this is appropriate for someone who is a professional writing major. As Elizabeth talked about Doctor Who other students who watched it also talked about it. Others of us were so intrigued that we soon began watching it too.
This is how I found myself in a theater full of Whovians the Monday before Thanksgiving. Bryson is another of those students who first welcomed Elizabeth to CSF. He is now at University Park but was home for the holiday. I joined Bryson and Elizabeth in watching the 50th anniversary special in 3D on the big screen. Fun, nerdy times!
One evening a few months ago I was at the diner with CSF students. They were talking about Doctor Who. There was probably a new student who had just confessed to not ever seeing it. I recall Elizabeth made an interesting comment – “I never tell people to watch Doctor Who. I just talk about how much I enjoy it and they want to watch it.”
“And there’s your lesson on evangelism for the night,” was my response.
Too often we Christians create this huge pressure to sell Jesus to unwilling customers. We approach it like a used-car salesman. We hate it though as deep down we feel dirty…kind of like our stereotype of a used-car salesman. But this is not what evangelism is.
What if evangelism is simply talking about what we are passionate about, what defines us, and what if this is primarily Jesus Christ? I don’t need to take a class to learn how to tell someone I love my wife. If you spend time talking to me, my likes and dislikes will come out. And just as people may watch a television show we are very excited about, they may decide to visit our church or crack a Bible due to our excitement.
I feel the need to add a caution – this is not a program. This does not mean we need to artificially create a false-excitement for the Jesus. When I talk about my wife, or a book I really liked, or a movie I saw recently, I don’t pretend to like it out of outside pressure to get you to like it. I really and truly love something and it naturally bubbles out of me.
So the challenge for me, the challenge I give my students and those reading this now, is to get to know Jesus. Read the gospels, encounter the real and amazing person at the core of our faith. I believe through this you won’t help but talk about him. As you do, you’ll find others are wanting to marathon the Gospels much like marathoning episodes of Doctor Who on Netflix.