Things that hack me off, in no particular order:
- People who swerve in and out of traffic without using their turn signal.
- People who walk into moving traffic (I think they’re too dumb to be allowed to reproduce).
- Baseball teams that bat a guy with a .288 on-base percentage leadoff because he can steal bases (that only works if you can steal first base … which you can’t).
- “Church-friendly” congregations that insist “we’re a friendly church” even when most of the visitors say otherwise (see several previous posts).
- Pre-recorded telephone solicitations/surveys.
I’m only going to deal with the last one today.
Think it through for a moment. It’s bad enough when the phone rings during dinner/in the middle of a good game on TV/after your kids’ bedtime, and you rush to pick it up, thinking it might be a friend or family member … only it’s some poor teenage wage slave reading off a lame script in a monotone, who’s only talking you because the computerized calling program brought up your number next. I feel bad for those kids, having such a horrid job (my experience is that having a soul-sucking job really is worse than having no job at all), and while I’m not interested in hearing about the product or answering the survey, I still sympathize with them as a fellow human being. But a recording? That’s like the company on the other end decided, “we don’t care about people enough to hire them OR even speak to them — we’ll just have a machine talk to you, because that’s how important you are to us. Sucker!”
So I never give the reording more than about five seconds before I hang up. Except last week, I made an exception …
The reason I did was because the recorded call was from a group called the Family Research Council. If you’re not familiar with the FRC, it’s a lobbying organization that was originally part of Focus on the Family, James Dobson’s evangelical monolith, and is still loosely affiliated. (How loosely is an open question, but technically they were split off from Focus in 1992, since Focus is a 501(c)3 non-profit religious organization and would lose that status with the IRS if the FRC, a for-profit political action group, was officially under its umbrella.) Basically, it’s a PAC representing the views of the “religious right” or “Christian right” or whatever you want to call that section of the political spectrum. Gary Bauer, who used to run the FRC, later made an unsuccessful run for the Republican presidential nomination but was considered too “far right” by most Republicans; that should give you an idea of where the FRC stands.
Their current president is Tony Perkins, and it was Perkins whose voice was on the recording. The call was one of those voice-activated jobs, where they ask a question and you’re supposed to respond with one of the offered choices. Those are actually kind of fun, since being just a computer program, they don’t adjust well when you stall them. You can keep a recording on the line for nine minutes (I did in this case) when a human being will see through your act and cut you off at two. So I like to think that by giving it the runaround without giving it any of my opinions, I kept it from annoying three or four more people that night, while at the same time not skewing the survey results. Guilt-free fun.
What bothered me, though, was a) the purpose of the call, and b) the nature of the call itself.
A) The purpose of the call. The body of the message was a three-question quiz regarding President Obama’s stance on abortion. Now, if you’ve done more than, say, forty seconds of research on the issue, you probably know that Barack Obama’s views on abortion are almost certainly the most permissive of any president ever. He’s even to the left of Bill Clinton. Obama made a campaign promise that one of his first acts as president would be an executive order loosening restrictions on abortions provided overseas, and while in the Illinois state legislature he effectively blocked a law banning partial-birth abortion (if you don’t know what that procedure entails, look it up — but only on an empty stomach) for four years; it was passed only after he went to the U.S. Senate. His stance on abortion was the #1 reason the Supermodel (who feels VERY strongly on the subject) didn’t vote for him, despite liking him personally, and one of the main reasons I didn’t either. (She voted for McCain; I voted for Alan Keyes.)
So if I’m being asked if I know where Obama stands on the issue, they’re assuming I’m either:
- going to agree with them, so they can bolster the numbers they use for lobbying,
- choosing to be ignorant, or
- the village idiot.
I’m not interested in shilling for a political action committee, because I don’t believe history has shown any long-term effect caused by lobbying that didn’t have some sort of bribe attached to it. Unless there’s something being offered that will make it worth their while, politicians will vote what they believe is right, or at least expedient. And I don’t fall into either of the other categories, rumors to the contrary. So I don’t have any interest in playing that game. Three decades of following politics has taught me that if you can’t elect the people who agree with you, you’re clearly not speaking for the majority anyway, and any efforts to change their minds afterward (barring some sort of spiritual awakening on their part) is largely a waste of time. Personally, I’d much rather see more effort spent in saving the souls of politicians than in changing their votes; it would certainly have more long-term (read: eternal) repercussions. And might change their minds as a side effect.
A) The nature of the call. This bothers me even more. As I said earlier, my view of the pre-recorded telemarketing/survey telephone call is that the company calling feels that I’m not even important enough to them to require actual human contact; I’m not as big a deal to them as saving a few bucks on salaries. Basically, I’m just a means to their end. Being a means to someone else’s end, especially when that someone else is a total stranger who doesn’t even want to talk to me directly, doesn’t interest me that much. They don’t see me as a person, inherently valuable as an individual soul — I’m just a phone number to them. Why should I give them my time?
So what does it say when a “Christian” organization uses pre-recorded calling for their ends? Well, it pretty much says the same thing.
Do you see the problem? Christianity began with Someone whose entire reason for being on earth was people. He never set up, or supported, any organization. Instead he healed people, delivered people from demon-possession, spent his time with people, talked to people (usually one-on-one or one-on-very-few). His mother had been told by an angel, before He was even conceived, that she should name Him Jesus, because “He shall save people from their sins.” As Frank Peretti has put it, people were what Jesus was all about. I could go on and on about this, but Jesus did not relate to people as just crowds or numbers or trends — He dealt with everyone as unique individuals, each specially and specifically created by a God who loves them, and who because of that were worthy of His love and His time.
So if an organization that claims to be founded on “Christian principles” is ringing me up with a pre-recorded survey clearly intended to do nothing for me, without even the courtesy of asking first … that indicates that they do not see me as a unique individual worthy of their love and time. That hurts a little. That causes me to question whether they truly are a “Christian” organization in anything but name. And that gives me a better idea of why so many non-Christians consider Christians to be hypocrites, traitors to the very ideas they espouse.
Because if a group is crusading on the grounds that fetuses are human beings and deserving of life, but isn’t willing to show the most basic amount of respect to full-grown humans … what does that tell us about their strongly-held principles? And what does it tell the world they are supposedly trying to affect?