Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"I wanted to know Jesus, but you gave me a library"

"I wanted to know Jesus, and you gave me a library!"

This devastating line that Jackie Pullinger once heard,
and I just read,
amazingly nails our adventures in missing the point,
apologetically speaking.

Here's the story. Jackie is a missionary in the Walled City of Hong Kong. She writes:

One of the boys prayed that he desired to follow Jesus. In misguided fervor, I gave him a copy of St.John's gospel, scripture notes on St.John, a booklet entitled 'Now You Are a Christian' and another, 'The Way Ahead.'

I did not see him for two years and felt hurt and concrened for his spiritual well being. When I saw him again I asked why he had been avoiding me so long. He looked embarrassed (and said):

"I wanted to know Jesus, and you gave me a library.
-Jackie Pullinger, "Chasing the Dragon,"p.77
The other tragic punchline:
He was literally illiterate!

Note only is this would most of us do in "misguided fervor"(hand hungry potential converts books and tracts instead of bread and Jesus), the boy's indicting quote is almost interchangeable with Bono's line, "I wanted to meet God; but you sold me religion" (read about it here, and watch it in the opening seconds below;it is an amazing moment in concert)

These two quotes are also paralleled by Charlie Brown (another great theologian)'s classic Halloween experience, "I got a rock." (Watch it below)

Stones,not bread...biblically speaking.

So,in light of this triad of quotes;
my question, always pushing toward pasrallels that are unobvious,:
How do the parallel factors in each sentence's equation equate and (chiastically) define each other?

In other words:

"I wanted ________, but (on the other hand), you gave me ________"

  • First blank: How are "knowing Jesus," "meeting God" and "wanting an appropriate Halloween treat" synonymous or Venned?
  • Second blank: How are "library", "religion" and "a rock" theologically related in their overlapping semantic domains?

Have fun...and just to get kickstarted, I see Jackie's desire to give a library as related to "religion" in the following way.

In the conservagelical world we are often biblioaters. (see First Church of Binitarian Biblilolaters and More bibliolatry)

Ask a fundy: Just ask a fundie sometime ,"Which would you rather give up, if you had to pick one: God or the Bible?"

Some actually hesitate.


The "library over Jesus" factor also reminds me of how we prioritize word over image, missing the apologetic boost that postmodern EPIC times have given us. We should be comfortable presenting Jesus as Image of God(Col. 1:15) through parable, art, or song BEFORE we "preach" with/evangelize with written words, or even tell about Jesus being Word. More on this in the articles Inspiration of Scripture: Images over words and First Church of Binitarian Biblilolaters.

Talk to me..


  1. I wanted to be transformed, but you gave me somebody else entirely.

  2. I wanted to be healed, but you gave me a program.

    I wanted to spiritually, but you gave me a ritual.

    Hmmm. Some of these are worse than others. :-)

  3. Oh my goodness, Dave, do you think that "library" line may be in part where Bono got his pairing motif? (I know there's a similar motif in Isaiah, but Pullinger's version is closer to the actual U2 text.) Now that I think of it, it's hard to believe he wouldn't have come across that Pullinger book - It was pretty big in sort of radical Christian circles, and my copy says the UK edition came out in 1980. And I mean... Holy Spirit + heroin addicts/prostitutes + urban poverty, you know?

  4. Oh and by the way, a propos of your actual exercise: coming from the Anglican family, I honestly can't fill in those blanks right now because it would be waaaaaaaay too cynical.

  5. Great work, yall.

    I love Mike's line, as I read it as a prayer (of lament)

    Henry's first line: reminds me of a church event where all the person got was a (literal) "program" (order of service."

    Beth: I hadn't thought of it..but it is actually possible..definitely the right circles...the more Bono drops names about who influenced him early on, I am impressed.

    I just picked up the book at a church library and turned to that story..and the connection immediately hit me, could hear Bono singing it.

    On the Anglican thing, just sign in as my local friend, Anglican priest Carlos...and get Him in trouble

    Can't wait to see what the real Fr. Carlos posts

  6. I am sure Beth already googled the U2-Pullinger connection..but here's what i found:

    Amazon.com UK suggested the Pullinger book coupled with a U2 book make "perfect partners"


    No solid online evidence Bono ever dropped in interviews that he read Pullinger etc...dang...will leave that for Mike Todd when he meets the band next tour(:

  7. "I wanted a Halloween party, but you gave us Hallelujah Night." -Me, circa 1987, 6 years old.

    "I wanted cool Christian music, you gave me what cool bands already did ten years ago." -Me, circa ongoing.

  8. I wanted a conversation and you gave me a pamphlet.

    I wanted some food and you gave me a pamphlet.

    I wanted a pamphlet and you walked right by.

  9. I wanted to be loved, and you gave me a program, an obligation and a finger-wagging scold and a kick out the door when I asked a question about "it"...


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!