Tag Archives: sermon illustration

Illustration: Detecting Counterfeits

It’s time now for another widely used illustration from the halls of fundamentalism…

When an aspiring agent of the U.S. Treasury is going to learn how to detect counterfeit money, how do you imagine that they are taught to tell the fake stuff from the real stuff? Do they look at counterfeit bills? Do they learn about color-shifting  inks, watermarks, ultraviolet glows, and fiber quality? Certainly not! Their training consists of one thing and one thing only: endless hours of touching, ogling, and sniffing real money. For if a person knows what the genuine article looks like then they’ll never accept a counterfeit.

With this story the fundamentalist proves once and for all that it’s not necessary to ever study another point of view other than the one held by other like-minded fundamentalists. Indeed studying other religions, sects, or factions could be extremely dangerous and cause evil questioning. Only the very strongest fundies may risk exposing themselves to such ideas and then only for purposes of maligning, mockery, and misquotation.

If your beliefs cannot hold their own in the vast arena of ideas, are they really worth having? Thankfully for fundamentalists, they’ll never have to find out. They’ll be safely hiding from the world, sniffing their money.

Illustration: Two Russian Soldiers


As a secret house-church begins it service in a village in Communist Russia (or China, or Vietnam…), two soldiers burst in brandishing machine guns.

“This is an illegal meeting,” they scream “and we’re going to shoot anybody who won’t deny Christ and leave right now!”

A few folks tremble with fear and deny Christ and run out into the night. The rest sit resolute without moving.

The soldiers then lower their weapons and say “We want to be saved but first we wanted to get rid of any spies and informers who might be in the audience.”

There are countless variations on this tale such as this one. As always it has all the hallmarks of a dubious illustration. It involves a place far away, it involves no actual names of people, the church, or anyone who knows someone involved. Last but not least it involves Communists. If you can’t work Africa into your story, throwing in a few Communists is the next best thing.

Stories about Athiests

atheistsThere are a couple of recurring characters in fundamentalist illustrations:  the errant teenager, the king who makes employment decisions based on fantastical tests involving driving a coach near the edge of a cliff, and the ever-present God-hating atheist.

The atheist is a great character for a story because he’s a polarizing figure. Like the man in the black hat in a an old western, it’s obvious who’s side he’s on. It’s no accident that there are very few sermon illustrations involving Unitarians, the Amish, or others who just generally get along with everybody. Also, in a country where over ninety percent of people claim to believe in some kind of God, it’s easy enough to claim whatever you’d like about atheists; chances are there won’t be one in attendance to contradict you.

Whether the atheist is standing in a park challenging God to strike him dead, verbally fencing with a surprisingly astute freshman at a university, or being converted on his deathbed by an evangelist, the story is sure to be equal parts gripping and appalling. It’s even better if you name a famous atheist in your story — whether or not you can actually document that it’s true. Fundamentalists never let a lack of source material get in the way of a good story. Voltaire would hardly recognize himself.

The fool hath said in his heart there is no God. But at least while he’s at it he provides a lot of good illustration material. fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt.