- - Tuesday, February 5, 2013

It’s hard to decide whether this story should be filed under “The Lord works in mysterious ways” or “Be careful what you wish for; you may get it.”

A woman who goes by Pastor Alois Bell of Truth in the Word Deliverance Ministries, a storefront ministry in downtown St. Louis, claims she uses social media in her effort to spread the Gospel and the good news of Jesus Christ.

Sure enough, Ms. Bell has gone viral. She has been covered by media outlets that include The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor and the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail. In fact, she is nearly seven days into her 15 minutes of fame, and the furor over her actions hasn’t quelled.

In case you are living somewhere without power, or you don’t have access to a computer, or you’re Amish, here’s the story:

Ms. Bell and a party of 10 (or more; pick your media story) dined at an Applebee’s restaurant in St. Louis. As is the chain’s policy, a gratuity of 18 percent was added to the bill because of the size of the party. Ms. Bell objected to the forced tip, so when she signed her charge receipt, she wrote, “I give God 10%. Why do you get 18?” Above her signature, she wrote “Pastor.”

A waitress at the restaurant (but not Ms. Bell’s server), Chelsea Welch, claiming to be amused by the snarky note from “Pastor Bell,” took a photo and posted it to the website Reddit.

It’s no surprise that a stingy note from someone claiming to be a Christian pastor quickly soared through cyberspace. It didn’t take Ms. Bell long to learn that the receipt was out there, thanks to the hateful, racist, bigoted comments that began to flood her social media sites. (A sample of a YouTube video of Ms. Bell preaching is shocking even to me — and I look at this sort of thing every day so you don’t have to.)

The pastor complained to the management of Applebee’s, and Ms. Welch was promptly fired for invading a customer’s privacy. Turns out, they have a policy about that sort of thing.

Unfortunately, there’s no policy anywhere against using the least transgression on the part of a self-described Christian as an indictment of God himself.

Christian haters worldwide claim Ms. Bell’s unfortunate — and, let’s face it, un-Christian — behavior is reason enough to persecute her and everyone else who believes in Christ and the Bible. It’s more proof, they say, that Christianity is nothing but hypocrisy with a tax deduction.

Ms. Bell, appearing on local news in St. Louis, apologized that the incident blew up into a big mess. She regrets writing the note on her receipt, though she notes that the gratuity was charged to her credit card, but that she also left a nearly equal amount in cash on the table. Others at the table also left cash tips. To be clear, the tip is not the point.

Ms. Bell is not sorry that her story went viral. She is convinced that it’s simply an opportunity for her to demonstrate what Christianity is really about: sinners sinning, seeking redemption and being forgiven.

It’s ironic that nontheists and those who revile Christianity (or all forms of organized religion) point to un-Christian behavior on the part of believers as proof that the whole thing is a ruse.

What they don’t get is that our human failings are the whole reason we Christians seek out a relationship with Jesus Christ. We don’t pretend to be above sin; quite the opposite. We’re certain we’re going to sin, and we’re thankful that Jesus saves us from ourselves.

It’s like Mohandas Ghandi famously said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”

Story Continues →