In the mental health biz, a guy who walks in wearing a BIG cross sends up red flags. Judgement is reserved, because some Christian groups encourage laity, and especially clergy, to sport dramatic jewelry. But our first thought is that this guy is either a) a child molester, b) self-taught and self-appointed clergy of a congregation with no affiliation, or c) both.
Sad women brought to the hospital for suicidality will tell us "my children are everything to me." Well, yeah, except that you spend the rent money on drugs, won't leave the boyfriend who beats them, and overdosed where they would be the most likely ones to find you. Other than that, I see that your children are very important to you.
I have occasionally made myself unpopular at Sunday school classes when people will conclude a sweeping, prejudicial generalization with a protestation they don't mean to be judgemental by interrupting "Yeah you do." (This technique is not likely to be successful, BTW)
I spoke this weekend with a young man I have known since he was a child. I have always been very fond of him. He marshalled very effectively the abstract intellectual reasons why he is now agnostic, after having been brought up in a Christian home. There were eight of us there, including his parents, and I didn't want us to gang up on him or pound on him. Intellectually, I think he could have fielded most anything we were likely to bring up. But I did worry about the aura of rejection we would give by trying to argue with him instead of discuss.
The specific points he made, or I made, are unimportant. The reasons he was giving were not the real reasons. I tried to drop in fragments of ideas which I felt might answer his real objections, but kept it mainly in the realm of the abstract intellectual discussion, as that is where he clearly wanted to return the discussion at every turn. He wants to believe that these ideas of his are driven mainly by his intellect -- a powerful, abstract, math-degree intellect -- but his real reasons keep leaking out.
He lives back-to-the-land in a yurt, in a community both physically and psychologically near the VT border, among people who have respect for Christianity only in its most dilute forms. He mentioned several times that he knows Buddhists who are wise. (Well so do I, but not many -- most of those I meet in psychology are pretty condescending and full of themselves. But I digress.) He likes these people. They are his people, his community.
He speaks as if he could be intellectually persuaded, but he demands that he be intellectually compelled to believe. God doesn't work that way. Christians often do, trying to prove God -- a sort of compulsory baptism of the intellect. But neither proof nor disproof is ever offered. My intellect was very involved in my conversion; I fancied myself an intellectually superior being, who needed better reasons than that which would satisfy the mere Common Person. But in the end, I still had reasons which would allow me to disbelieve (or nominally believe) if I chose. I had come to believe that a rather simple and orthodox Christianity was more likely to be true than anything else.
I overstated the intellectual influence then, quick to assert to others that I had, like C.S. Lewis, been convinced of the truth and then followed it. I presented first what I wished to be true: that my capacious mind had weighed the possibilities and chosen. That should have been a red flag -- perhaps it was to some wiser folk around me, but I didn't see it. What we present first is seldom our real reason. An opposite often is.