Friday, December 24, 2010

" - not much, anyway"

There is a general myth in circulation in Christian circles that if we ever started acting like we should, the world would be amazed at our example and many would be converted. I suspect this is because nonbelievers make the accusation frequently, that they cannot take Christianity seriously because of oh, it varies from person to person, but all those wars of religion, y'know, conveniently overlooking all actual history, in the service of a narrative about all those evil religious people. It can become fairly sophisticated, this inability to take in the relevant data because so much of it contradicts the favored premise. There are certainly plenty of popular writers and even actual historians who subscribe to it.

Where was I? Yes, wars of religion, and of course, Christians saying stupid things - there's a first-class proof for you; or not standing up for justice - defined variously, with negative points awarded for standing up against you for justice. There are other excuses, but you get the idea. If Christians would just stop all that, then well heck, I guess people wouldn't have any more objections and would gladly walk the sawdust trail.

But I think Christians embrace the idea for reasons of their own, also hoping it's true. It's certainly the idea behind all those stirring speeches on the scripture "If my people, who are called according to My Name..." If we just all prayed more, and repented as a people, and refrained from unrighteousness, everything would turn around. Folks want it to be true, and scramble around in the scriptures for proof that it is. For America. In the 21st C. The religious left has its own political version, less well-known but just as pernicious, but I'm not picking on them especially this time.

Not only politics. The idea may be even more pervasive when it comes to evangelism. If we would all, individually and collectively, (block that metaphor), be a City on a Hill, the heathen would bow down. If only. Contemporary Christian musicians seem particularly susceptible to this.
''The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply find unbelievable.'' (''What If I Stumble'' by dcTalk)
comes to mind. I think that's rubbish. You can probably find some atheists who say that, but my experience is they put forth other reasons. If they reference Christian behavior at all, it is usually in the collective or national sense, as above. Come to think of it, though, shooting doctors who perform abortions - and heck, we all do that. That's been the Advent focus at our church for years - does come up from time to time.

My favorite example is my patient John, a charming bipolar man I knew thirty years ago. John had been a permanently baked 60's hippie who had become a Jesus Freak in the 70's. Big lifestyle conflict here, but John had a plan. He was going to go hang out with Bob Marley and convert him. But in a subtle way, not by preaching, by being constantly cheerful and upbeat. When I knew John in the early 80's he was discouraged - he had hung around Marley five years, but Bob had died a Rastafarian anyway.

But John had been ready. He had the script ready if ever called on. One day Bob Marley was going to turn to him and say "John, you're different from the rest of us. You don't smoke ganja - not much, anyway - but you are always happy." And John would say "Bob, that's because I have the Lord Jesus Christ." And then Bob would know.

I still think of John whenever I hear those sermons.

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