A good friend recently sent me an article from the Atlantic by a Christian who is researching atheists. It is quite good. http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/listening-to-young-atheists-lessons-for-a-stronger-christianity/276584/ I suspect that he sent it to me because unlike the author, I realize I sometimes do not show as much empathy as I should in some of my responses to many posts on Facebook and on blogs. And that makes me turn back and think why I do this instead of listening more and seeking to find why people do not believe.
I think the core of why I tend to want to argue first instead of listening is because I find so many of the comments posted by non-believers to be rude. I do not like polka music but I would not presume to go to a polka dance and argue that such music is not really enjoyable. I don’t eat seafood, but I don’t try to make fun of people who do. It isn’t their lack of belief that puts me off as much as so many of them seeming to want to mock and deride those that do. I also am amazed that atheists seem to so readily to believe that they have figured out something (God not existing) that not only were most of their ancestors dead wrong about but also most of humanity that is currently alive.
And yet, I am sure that when a non-believer is around believers and everyone assumes that we commonly believe something, it seems rude to them. I also know that there are a great many Christians that when faced with difficult questions prefer not to engage such questions and discourage others from doing so as well. Many churches also primarily operate as a gathering place of believers rather than as places to explore our beliefs. And there surely is a gap between the Gospel that is preached and the way we Christians actually live. They also probably think it is presumptuous for the church to not have changed any of its teachings when we have discovered so much in the past century alone. To say that nothing we discover will effect our beliefs surely must seem dogmatic and the antithesis of learning. All of this likely leads to problems and alienation between believers and non-believers.
And yet, in an earlier spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally charged atmosphere, Jesus changed the world. And he saved our souls through dialogue and actions. Jesus did so caring for all people, even ones who did not believe in him (and who even persecuted him). The only people that seemed to get his ire were not unbelievers or people of other faiths but instead people who claimed to be believers but didn’t act like it. In other words, Jesus saw the same hypocrisy that atheists tend to point to today, and he liked it no less than they do.
I raise this to the larger community for discussion and thought because we all are much more likely in this day and age to meet and be in discussion with agnostics and atheists. We might even have one or more whom we love (maybe even live in our homes). It is important to consider how we will engage them and to do so in ways that parallel with our faith (instead of being in contrast to it).
We might just have the opportunity to win back a few folks if we engage them seriously. And, even if we don’t, we can live out the faith we are called to live – which is to love people and be for them. And they should know this by our speech and our actions (which is based on who God is and who we are rather than who they are).
What do you think?
Until next time,