Of Mice and Atheists

I have found it to be an oddly faith-building experience lately to talk heatedly about God with an Atheist. It has been a refreshing and much needed change of pace to be on the side of wanting to lift up the beauty and good of the Church, and of God, rather than being the one to say all the ways we Christians are not being the church Jesus calls us to be. See, it forces me to reach down deep into my guts and find those reasons why, in the face of so much crap and disappointment and pervasive brokenness (communally and individually), I choose to remain a Christian and to remain committed to my faith in Jesus and desire to follow him.

Over the weekend I was talking to a few friends about why we think people should become Christians. My set-up was this: let's say there's no Hell--and the main impetus for wanting someone to be a Christian could not be that you wanted to save their soul from eternal torment. If you take that away, what would you tell them? Maybe it was the group I was with, all of us who are in a place of some real struggle right now, but it seriously wasn't easy to come up with reasons. Looking around, and realizing the real suffering going on in each of our lives at that moment, none of us had it in us to think that being a Christian really made your life any happier or less filled with sorrow and disappointment. Honestly (and maybe this is a post for another time), I often think being a Christian actually increases suffering (especially certain types), rather than decreasing it. Not that God should be about making us feel joyful and fulfilled all the time...but if all the knowledge that we are loved and that God is with us exists just as an abstract concept, and not in our guts and feelings, then it's sometimes hard to see the point. I know that's where faith comes in; but there are those times when it's hard to know that being a Christian is really worth it.

So after feeling like a total apostate, realizing I couldn't think of anything I could say to someone to make them think being a Christian sounds appealing...let's just say it forces me out of my shell to talk with an Atheist (who is combative, though mostly respectful) and to say why I do think God is real and important and at work in the world. And it's funny, because he could say the same thing I've said about God before (for example, pointing out that the world is so messed up and that if there was a God, God should really be intervening more and not letting so many people suffer), but it's so different coming from the lips of someone who mocks God than from someone who worships God. I take God to task plenty. But hearing someone else do it--someone who doesn't love and revere God, well, it just forces me to think about and articulate the reasons that in the face of what appears to be God's inaction, I still firmly believe God is in action. It is good to dig into and rediscover that part of myself. It is full, it is beautiful, and it has been neglected.

I am thankful for my Atheist friend.

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