A couple of people I admire have written great posts as to why they don’t argue with atheists. They are full of wisdom and sound reasoning and I don’t disagree at all. I rather enjoyed reading them.
I am compelled to confess why I do however, often tangle with atheists. First off, it is familiar territory. I grew up among militant atheism. I know everyone believes they have just reinvented the wheel, but I have been debating these same things with loved ones for nearly half a century now. There really is nothing new under the sun. These debates actually strengthen my faith, and although evangelizing atheists would never admit it, they often inadvertently prove the very existence of God.
I also do it to take a break from the one issue that does cause me distress, that presses on me, that fills me with despair. Those would be false teachings, hatred preached in Christ’s name, apathy and unkindness, outright hypocrisy, and my personal favorite, calling evil good and good evil. Nearly everyone I encounter on wordpress and on the ground in real life are charming, kind, and respectful even when we disagree.
There are many on the internet however, that overwhelm me, that are just too much for me to bear, that are such a caricature of scripture, that mis-use the bible to justify sin. Fair or not, I actually hold Christians to a higher standard, I expect those claiming His name to rise to the occasion. I realize this is so naive of me as to almost be comical, because it is not as if I do not know about wolves and false prophets, about pharisees and sadducees, about assorted lunkheads who, believing themselves wise, become fools.
I never knew you….
I’m not talking about crackers versus communion wafers or theological debates, but things so blatantly wrong, anyone who truly knows Him will know Them. Goats and sheep. Wheat and tares. What weighs heavy on me is how many people apparently don’t know Him at all, because they follow some real weeds, they praise some real tares, and therein lies the first problem. We are not called to praise and worship men. Nothing wrong with a bit of affection and admiration for those we love, but the moment people start worshiping a personality rather than Jesus Christ, we’re in troubled waters and Christ is soon forgotten completely.
I’ve gotten very good at identifying those who have availed themselves of the cross and those who have not. This is good news, this means there are definitely markers, fruit of the spirit, evidence of Christ within us, that can be seen, felt, recognized, even across the internet. This is significant, because some people can be as sweet as can be, and yet you can tell they do not yet know Christ. Conversely however, there are some very cranky curmudgeons who, in spite of their best efforts, cannot hide the fact that the Lord is lurking in their heart. I find this discovery to be quite delightful. The Blood of the Lamb is a tangible thing, it has an energy to it and is recognizable.
The fact that there are the other kind in the world however, weighs heavy on my heart and often causes me to despair. I get rather righteously cranky about some of these people and I suppose that is because I see the harm they do in the world, I see what they do to others while claiming Christ’s name. Nearly every non believer has a deconversion story that revolves around abuse or hypocrisy they have seen or experienced at the hands of those professing to be “Christians.”
Now, everybody is responsible for their own choices and the fact that Christ called me towards Him in the midst of some real insanity, indicates to me that we are not victims of our own circumstances nor victims of the poor behavior of others. However, there is cause and effect in the world and there are people in the world who have driven others away from faith. Spiritual abuse, committed in Christ’s name, by Christ’s people.
Every time I encounter this it just makes my blood boil. There is such a feeling of betrayal, some part of me that just cries out for justice. Some part of me that wants to deliver justice right now, myself, too. I think that stems from having grown up within atheism, from having been cast into a sea of defiance beyond my control, a sea of defiance partially caused by the poor behavior of some calling themselves “Christians.” I say partially caused, as in, we are still called to place our eyes on Christ Himself, not on others, and if someone has driven you away from faith, you have allowed yourself to be driven.
It’s not about politics or beliefs, or what you stand for or stand against, it’s about knowing right from wrong and choosing wrong anyway, about turning your back on Truth because it is inconvenient, because it does not validate the narrative you wish to embrace, and it is certainly about committing atrocities and abuse against others and claiming biblical precedent.
I know why some people walk away from faith. I am honestly not as concerned about them as I am about some of those sitting self righteously on a pew right next to us.