These are words I have chosen to believe. These are truths I have chosen to embrace. Not blindly, or by rote or virtue of family tradition, but by examination, trial and perseverance. I find meaning, comfort, purpose and fulfillment in the scriptures. Faith is a choice to become something greater than what you already are, and to recognize the greatness within yourself.
When you mention Christianity, many non-believers immediately
think of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz cooking bacon by firing an AR-15
assault rifle with meat wrapped around its barrel. This is something I cannot imagine: Jesus Christ owning an assault weapon. Yet, the gun-toting,
hate-spewing, unapologetically bigoted, homophobic, intolerant
scowl of political conservatism is the dominant face of
Christianity in America. When black folk think of Christianity,
their mind fills with Hammond organ music, howling overweight
women and bullying overseers distorting cheap P.A. systems with
their screaming sing-song, bloated, hours-long performances.
They think of hot sanctuaries and paper fans with balsa wood
handles and funeral home ads on them. They think of the
constant, unending pressure to give money; money that makes no
apparent difference in the church itself, while the pastor
drives a new luxury car every year.
The first thing that pops into the minds of most non-Christians, white or black, is No Sex. No Sex is number one with a bullet. To many in my experience, the main drag against Christianity is their association of celibacy with spirituality. This is another myth I have to fight against before they can even begin to hear anything at all about Christ: one has nothing to do with the other. Don’t stop seeking a relationship with God just because you’re getting some. Don’t assume God will reject you because of whatever habits you are into. God said come just as you are [Romans 5:8], bad habits, sex life and all. Get connected, build a relationship with Him and let God be God. Once you learn to trust God, as you grow in grace, you will want to please Him; you will make your own choices.
Most everyone I’ve ever talked to simply avoids any real or lasting commitment to God because of the warped image of Christianity—of church and people who go there—that pops into their head. So, in order to even begin any discussion with someone about God, I first have to get out my machete and cut through the thick underbrush of nonsense layered over a simple message: God loves you, He sent His Son to die for you, He wants to have a relationship with you. Everything else is just Church Folk Foolishness.
A teenage girl asked our youth leader last week, “Why is this important?” “This” referred to the whole notion of church, religion, God, and our involvement in it all. The youth leader sputtered into Rehearsed Speech #12, which answered none of her questions, and she kind of shifted into that teenage thing where she's too polite to interrupt, but has clearly checked out of the conversation. Rehearsed speeches can be incredibly damaging, and damaging someone's faith, at so young an age, is a terrible thing to do. But, in my opinion, this was a person whose faith was already nearly non-existent, despite having grown up in church. She spends several days per week involved in church activities, and her parents are married, well educated, prosperous, faithful congregants. But she had no idea why any of us were there. The church had failed, utterly, in seventeen years, to reveal anything of the living God to this young woman. The sputtering youth director was rescued by the youth pastor, who had no speeches, and readily admitted he doesn't have all the answers, and gave the young girl something to think about. But the wound inflicted by Rehearsed Speech #12 may have been a mortal one. Only time will tell.
I am often confronted by people searching for the truth. Searching for answers. Looking for me to say or do something— I dunno, stand on my head— to finally flip the switch in their mind enough for them to believe. These are people who want to believe. People with money and cars and friends and careers who are still missing... something in their lives. The God-shaped hole, the insatiable desire and unquenchable thirst. But, these folks are often tripped up by nagging doubt fueled by a reasonable intelligence and healthy skepticism, especially of Christianity and the Bible. Despite what may once have been noble and wonderful motives, Christians have made it nearly impossible for anyone to believe in Christ.
There is nothing in the air that is going to reveal God to you. The whole question of faith is stretching out beyond our natural cynicism and skepticism and reach for something greater than ourselves. I fervently believe if you seek God you will find Him, that your faith will find expression. I am, of course, largely discussing a Christian expression because that is the truth that I have embraced. A truth I have questioned and continue to question; the process of questioning my faith only strengthening it.
But, from a standing start, our new generation of seekers may
find it difficult if not impossible to embrace a traditional
Christian faith because so very much damage has been done to
faith by religion. Religion is, in essence, mankind's search for
God. Faith implies a relationship with God. The expression of
that faith, of that relationship, can be organized into
religion, but religion in and of itself does not necessarily
That's how we have a girl sitting in the back pew for seventeen years who has, apparently, no visceral conviction about who God is and no apparent expression of that belief. What she does have, however, is religion.