Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Father's Day 1972 Revisited, Part 4: A Brief Encounter With a Jesus Freak

This Sunday evening church excursion was not turning out anything like I'd planned. Instead of ushers telling me, as I'd hoped they would, that I couldn't come into the church dressed as I was, I was welcomed by a hundred or more Jesus people, most of whom probably assumed I was one of them. I was chagrined I'd let myself get snookered into being part of this gathering of Jesus freaks. And now, to top it off, here was an old high school acquaintance calling me "brother." When I informed him I was no "brother" and that I'd just given someone a ride there and was not at all interested in religion, he looked genuinely surprised, but then, getting his evangelical footing gushed, "Hey man, you should really check it out--God loves you, Jesus proved it by dying on the cross for you. You know, the Bible says..." I cut this off immediately with, "Don't tell me the Bible says this or that or some other thing. That Bible of yours is full of contradictions and fairy tales--no one believes that stuff anymore." But before I could quote some Bertrand Russell for his enlightenment, he held out his big Thompson Chain Reference Bible toward me and said, "Well, show me one and we can talk about it." This so startled me I forgot my Bertrand Russell and just stammered, "Well, I know they're in there, it's well documented. I couldn't tell you just where they are right this minute, but I know they're there." At that moment I was blushing inside with intellectual embarrassment. I had prided myself on being an intellectual, someone who dispassionately looks at all the available facts, considers them very carefully, applies logic and reason and then follows the truth wherever it might happen to lead. In that instant it became blindingly obvious to me I had never even come close to doing this regarding religion, the Bible or the claims about Jesus. Oh sure, I'd gotten drunk with a buddy one time and we'd read Revelation and laughed it to scorn. That of course wouldn't really count as having read the Bible. I was intellectually busted and I knew it. Of course I was not about to concede that to this Jesus freak.

Next he tried another angle, asking me, "Well, who do you think Jesus was then? The Bible says..." "Yeah, yeah, I know what the Bible says about Jesus--I was went to Sunday school all the time when I was little, right here in this church in fact. You can't really expect me to believe any of that walking on water stuff or the virgin birth or the resurrection and all the rest of it. Besides, no one is really sure if Jesus even existed." For some reason, my declaration of unbelief didn't seem to faze him in any way for he simply replied, "Jesus was either a Liar if he said things about himself he knew weren't true, a lunatic if he believed all he said about himself and it was not true, or--or he was exactly who he claimed to be if everything he said about himself was true. He must be one of those and, as for me, I know he's my Lord and savior, praise God!" My only retort at this point was to try and brush it off by saying, "Well, his followers probably just made all that stuff up after he died." About this time Cher came up and wanted to introduce me to someone--which was a sort of salvation to me at that moment. As we began to walk away my friend called after me, "I'll be prayin' for you brother." "Ugh," I said under my breath and thought, "Yeah, you just do that. Whatever floats you religious boat buddy." Still, as satisfied and self assured in my unbelief as I was, it seemed a worrisome chink had been found in my atheistic armor. I'd have to see to that. Already I was determining in my mind to find at least a few of the many contradictions I'd referred to so that, the next time some Jesus freak button-holed me I'd be ready with better come-backs. I especially didn't like having to concede that I hadn't read the book I was rejecting. That just didn't look intellectual and would need to be addressed. OK, I'd have to read the Bible--at least once, at least the New Testament gospels with all their unbelievable fairy-tale miracles. It would be worth it in order to bolster my anti-Christian arguments. I could handle it, no sweat.

Thus was I drawn yet another little step into Gods loving and so well-disguised trap.


  1. Just testing the comment feature.

  2. i'm still wondering why god needs to set a well-disguised trap...

  3. Dear Mrs.,

    Well, I suppose for the same reason the hunter needs to do it--to keep from spooking the quarry.

  4. Mrs. asks a good question, and it deserves a bit more of an answer. A few years back, a feral cat in our neighborhood would slink up to the big front porch of our apartment building looking for food. It looked as if it was starving but, being feral, we couldn't get anywhere near it. We felt that, for its own good--and survival--we needed to capture it and get cared for by the vet. We'd then adopt and care for it ourselves. So we wound up "trapping" it by leaving a trail of food leading into a cat carrier. If she had known what a cat carrier was, we would have had to disguise it to get her to come near. Our plan was to love and care for her, but, being feral, she couldn't have known that.

  5. am i mistaken in that we were given free will?

  6. also, you frame this reasoning in the idea that gods trap is for our own good (becaue we are wandering around lost, wild, and starving), however i would argue that god decieving us into worhsipping him is in HIS own best interest, not ours.

  7. Dear Mrs.,
    Re free will: You are not mistaken. We were indeed given free will. You touched on one of the great paradoxes of the Christian faith. In fact, I have come to believe that ALL--or nearly all--the basic truthes of Christianity are deeply paradoxical. There is an interplay--a "weaving" of God's call to an individual and that individual's choice to persue God. No Christian understands it fully, but there are any number of metaphores which seek to illustrate it.
    Continued in next comment...

  8. I can see that the word "trap" is troublesome to you--and perhaps to others as well. I confess it is a little misleading and even a bit off-putting. I tried to compensate for this connotation by describing it as a "loving" trap. Perhaps I would have done better to describe it as a "seduction."

    He does not deceive us, in the sense of "tricking" us, but he does draw us toward his truth by the use of haunting melodies whose sounds our souls are inclined to seek the source of. That is, I suppose, about the best way I can say it.

    You might say that his interests are served by his drawing us to the fountain of spititual life and love (Jesus), but everyone who follows the melody and winds up there (with God) discovers that knowing and loving Him somehow fulfills their best (eternal) interest as well--it's really a win-win situation.

    Regarding worship; God does not need us to worship him. Primarily, he wants us to come to choose to freely trust him--based on the love and goodness he has shown us. Once we come to trust him, we begin to come to know him. Once we begin to know him, we want to worship him. None of it is forced or cohersed.

    Thanks for your good and thoughtful comments and questions!

  9. P.S.
    We are:
    Wandering around
    He sent us
    The Messiah