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.