iPod Devotional Series…Drift Away

Welcome to today’s edition of the iPod Devotional Series. For newcomers to the site here is how it works. On the old iPod is a “shuffle songs” feature. You hit the button and the iPod randomly picks a song.  I am writing a blog about whatever song the device selects on that day from the 1,000 plus songs on my iPod. My music list will further confirm my status as a Christian who makes others feel superior. My music goes from Al Green to the Youngbloods. Beatles to U2. Old hymns to modern praise music. Toby Keith to Frank Sinatra. Oldies to the soundtrack from Monty Python’s Spamalot. This could be interesting. So with without further ado the selection today is…

Drift Away by Dobie GrayA bit of research revealed that Dobie Gray was born in a small Texas town west of Houston. His granddaddy was a Baptist minister and had a huge influence on Dobie according to his website biography. I would have loved to have seen how Dobie later broke the news to his granddaddy that he was starring in the Broadway musical Hair. Explaining the dancing was the least of his challenges. At any rate, Dobie Gray is best known for today’s song, Drift Away. Here are some of the lyrics.

Day after day I’m more confused
So I look for the light in the pouring rain
You know that’s a game that I hate to lose
I’m feelin’ the strain, ain’t it a shame

For some reason those lyrics caused me to reflect on the millions of emotionally lonely and hurting people in a country of ridiculous wealth and success. I have a heart for wounded people and especially those wounded by the church and by “bad Christians”. I am constantly getting e-mails and notes from people who have left the church or never joined because of ugly experiences with people who claim the title of Christian. I can’t dispute their claim to a relationship with Jesus. They may well be Christians. But they surely are not acting like Jesus.

A recent article about Sam Harris caused me to receive some responses from those who deny or have not accepted faith. One writer who posted was a fellow Buckeye and identified himself as Shawn from Ohio. In addition to my heart for wounded people I have a real heart for those from my beloved native state. Here are some of Shawn’s comments.

Came across your article from a google alert for Sam Harris. I am an atheist and actually appreciate a Christian that would have the restraint to not “wish ill on Sam Harris.”. That, to me, is refreshing.

If you are a Christian reading that comment does that break your heart? It should. How does a very small expression of grace cause this response? It is refreshing that I am not vengeful toward an author who disagrees with me? That is truly a sad reflection on us as followers of Christ.

Too many Christians feel it is their duty to tell me, and those like me, how to live. It is in our gov’t, in our schools, in our sporting events, in most every aspect of life in America; Christianity.

Shawn…may I gently defend some of my fellow believers. In a sense you are right about Christians feeling it is their “duty” to tell others about Jesus. It is not their duty to tell you how to live. That is where we get it so very wrong. Here is what I believe about expressing my faith to others.

When we love others sacrificially our message becomes inviting…not proselytizing. If you have ever been around a Christian who is truly living these words then you know how attractive that lifestyle can be. Saint Francis of Assisi wonderfully observed that we should “preach the gospel at all times…if necessary, use words.”  I have personally witnessed the power of letting the gospel message flow out of actions and not out of condemning words.

But to those reading this who are of a different faith or no faith at all I must confess my dilemma to you. If I truly believe Christianity to be the truth and if my faith in Christ has genuinely changed my life then how can I not tell you? Why should you be offended if I care enough to reach out gently and in love?

I remember being intimately involved with some friends over a period of years in our kid’s sports activities. They were from a denomination that believed only they were going to heaven. They knew we did not belong to that denomination. Yet they never once said a word that they believed we were off track and even doomed. Would I have changed my views? To be honest I believe the answer is no. But it would have showed that they cared enough to let me know what they held dear and their concern for me. I was actually a little hurt that they didn’t seem to care that I would not join them in heaven.

Michael Kinsley wrote a similar sentiment in Time magazine (February 19, 2001) about the anger that some folks feel toward Christians who seem compelled to share their faith.

 “You may not agree that your soul needs saving, but why is he wrong to try as long as he isn’t prying away your soul against your will? As an ethnically Jewish nonbeliever, I find this fuss over conversion utterly baffling…But an insult? In a way, it is insulting to Jews that Fundamentalist Christians don’t try harder to convert us. Oh sure, they’re friendly enough now. But wait until Judgment Day. Then it will be, `Sorry, we seem to have lost your reservation.’ And from this perspective, the Jewish policy of actively discouraging converts to Judaism starts to seem like `theological arrogance’ indeed. At the same time, when you object to noncoercive conversion, it starts to look like the opposite of arrogance: theological insecurity. What are you afraid of? The decision will be made by you or by God, and in either case, there is no ground for complaint.”

I suspect that technique is too often the rub. I was a victim of over the top zealous religious people as a teenager. I am still a little amazed that I eventually came to faith. I have wrestled with a period of intellectual doubt where I read the works of atheists and skeptics. I came out on the other still a believer that Jesus is who He said He was. The Son of the Living God. I cannot “force” others to reach that same conclusion. If I care about  you I will naturally want to share the most important thing in my life. But I think you have some rights as the hearer of my message. I wrote the following in When Bad Christians Happen to Good Christians.

The Unbelievers Bill of Rights…

    * I have the right to never have faith forced on me.
    * I have the right to never be treated in a condescending manner.
    * I have the right to always hear the truth.
    * I have the right for you to patiently hear my concerns and doubts.
    * I have the right to seek answers to those questions and doubts that you can’t answer.
    * I have the right to be steered to resources for my own study and investigation.
    * I have the right to be loved no matter how I respond to the gospel message.

I hope that I honor you by following the list above. I hope you will understand that my wanting to let you know about the most important thing in my life honors you as well.

Sorry for the detour…back to Dobie Gray.

Oh, give me the beat, boys, and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away
Oh, give me the beat, boys, and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away

I guess all of us are looking for something to free our souls. I have found that in Jesus. Shawn makes this argument in his post.

Atheism is a default position. Someone who makes a positive claim: god exists. must provide evidences for those claims for me to accept the truth of the statement. I can then examine and determine if those evidences are valid or not.

I appreciate your approach Shawn and I find it refreshing. Most who write to me disputing my faith demand proof. I cannot prove God in the way that they demand. But you have asked for evidence. I believe that is possible. But at the end of the day we can look at the same evidence and reach a different conclusion. Because no matter how much evidence either one of us lines up eventually it will come down to a step of faith. I examined the evidence and decided, yes, there is a possibility that God exists. Then I examined what that means in my life. Others take the position (by faith) that God does not exist. I believe it is not intellectually honest to unequivocally say there is no God because no one has total knowledge. You can be, in your mind, 99.9% sure but I think you have to allow that little chance that God is possible. So as a final note to Shawn and others who find this site…if you want a place of grace filled and honest discussion I hope you will become a regular here. We have much to discuss.