Faith has faults but can we still be friends?

The last few weeks at Due West UMC as we have been teaching on Bill Hybels' book, Just Walk Across the Room, have been great. The stories in small groups and comments about how it has helped Christ-followers clear away much of the misnomers about evangelism have been encouraging. As a new church pastor, it has helped me to clear away some of my own confusion and focus on who often gets lost in the process of sharing the Faith: the other person.

Which is why reading this post from Greta Christina's Blog on Atheists and Anger, has been so humbling (if you're easily offended, be warned there is adult content). (H/T to Mark @ The Calladus Blog.) Disagree with her and me if you want but she has some very valid points some of which include:

I'm angry that so many believers treat prayer as a sort of cosmic shopping list for God.

I'm angry at preachers who tell women in their flock to submit to their husbands because it's the will of God, even when their husbands are beating them within an inch of their lives.

I'm angry at the Sunday school teacher who told comic artist Craig Thompson that he couldn't draw in heaven.

I'm angry -- enraged -- at the priests who molest children and tell them it's God's will.

I get angry when religious believers make arguments against atheism -- and make accusations against atheists -- without having bothered to talk to any atheists or read any atheist writing.

These were just a few of the many points which Greta makes about her experience with religion/Christianity.

Seeing What You Can't See

I knew from the title of the post to be prepared and yes, it was shocking. But Marcia Conner recently pointed out, "If you ask for a wide range of views, especially from those beyond your usual circles, you increase your potential to see what you can't see." It has been a while since I was moved to tears but Greta's words did just that and allowed me to see what I couldn't see.

Beyond Logical Arguments

I cannot agree with all Greta's thoughts and points but I don't have to and neither do any of us. The point is that there exists a world of people of who've been hurt deeply by religion. Churches need not run from that and neither should Christ-followers. What convicts me more and concerns me even more deeply is how we have gotten to the point we are unable to make friends with people who are not Christian. Can we even look beyond trying to make an "air-tight logical argument" and just be someone's friend?

Starting On Common Ground

I've got a friend named Kenny who is a huge Washington Redskins fan. I'm a Dallas Cowboy fan. Pro football has NOT been the basis for our friendship. We can both agree on the East Carolina Pirates and shared disdain for all other NC football schools.

All of us are going to find different points of common ground, (Scott Ginsberg calls this CPI: Common Points of Interest). I don't know personally most of the folks writing most blogs. My favorites usually appear to me to have a healthy sense of humor, plus they like to read and are educated. For most human beings, those would appear as three CPIs and the place most of us start friendships. NOT at our points of difference.

The Proverbial Ball is in Your Court

If you've ever been treated rudely you know it is not a pleasant experience. So why do it to anyone who you want to get to know? Blogs are usually not aimed at specific individuals (unless noted) so why take it as a personal offense? If you would like to take the ball and run in that direction you certainly can. Me, I've been elbowed, kicked and punched by best friends in games and didn't take it personal.

Jesus always saved his harshest words for religious leaders. As an ordained clergy, this should (and does) remind me that the ball is often in my court and people are watching how I respond. But each day, the ball can bounce different ways, what are you going to do when it bounces into your hands? Can we still be friends?

May I Ask: How did you last respond in a conflict? Do you regret it? Are you proud of it? Why or why not?

May I Suggest: Take a moment today and think about your newest friend. How did that friendship get started? What CPIs do you share? What role does faith play?


hellomynameisscott said...

Great post, and not just because you linked to me ;)

I just bought that book, been meaning to for a while now.

Thought of the day:

"Your primary task is to diffuse defensiveness. Because when comfort exists, the rules change."

Keep it up, Obi Wan!

(See Heb 13:2)

Ken L. Hagler said...

Thanks for stopping by Scott and for the comment.

BTW, I've been "name-tagging" for six months now too. It has been great! Thanks for your encouragement.

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