It's been one of those days, and it's only 10:30am. I always think that I'm the only one on those days, everyone else has it together, but not me. I don't have it together. Anyway, there's been a number of people over the years who have famously written about why they are or why they are not a Christian. I've had it in my heart for a while now to get in on that. So here goes...
When I was growing up I got the message that if I got it right, I was good, and if I got it wrong, I was bad. Everything seemed to be about performance in one way or another. Home was like that, school was like that, church was like that, and I could never seem to get it right. I was that kid that people were always telling to hurry up. Hurry up! What are you waiting for, Christmas! And as time passed and things happened, I found myself on my own a lot, emotionally though not physically abandoned. I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me, that's not why I do this, but it became about staying out of the way, and trying to avoid conflict at all cost. I learned how to disappear. I became hyper-vigilant, always trying to think ahead, what I was supposed to do, say, to avoid being yelled at, to avoid being told again and again what I had always heard, "you're no good, you ruined my life!" I tried to avoid hearing, which is why I clicked out so much of the time, which is why they were always telling me to pay attention. Pay attention! I didn't want to hear what I was trying so hard not to believe.
But you know the funny thing, is that I hear people say stuff like, oh this religion thing, it's all indoctrination. People just tell this stuff to kids all their lives so they begin to believe it. I don't think so. I seem to be blessed (for whatever reason) with an ability to remember pretty far back and my memory tells me that that intuition, that there is something more in all this, was always there. And I believe that studies confirm that as well, and that has been my experience with my own and others' children, that a spiritual intuition, if you will, is something that's innate. What I have heard scientists say is that they've found (and I'm paraphrasing) that this is something that doesn't take a lot of convincing with children.Yip, I'll second that.
Because I remember being a very young kid, and my family was somewhere between nominal and cultural Catholic, and I didn't get much "God talk" at home if at all. We went to church or we didn't go to church depending on the mood, but I remember being very very young, and sensing a presence (that nobody told me about) surrounding me. It was always there. It never left. And I remember sensing at one point that there was a circle drawn around me, that no matter what happened, nothing could penetrate that line. And I remember saying to my mother at around 3 years of age, "God named me." She looked confused and said, no, "we named you," but I always had this sense. And then there were the things I can't explain.
Now some people would scoff at all that and say bah, everyone says that, and they would cite examples from other religions and cultures, etc., and maybe that's the point, they would. If miracles are a dime a dozen, maybe we should start documenting them. I only have it from one source, but I remember Gary Habermas saying that we think of other ancient sources (that the secular world would have more respect for), as not having examples of the supernatural, but yet "they do." That this is everywhere, and that it happens, quite simply. What I'm saying is, is that in much the same way that near death experiences have gained more of an acceptability through documentation and study, perhaps we should begin to document people's experiences of the supernatural, before we dismiss all such claims outright.
I remember one night I was out for dinner with some friends, both secular and Christian. One of my secular friends starting going on about the virtues of secularism and how we shouldn't believe in such (supernatural) things on principle, basically. One of my Christian friends started to talk and then gave up. He told me later though, as someone who had training in psychology and counselling, that in terms of human experience, in terms of the whole person, and the emotional and spiritual health of the individual, God does exist. And that's the part that I see so neglected in secular discourse. What about the spirituality of the whole person, the emotional and spiritual health and experiences of the individual?
So, what about that little girl, abused, neglected, and the only person I felt was there for me, so often in my early life, was the thing that I can't prove. Does my experience count? Does the experience and intuition of billions of people count? Now you might say that atheists and secularists are entitled to their experience too, and yes they are, but they are in the minority. Globally, atheists are a very slim minority, while they continue to talk about abstract concepts themselves, often incessantly. The other thing that could be argued is that there are different religions and belief systems that contradict my own. Yes, there are, but on a very basic human level, that spiritual intuition appears to be present, definitively as something, if not "the thing" that separates us from the animals.
So, all that is a lot more long-winded than I intended to be. What I had intended to do, much more simply was to speak from my own experience. I respect other people's right to their experience too. I've become a lot more relaxed as an evangelical Christian over the years. At the end of the day, where people are at is between themselves and God, or nobody if I'm wrong. It is possible I could be wrong. I'm a human being and human beings are sometimes wrong. But my experience as a human being tells me that there is something more in this, and I see no reason why it isn't quite possible that in the presence of an awesome creation, that there could be a mind behind it. There's nothing irrational about that. It has a lot of explanatory power.
But why would I choose Christianity, over other options that I'm aware of? Well, because despite my early life that told me that I would never amount to anything, there was a presence there that told me different, a presence who knew me by name. How would I explain that it seems to me that Judeo-Christian theology places the most emphasis on the value of the human person as an individual, having an eternal worth and dignity, that it's about relationship? That God would call us by name, that God would give us a new name, that God would call us His friends, how amazing! Maybe I'll get into that more in another blog, but despite the legalism and fundamentalism of my Protestantism and the dogmatism and ritualism of my Catholicism, when I was in my early 20's I began to work with the mentally disabled. Someone pointed me to the Beatitudes, "blessed are the poor in spirit." I'd never heard that preached on before, nobody had ever mentioned grace, but in the brokenness of the mentally disabled, people that society had cast aside I saw myself. And for the first time in my life I saw the Gospel lived out, when I experienced unconditional acceptance, in the love of a community of people who saw me for who I was as a person.
But then I have mornings like today, when I forget, when I lose perspective, where I try to avoid asking myself, am I a crappy parent? Where I make mistakes, when I'm frustrated. And as much as I try to get it together, and I never do, it's days like today that remind me of why I'm a Christian, because I know that I can't do it on my own, and then I remember that Christianity alone offers salvation outright. Rather than saying, do this or don't do that (only to hope) to one day get it or make it, which is what I'd heard all my life. It's in humility that I can accept that gift, because I know that I need grace. I need forgiveness. I live in a suburb, I drive a minivan that I just heard, "may or may not pass it's next e-test." I have 5 kids which is 3 more than I'm supposed to have, apparently. I throw poopy diapers in the garbage when my kids are sick and I can't seem to remember to bring a bleeping bag to the big box store while I'm saving the world. I need forgiveness, as much as I was one of the first kids in my high school to sign up for a "green" club and attend regularly and sit down and take notes. I seem to have a very hard time living up to my youthful ideals while I'm taking out twice as much consumer garbage and watching twice as much dirty water go down the drain as my neighbours. I need grace, because I can't do it, and I'm not saying this as an excuse to do nothing, because I do care and I do try to make a difference, but that's why I have so much gratitude for a gracious God who reached out to me when I was alone, and loved me, just as I am, while the world and every glossy magazine cover constantly tells me that I will never be enough.
Thanks for listening,
Lecture: Gary Habermas