So how indeed did I spend my Christmas Eve? Well, yes, extended family. And my son is visiting from foreign lands. But I'm a dour man, and have no truck with frivolity -- Bloated Monster not withstanding. So I found the odd moment to blast off several missives to M, with whom I'm engaged in a sort of correspondence. I was last man on a long line of comments, upon which I'd been invited to kibitz. M represents himself as having lost his Christian faith. I don't believe such a thing is possible, but that'll be clarified as we proceed. So here, reported rather than recorded, are my judgments:
What is the basis of faith? Judas walked with Jesus, and didn't believe. Moses and the prophets could have appeared and preached, and some wouldn't believe. The stones could have cried out, and the dead did rise, and unbelief. So it's not ever about specifics. What is the basis for faith? Not the success or failure of the people around you, nor of intellect, nor of promises. Faith is a religious word, and I don't care much for it. As I've said before, a better word is trust. It's not what do you have faith in. It's who do you trust. Well? Who do you trust?
Clearly not Jesus.
What of disillusionment and conflict with the Bible and the church? Well, disillusionment is a good thing -- you'd rather be deceived? If you're disillusioned, it should be with yourself. The problem is neither the Bible nor the intellect, it's the ego. The problem isn't the church -- how could any conflict with some church cause disillusionment with God? If you see a connection, then you acknowledge, at the least, God. And haven't you been paying attention your whole life? People are the pigs the prodigal son slept among -- so what if they're Christian? Christians are not better, just saved.
Your pastor has expressed confidence that God still holds you as his own. Even from here in the heart of darkness I can agree that God can do this. As should be clear to any who've read my blog(s), I have a son. I won't go into specifics, but several years ago he wanted to do something I thoroughly disapproved of. He had it all worked out, and because he trusts me, he talked to me about it. And what I said, over the phone, was "Son, I know you're not going to do this." "Yeah, Dad, I am." "No. And here's how I know. You would not dishonor me. You would not bring shame to me." And it was true. I not only had his trust, I earned it. I have his respect, because I deserve it. And he was faithful to how I raised him, because I was faithful to him.
The pastor believes that you have the same relationship with God, that my son has with me. He knows you better than I do, so his opinion counts for something.
Then there followed a lot of noise that just irritated me. What can I say? I'm a practical guy. The pastor, doing his best, had posed the question, "What would God have do to..." and there was a bunch of replying, to which my response is that I know a boy who needs a smack across the head. Upshot? M assures that "God does not have to do ANYTHING to convince me..." Now, "liar" is such a harsh word...
M, if God doesn't have to do anything, and if you don't have faith, then what is to be done?
Well, apparently possessed of a strong support group -- family and friends ... or are they enablers? ... far be it from me to judge -- many well-wishers have flown to M's aid. "What about this? What about that?" they cluck. No, that's not it, and not this either, M graciously replies. Again, when my son was a very little boy, and in a mood, I comforted him. But it was up to him to give up the mood. Sometimes he wanted to hold onto it for a while. That was okay. I'd say, "Well, I see you're pretty upset right now. You know how much I love you. And when you're ready, you let me know, and I'll give you a great big hug." And he did, and I did.
But the question remains, whence cometh faith? It is a gift. How can we get this gift? Ask. How can we ask? Well ... ask. But how? Oh, I get it. Well, what I needed to do, was to humble myself. But the objection remains, not everyone will get it, even if they ask. True, only the chosen. And true, Jesus didn't answer every question. He was a practical man, with no patience at all for the kind of question that thinks it is an answer. Jesus didn't answer his accusers, because he knows what swine do with pearls. Give faith to pigs, and they're still pigs. The demons believe, and tremble.
By this point, M had said he'd had a kind of saving faith, but in reverse. Hmm. The pastor replied, "That's chilling." No, scorching: "Some seed fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. ...He who has ears, let him hear." (Mt 13:5-6, 9)
By now my impatience solidified. If he's just got no roots, then what's he playing at? I don't have time for fertilizing dead plants. And I said, Cut to the chase. Where are you now. If you're still stuck in the past ... I've got books to read. I'm more than just an entertainer, or an audience. If you're being challenged enough to come to conclusions, or moved enough to make a change, then here I am. But I really do try to never argue. Of the making of arguments, there is no end. And I've heard enough people unwind their lectures at me, that I'm not interested in hearing any more well-rehearsed lists about opinions about God. I've got opinions of my own that I'm busy rehearsing.
And there it sat for a few hours, while the festivities roiled about me. But I, being a brooder, returned like a dog to its vomit ... er, no ... like a faithful and monogamous dove, and continued:
I confess, I was getting irritated with all the ... ahem ... well, onanism. But I did come back, and read some more. Or rather, all of it. Two points -- 1) Ah. You're a pastor's kid. That explains so much. 2) You sound like the guy who says, "No, I'm not gay. I'm just experimenting. I'm just curious." Christianity is a marriage, mate, and the bonds are called faith. No faith, no marriage. The pastor wrote soothingly about how you really must actually be saved, because God is faithful. He knows you and I do not. But I do have a certain critical capacity, a certain analytical facility, and it sounds like you're God's grandchild. Time to get real, lad. Don't capitalize Scripture if it's not true. That's the kind of hypocrisy we all hate. All except you, maybe. Yeah, it's lukewarm.
The word, my friend, is unfaithful. You got the patter down just right. You really rolled it out for the pastor -- a list of wonderful Christian experiences. Really, impressive. I have nothing like it. When I used to go to church, before rage immobilized me, I was around these alien and godly people who were really the good kind of sold-out. I respected them. But I've never had the lingo down. I got saved when I was 32, and at that age you don't learn a new language without having an accent. But as for you, despite any emotion or conviction or passion or certainty or mastery of jargon, if ... no, since you don't have faith, you are not and never were saved. Period.
That's the danger of being a pastor's kid -- they end up thinking they've always been saved, when it's only that they've always been around saved people. I can be wrong -- my crystal ball sometimes gets murky. But the word is faithless, and that's crystal clear. Mighty big of you, to consider raising your children in an incorrect religion, though. I'm sure the God you don't believe in would be grateful, if he existed. What, you think I'm being sarcastic?
I can think of something worse.
All this talk about love -- kindly supporters intoning their feeling ... I'm tempted to be vulgar. LOVE DOES NOT FAIL. If it fails, it wasn't love. Don't say you love something, unless you'll die for it. I love my son. Jesus loves me. Get it? These soft-bellied, gutless Christians with their meaningless comfortable droolings about love. Love bleeds. But, oh, babies are hungry in the world. So that means Jesus is a liar or a fool? Who could argue with that? Not me.
What's the difference between a whore and a wife? Money? No. Love? No. Commitment -- or shall I say, faithfulness.
And I was. Yes, it is rambling and disjointed. And irratic. But I don't know this fellow -- I can't hear his tone or see his eyes to gauge his sincerity. I've dealt with fools and conmen and lost souls seeking salvation. I've been lied to like nobody's business and I've held crying children who sob so deep your heart would break. I've learned that time is too precious to waste on manipulations, and when someone starts talking about Jesus solely in the past tense, the matter seems settled to me. Let the Holy Spirit convince you. I've cared too much about hopeless causes.
As for M, however.... I'm sure he thinks he's sincere. He'll most likely be offended to read this. Fortuately, I'm just some guy, so my opinion doesn't matter -- and in any event, my opinion is not hardened. I haven't bought anything with my time and words -- I'm owed nothing. Listening to his own words, and slogging through the waffling, he is not Christian. If not, then never was. If he has the eye balls to stop looking at the crappy world and take a hard look at his crappy self -- if he has iron in his soul enough to cut through the self-indulgence, to grab his ego by the throat the way the high priest slaughtered a goat -- if he has courage and humility enough to love Jesus enough to die for him -- well then. Well.