Brutal Honesty; Atheism and Christianity
Devotional Thought for the Day:
14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT)
For, taken as a whole, atheism is not a spontaneous development but stems from a variety of causes, including a critical reaction against religious beliefs, and in some places against the Christian religion in particular. Hence believers can have more than a little to do with the birth of atheism. To the extent that they neglect their own training in the faith, or teach erroneous doctrine, or are deficient in their religious, moral or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than reveal the authentic face of God and religion. (1)
God must become a reality for us, too, must be more real to us—no! not just more real—than the things we can grasp, so that to please God can become for us a criterion that is also a final liberation from the question of success. (2)
As I read the words in blue this morning, I thought fo the articles and books I have read about post-modernism and the utter contempt in which some Christians hold those who claim to be atheist or agnostic. I thought about the memes and quips and quotes which mock and condescendingly treat those whose struggle with God is not so different from our own.
Fifty-one years ago, or perhaps a little more, the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church made a brutally honest statement about atheism.
They took responsibility for it, or perhaps, they noted that the Church has a hand, a responsibility for its origin. For how could a religion (and atheism and agnosticism are informal religions develop counter to some other religion, if that religion wasn’t there?
The Catholic Church was brutal in its honesty, as we in other branches of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church should be. We haven’t lived dependent upon God, and therefore our actions, our sin, our hypocrisy has so hurt and broken people that they rebel against God. They strike out at Him, actively or simply by dismissing Him as a myth, and if we are honest, we know that we bear some responsibility for that.
Maybe it was the pastor who treated a young sinner without giving him any hope of mercy, or people who turned their back on the young pregnant mom. Maybe it was the elders or deacons who overlooked their friend’s abusive nature; and they didn’t rush to help his oppressed family. ( Joe after all, was a good guy, don’t you know?) Or maybe it was the Sunday school teacher, or confirmation instructor, who turned a deaf ear to questions that really mattered, that plagued the person they were instructing.
To be honest, as I think about such stories, I wonder why more people aren’t atheists, and more people are sure they can’t know whether God exists.
Even as I write this, I want you to be sure – if you were the person whose actions drove someone away from God, there is no time like the present to ask God to forgive you, assured of the forgiveness guaranteed at the cross. Maybe consider, if you can still contact the person, that you ask their forgiveness as well. You would be surprised what and attempt at reconciliation does for healing wounds of the past, theirs and yours.
But for the future, how does the church stop creating atheists? How do we stop de-churching those, as we have done in the past?
The obvious answer is seen in those verses above in red, to let the love of God shine through us. Our light not being our skills, or incredible personality or personal stardom, but the simple love that reaches out and serves. Whether it is greeting someone and asking how they are really doing, and humbly walking beside them in their pain, or praying for them, or helping them in any other of a myriad of ways.
In short, loving them as you love yourself, caring for them as you would desire others, as you would need others to care for you. That is easy to say, and how do we do it?
At Vatican II there was a young scholar who would become Pope Benedict. His words in blue pretty much sum up how we become a light, and how we see that it is never snuffed out.
Know God is with you, realize how real He is! With Paul, oh I desire that you would explore the height and depth, the breadth and width of God’s love for you, revealed in Jesus. His teachings, His miracles, His death, His resurrection, everything from HIs work in Creating this word to dying for it, till the day of Judgement is to communicate this love, this incredible, real, life-transforming, cleansing love.
And when we are realizing that love when our hearts and minds are finding rest as we look to Christ, we shine with His glory, the glory they will praise Him for, as they to are drawn into it.
This isn’t rocket science, it is simply worship in spirit and truth.
So go look to Christ, ask Him to be merciful and be in awe as He answers that more profoundly than you would even have thought possible.
He loves you. And through you, he would call His children home.
(So stop treating them as outsiders, and welcome them!)
(1) Catholic Church. “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium Et Spes.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.
(2) Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.