For Easter, I went to Catholic mass with my Mom and step-Dad last night, and I went to my Presbyterian church this morning. I am not sure what to get out of these services as someone who is not entirely sure what he believes. I will say, though, that I enjoyed the music at the Catholic service last night—-both the powerful Catholic songs, and also the evangelical (as far as I know) song, “As the Deer.”
This morning’s service was interesting. The Pastor Emeritus’ grandkids were there, and they livened up the children’s part of the service with their comments. It was like an episode of “Kids Say the Darndest Things” (remember that show?). The pastor’s sermon was all right. It reminded me of how death is an inevitability, and that is why people desire an afterlife. I am a fairly young man, so I have not yet experienced seeing my parents, siblings, cousins, and peers dying around me. My grandparents are still alive. Death seems to me to be a long way off, but it will someday be a reality to me. I can somewhat understand why there are people who celebrate the resurrection of Jesus as a sign that death is defeated and there will be an afterlife. I do not think that one has to have a conservative Christian perspective to believe in an afterlife, however, for there are other afterlife beliefs out there: ghosts, reincarnation, etc.
During the prayer part of the service, someone expressed concern about atheists’ attacks on Christians. She said that there are more Christians than atheists, yet atheists somehow manage to wage their attacks. The pastor responded in agreement, saying that there is a creationist radio program that he likes to listen to, and an atheist web site is responding to that program with “inaccurate things about creation” (my pastor’s words, according to my memory). The pastor prayed that Christians might be able to drown out the atheists’ voices with the message that Christ lives.
I had a hard time identifying with any of this. It is not because I like atheist trolls—-I don’t, and I will not publish their comments here (as I will not publish comments from fundamentalist Christian trolls). But I can identify with atheist arguments. I think that they have the upper hand on the creation/evolution debate. On the Bible, however, I find them to be a mixed bag. They make a decent case that the Bible is not inerrant and perfect, and they also raise interesting questions and notice a lot of weird details that few others notice or mention. But a good number of them believe that Jesus did not exist, contrary to what the vast majority of biblical scholars say, and these atheists are such know-it-alls about it.
In any case, I think that a better approach is to listen to people’s cases, not to drown them out with louder, zealous voices.
I rarely pray that people might change their beliefs. I used to do that as a conservative Christian, but I don’t anymore. One reason is that I cannot picture a lot of people I know changing their beliefs. For example, I cannot picture my Mom becoming a conservative Christian. I cannot picture my Dad voting. They are who they are. They hold their ideas for the reasons that they do. They’ve held the same ideas for years.
But I can picture certain people becoming open to change, given the right settings. My pastor, for example, interacts with other pastors (some of whom are rather liberal) and is close friends with an academic who has written books about theology. My pastor participates in interfaith dialogue. If I were to tell him why I tend to agree with atheists rather than fundamentalists on evolution and the Bible’s errancy, I am not sure if he would be that receptive. My communication skills are not always the best, and I can easily come across as a bitter village atheist with an ax to grind about religion. But if my pastor were to discuss these questions with people who are thoughtful and gentle, and who have managed to keep their faith and live lives of spirituality amidst the challenges and ambiguities, that would make a world of difference, I think.
Anyway, those are my musings for the day.