By Joe Rector
I’ve tried to write this piece a couple of times but found it almost impossible. The key is to put it on paper without sounding preachy or religiously stilted. So, here goes another attempt.
The main characters in books, TV, and movies are increasingly expressing their doubts or disbeliefs in a higher power. Many artists and writers and other public figures are also declaring their agnosticism or atheism. It’s a situation that shocks me.
Sure I know that hoards of folks no longer rise on Sunday morning and attend church. I also know that many say that today’s church no longer meets the needs or fits the styles of their lives. Much of the displeasure comes from the public’s desire to be entertained. That’s why the biggest growth in churches comes to those who offer alternative worship services that are filled with videos and the new Christian music. Other people don’t like giving up sleeping late on Sunday mornings.
Okay, I understand the possible need for change in the approach to religion by churches. What I don’t get is the complete turning away from the belief in a power above ourselves. Spring’s air perfumed by honeysuckle and the jabbering of birds who’ve returned home from miles away seem to hint that some power has a plan in place. Music that reaches to the depths of our hearts is another thing that is too special to just have happened by the “human” genius.
How do those who don’t believe manage to get through the tough times? Yes, I know that many will say that relying on a god during a crisis is nothing more than tricking one’s self. However, the peace that comes from the presence of a spirit is not a trick of the mind. The confidence that God is present gives us the ability to face the worst of things. No, God won’t necessarily interfere with or “fix” the events of life, but He will walk beside us as we travel through them.
An association with a church is a life-sustaining one. It can offer individuals fellowship and friendship. Far too many folks live away from family; the connection with a church family offers support and company when the bad and good things in life come around. People who aren’t a part of a church might visit some. No, they don’t have to join. Instead, they can just visit until ones that fit personal styles are discovered. Suddenly, people have a support communities, even if they don’t want any part of God.
I’ve seen plenty of individuals who give religion a bad name. At the same time, I’ve been around atheist who weren’t at all pleasant. Many in the second group are just as vocal in their nonbelief as those “pushy” Christians are. Atheists that are loudest sneer at the idea of a God. It’s as if their egoism suggest that individuals are in charge of all that is created in life. Our existences are filled with many “giant” events that are far above our abilities to create. I don’t much think they can ascribe them to personal power or the simple roll of fate’s dice.
I have friends who doubt, and they will continue to be friends. No, I don’t feel sorry for them. I do hope that at some point they find something to believe in above themselves. I’d like for them to find a church like mine (Beaver Ridge United Methodist) that opens its arms to all, that places its energies in reaching out to others through local missions, and that offers an outstanding speaker who is both engaging and sincere.
Most of all, I’d like to think that we are a people who relies on a high power for guidance. Humans make too many poor choices. Sometimes we don’t know what to do. It’s then that the reliance on God is something that offers peace and confidence. I don’t condemn anyone. Instead, I invite them to explore groups and places that offer them strength and aid.