Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Talking about God
Last week in the cab I took two lads in their early 20s from the pub for quite a long journey home so we had plenty of things to talk about during the ride. As I common they asked me what I had done before driving taxis and so I was able to talk about pastoral ministry. Very quickly the conversation turned to their problems with religion. They had been to church as kids, had friends who were Christians but they couldn't see any point in church and they had grown disillusioned with the Israel-Palestine conflict and the "War on Terror".
Earlier that night I had picked up another young man in his early 20s who told me that he had attended a Christian school but had moved away from his faith with, once again, a general disillusionment and apathy with regards to religion. When I picked him up he was quite drunk but still very able to have a conversation.
In both of these instances I was struck by the need to do more than simply agree with their grievances. I was happy to discuss the Middle East conflict in passing but apart from anything it is an extremely complex topic that can unnecessarily bog down a conversation. I have realized, in the taxi conversations that it is easy to wander around topics and leave the passenger feeling listened to and affirmed but with little in the way of resolution or, at the least, a challenge to think differently.
I find it easy to be agreeable and nice but have been continuing to think through what it is that Christians are to communicate. Are we called to be nice, loving people in the hope that others will be somehow infected with this "niceness" and want to find out more about God? Are we called to persuade people with the propositional facts of the gospel in the hope that they will be persuaded and want to make a Christian commitment? Or is there a middle way?
As I continue to read, write and think on this complex topic I have found a way that seems to be more satisfying to me and that is to have a high regard for the power of God. I listen, affirm and am not at all patronizing but at some point I seek to separate religion from the issue of who God is and what God is like. As I start to talk about God as a living, active being who can and will engage with us now I find that people are interested to know more. The other person may not entirely agree but they are intrigued to hear the view that God answers prayer, that God can heal people and that God can speak to us.
What I have found that people are seeking is someone to tell them that God is real because this concept contains the germ of hope, relationship and purpose. I am going to put together a longer paper on this topic but I'd be certainly interested in feedback.