I enjoy reading the letters sent to advice columnists. It’s a handy, anecdotal way to chart the decline of modern culture. There’s actually a book in this; comparing the difference in questions during the early 60’s with what we have today. But I fear I’m too lazy to do the research.
On the other hand, I normally avoid reading the answers, because the advice from these moral equivalizers and cultural fad surfers has a tendency to enrage me and the family tries to discourage shouting while reading the newspaper. (Although I make an exception and always read Miss Manners. She remains a beacon of tradition and reason on most matters cultural.)
Sometimes though the temptation is too great, as happened last Thursday. Carolyn Hax, who does cutting edge advice for the Washington Post — for people who are drifting, clueless yet strongly opinionated — answered a letter that touched on religion: “My husband and I are non-Christians living in a small town in the Bible Belt. We have made some friends (it took a while) who are fun people and share most of our values, except religion. I don’t have a problem being friends with people of different religions; I consider it none of my business what other people believe, and just wish they would extend me the same courtesy!
These friends are evangelical Christians and invite us to church almost every time we see them. At first, I thought they were just being friendly. After the thousandth time, I feel like it’s really obnoxious and disrespectful. I’ve always just smiled and politely declined, but they keep bringing it up. Is there a way to salvage the friendship while putting my foot down?
This is how modern education and culture leaves one unprepared. I’m sure the woman in question would have had no problem dealing with a request to swap husbands (don’t nice people get bored, too?), but refusing to attend church when you don’t have one of your own seems standoffish. From the context of the letter, one gets the impression the couple are “nones” rather than Hindus, Moslems or Druids. Agnostic or apathetic rather than atheists, since the actively ungodly are usually in your face about it, much like the homosexual lobby.
So this young couple is thrown by circumstance into this den of divinity and they finally meet a couple whose company they enjoy. In fact, they like the couple even though they are Christians. No invitations to rub the snake, expel the demon or participate in a love offering for the pastor’s Cadillac; just the odd invitation to attend church.
One gets the feeling the couple likes the Bible beaters in spite of the fact they are Christians. What they never appear to consider is the reverse: They like the couple because they are Christians. And the couple likes the letter writer in spite of the fact they are not active Christians?
Living a truly Christian life is a package deal. It’s not just maintaining perfect attendance in the sanctuary so you’ll also make the roll call up yonder. It’s how you act, relate to others, conduct your life, conduct your business and work to make your life glorify God.
And it’s hard. I was talking to a friend Saturday morning about a rough spot he’d encountered in his church and I observed that it’s too bad that in his wisdom God didn’t have angels build and operate the church. Things would run much more smoothly, to say nothing of always providing a role model for a fallen mankind. But He didn’t, so we have to do our best and that often falls short.
An important part of the Christian package is the Great Commission where Jesus instructed us to go and make disciples of the world. Personal evangelism is very hard and rejection is potentially embarrassing. It’s much easier to send a check to Franklin Graham and delegate outreach to him. I rarely do it and I hope Jesus is not as embarrassed to acknowledge me before God on the Day of Judgment, as I am to acknowledge Him here on earth.
So this “none” couple has the good fortune to meet a Christian couple that tries to live a Christian life in all its facets, up to and including the Great Commission. The letter writer entirely overlooks the fact the couple may be so attractive because of being a Christian has done for them. And it could do the same for the letter writer, too, if she would give Jesus a chance.
Possibly the letter writer might be more comfortable with a less committed couple, say two Episcopalians. Or if they simply wanted to find someone who has warm feelings for a bright light they can try a Unitarian. In a pinch even a Methodist might serve.
(Keep in mind none of this advice applies if the letter writer is part of a homosexual couple. Then the Episcopal would be chasing them down the street.)
Heck for that matter, they could meet me: The lazy, vaguely embarrassed Christian.
But I would advise them to stay away from my wife for she is liable to invite you to church at the drop of a hat.