The lovely Mrs.Burchett and I had a wonderful spring break trip to Arizona last week. The week concluded by crossing off a long time “bucket list” item for me when we enjoyed a hot air balloon ride over the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona. It was amazing.
This is a shot of the other balloon that took off with us that morning. At the end of the journey we celebrated with a champagne breakfast and I received an award that beleagured readers of these ramblings will heartily endorse. After completing the hot air balloon ride each passenger received a diploma from the pilot. The diploma is from the “College of Hot Air Knowledge” and that is an institution that should have offered me a scholarship. Now I can add that diploma to my impressive bio that includes such stunning credentials as “member of Sam’s Club”.
Back home in not quite so scenic Garland I finished a walk today with dog friend Hannah. A song by Blood, Sweat and Tears resonated in an odd way on our walk. Yesterday we received an adorable photo of a young couple’s first child. Last week another dear friend died because of cancer. The lyrics sung by David Clayton Thomas reflect the cycles of our lives.
And when I die, and when I'm gone,
There'll be one child born
In this world to carry on,
to carry on.
But it was the next stanza that caused me to reflect the most.
Now troubles are many, they're as deep as a well.
I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell.
Swear there ain't no heaven and I pray there ain't no hell,
But I'll never know by living, only my dying will tell.
Yes only my dying will tell.
Yeah, only my dying will tell.
Recently I created a Facebook page in my sad and ongoing attempt to be hip. It actually is a fun way to stay connected with others and what they are up to each day. I will admit that most of the users tend to skew a bit less experienced than me. There is a little profile on each page that lists birthday, political leaning, religious preference and so on. One dear friend listed his religious view as agnostic. That made me sad because this is one person that I would enjoy hangin’ out with in eternity. The definition of agnostic is one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God.
That is too big a gamble for yours truly to offer a death bed no comment. I regularly choose the wrong line at the supermarket, the wrong lane on the freeway and the wrong teams on my NCAA Bracket. With my track record I want to be really careful about what line, lane and team I choose for eternity. I suppose that is a pragmatic reworking of Pascal’s wager. The reality is that I am more convinced than ever of the truth that I try to live out each day. I am not hedging my bets. I am convinced of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
To be honest I went through a period that I could best be defined as agnostic or perhaps by a category I wrote about in my book “Bring’em Back Alive”.
Atlantic Monthly columnist Jonathan Rauch wrote an article declaring that Christians in America have become lukewarm and apathetic about faith in God. Rauch, an acknowledged atheist, calls the behavior apatheism.
In his article, Rauch explains that apatheism is “a disinclination to care all that much about one’s own religion, and an even stronger disinclination to care about other people’s.” He notes that people are going to church less often, and when they do, they go more to socialize or enjoy a familiar ritual than to worship. According to Rauch, this new breed of religious person doesn’t invest much in an actual commitment to faith. The things these folks are really seeking are comfort, spiritual reassurance, and a God who doesn’t expect too much in return for their valuable time. Rauch is more than a little pleased by the trend because he believes it is better to be apathetic than to be “controlled by godly passions” for the simple reason that religion “remains the most divisive and volatile of social forces.”1 (Members of the New Testament church as described in the book of Acts would probably agree that Rauch’s last statement is true.)
While I disagree with many, if not most, of Rauch’s smug conclusions, I would have to agree that the behavior of many so-called Christians gives credence to his obviously biased and very disturbing accusations. Far too many Christians live lives of functional agnosticism. By that I mean that our daily behavior shows little or no evidence of a life-changing and empowering relationship with the God of the universe. Think about that for a moment: If we really believed that Jesus came to this planet to allow us to know God personally, shouldn’t we demonstrate a few behavioral differences when we show up to work on Monday? Yet many of us compartmentalize our faith and fail to integrate Christ into our daily activities. Classic radio comedian Fred Allen made the wry observation that “what we really need is a faith that works the other six days of the week.”
I don’t propose that we stand on street corners with bullhorns and sandwich boards to let the world know we believe in Jesus. Instead common sense and some very discomforting scriptures lead me to believe that a life-changing relationship with Jesus should show. For the record, may I offer the following exhibits?
If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you.
Show them what you’re made of, the love I’ve been talking up in the churches. Let them see it for themselves!
(2 Corinthians 8:24)
I keep hearing of the love and faith you have for the Master Jesus, which brims over to other Christians.
Whatever is at the core of our hearts—whether Christ or golf or gardening—will be evident to those who spend even a modest amount of time with us. My desire is to make sure that those around me know that my faith in Christ is paramount to who I am. Achieving this goal—and avoiding Jonathan Rauch’s apatheism—has been a point of emphasis in my recent faith journey. Perhaps a life like that will cause my friend to revisit his position and embrace the God who has changed my life.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.