Cedric Stratton is an atheist. He is also a regular attender at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Savannah, Georgia. In the eleven years he has attended the church, he has become a beloved part of the congregation. According to this article,
Stratton attends nearly every worship service and church event. He volunteers for nearly every work project. He offers help to sick parishioners. He brings his smooth tenor to the church choir.
He evidently has endeared himself to the congregation, and his atheism doesn't seem to be an impediment. To his credit, Stratton is not shy about his beliefs. He wrote a seven-page essay explaining that his atheism is rooted in chaos theory.
On one hand, I think it's admirable that the church has providing a welcoming environment for someone of radically different beliefs. Apparently everyone loves him for his genial spirit and his willingness to serve. But what about those pesky doctrines of heaven and hell, of salvation only through the blood of Jesus? How can an atheist be comfortable in a church over the long haul if he doesn't believe anything in the church's statement of faith? The article explains that Stratton reacts sharply if someone suggests he is not a Christian.
"I take offense to that," he said. "I'm Christian, in everything except theology."
Well, that's one solution. Just get rid of theology and we're all Christians, including people who don't even believe in God. Of course, if you get rid of theology, then you don't need Jesus or God or the Holy Spirit or the Bible. You don't need prayer or worship. You don't really need the church at all. Any neighborhood social club could fill the bill.
But there is one quote at the end of the story that gives me some hope.
"My thinking is that these people are so great to be with, I don't care if I'm forced to live in hell for eternity," Stratton said.
That's a pretty good comment because it means that some part of the truth has broken through to Cedric Stratton. We can only pray that the rest of the truth will find a place in his heart so that he will become a true follower of Christ, theology included.