I like Shawn from Ohio. Perhaps I am predisposed to like him because he is from by beloved Buckeye State. But I think the reason I like Shawn from Ohio is that he responds to difficult topics at this site with civility. Yesterday I asked three questions. One question was addressed to agnostics/atheists/skeptics. His answers were thoughtful. He made his points without attacking. Shawn thanked me for providing an opportunity for dialogue between those of faith and non-faith. I love communicating with people like Shawn. Will I change his mind? Unlikely. But at the end of the day I want to talk about Jesus to those who have seen only Christians. I wish that Shawn could look at any given Christian and see Jesus. But sadly that is not the case.
Here is a bonus comment from Shawn that really hit me in the gut.
About the Amish: I wish more religions were like them. We, as a self-proclaimed Christian nation, have a lot to learn from this community. I think the rest of the world would have a more favorable outlook on the US if we behaved a little more like the Amish.
Ouch. And Amen.
The stories out of Pennsylvania have astounded people of faith and non-faith. The Amish have demonstrated a love, forgiveness, and commitment to the teachings of Jesus that have rocked me back on my heels. I am about to make a very odd transition (no surprise to regular readers) from a comment about people without electricity to a scene from a very silly movie. The scene is from the movie Dodgeball. The character played by Vince Vaughn has led a improbable group of misfits to the championship game of the world dodgeball tournament but some setbacks had caused him to throw in the towel. Lance Armstrong appears as himself and offers this commentary.
Lance Armstrong: Hey, aren't you Peter La Fleur?
Peter La Fleur: Lance Armstrong!
Lance Armstrong: Yeah, that's me. But I'm a big fan of yours.
Peter La Fleur: Really?
Lance Armstrong: Yeah, I've been watching the dodgeball tournament on the Ocho. ESPN 8. I just can't get enough of it. Good luck in the tournament. I'm really pulling for you against those jerks from Globo Gym. I think you better hurry up or you're gonna be late.
Peter La Fleur: Uh, actually I decided to quit... Lance.
Lance Armstrong: Quit? You know, once I was thinking of quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I'm sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying of that's keeping you from the finals?
Peter La Fleur: Right now it feels a little bit like... shame.
That is how I feel right now about my representation of Jesus. Don’t get me wrong. This is not legalistic self-flagellation. This is simply realizing that I have not been willing to fully allow Jesus to be Lord of my life. I want a Savior. That is cool. But I would prefer to be lord of my own life with occasional consulting gigs from God. The Amish have shown me what it means to allow the Savior to also be Lord.
The response of the Amish community cleared up another question for me. A few readers have asked me to counter some of the arguments from Sam Harris and his campaign against faith. I have had little desire to do that and I could not understand why. I feel like I could at least offer a few counter points to his polemic screed.
I remember when some friends set up an appointment for Joni and me to meet with a direct sales company pitch person. He carefully set up his flip charts and presentation in our dining room and started with this question.
Salesperson: “Would you like to earn more money for your family/”
Salesperson: “You are not interested in earning more money?”
Me: No. We have enough money. I am interested in working less hours and being home more.
Much to the horror of the friend who invited him the salesman immediately began packing up his lovely little presentation, shook our hands, and left. Why? Because we had nothing to discuss. He had his goal. I did not have an open mind. Buh-Bye!
I guess that is why I wonder about the value of arguing with Sam Harris. I am not saying that his comments should go unchallenged. I am only evaluating what my response should be. Most who subscribe to Mr.Harris’s views have made up their mind. Here is how my direct sales experience would look if Sam Harris came to my home.
Me: (After setting up my apologetic charts and power points) Do you allow any chance at all for supernatural phenomenon?
Me: Okay. Have a nice day.
That is a bit flippant but the point is that most people on both sides of the faith and non-faith aisles have made up their minds. That is why the Amish response to that horrible tragedy has so moved me. I would suspect these simple, dedicated believers have had more impact in one week than I could have in a lifetime of debating and arguing. Their amazing display of real faith was far more powerful than a clever argument And that is why right now I am feeling a bit like…shame. I get all angry and frustrated when critics slam me and my faith. My first impulse is to lash out in kind. But Jesus is saying “follow Me” and “be salt and light” to those you encounter.
The Apostle Paul was always prepared to make a defense. I whole heartedly subscribe to that strategy. I want to better understand what I believe and why. But I am wondering if my defense lacks power if I forget step one.
Love them like Jesus.