Is this the right place? My generation left the church and migrated to places like these because they offered something that the organized church did not- acceptance. That is, perhaps, the greatest travesty of our time. A whole generation responded to the negativity, the shallow semblance of true faith, and the condemnation of a people who presumed to be in the place of God. I think I am meeting someone here and I hope this is the right place. Those who drove us away from the organized church assumed we would become nothing, so they resolved to argue with us and to condemn us for no other reason than we were young. I’ve never been here before. I was one of the fortunate, the few, the fifteen percent. I had good mentors and people who supported me. God pursued me and kept me. Most of us, though, ran away from the organized church because the organized church was a bigger monster than what we saw in the world. We were hurt. The church didn’t heal. They tried to prove to us that God existed, but if God existed and looked like the people who so adamantly told us that we needed to work to please Him, why would we want to worship that god? They doubled down. So did we. This isn’t what God desired. In their apologetic, there was no apology. Now, my generation is absent.
Where is this man? Oh, there he is. I see him sitting, sipping on his whiskey. Here comes the server, “What will you have, sir?” Of course, I don’t know. I’ve never ordered at an establishment like this, but she is looking at me, “Sir, would you like a drink?” I look at the man I came to meet with as if differing my decision to him. He snickers, “He will have a bourbon whiskey, neat.” I have no idea what that means. I will trust the expert, and I won’t drink too much. I saw my father become a slave to alcohol, and the organized church couldn’t tell me why, there, either. They just said, “Don’t drink. It’s a sin!” That didn’t help anybody.
The server went to the bar and the man rested his hand on the Bible he had sitting in front of him. The Bible has color-coded markers on many of the pages and I imagine that there are many markers and notes on the inside. His Bible looks more used than many pastors’ in the modern church. My soon-to-be friend, I am determined, is wearing a t-shirt with the letters “AHA” on the front as if to mock those who don’t see the world like he does. No, the letters don’t stand for Abolish Human Abortion. They stand for something else, a hyper-progressive, anti-god religion, and they are proud of that fact. It is how I came to meet this man. He is an evangelist for them, at least that is how evangelicals would describe what he does, but he would hate that sort of description.
The silence has now been a little awkward, but the server finally brings the drink he ordered for me. Gulp. There is a sting and a fleeting sensation as the nectar fills my mouth and the aroma my nostrils. Maybe I won’t take such a big swig next time. Sips from here on out. I might have ordered something that wasn’t good. I am glad I trusted a man who knew more than I did. I might like it more with a cube of ice.
“So,” the man starts as I marvel, “Can I tell you why I reject the Bible?” That is why we are here, go ahead. I’m listening. Whiff. Sip. Savor.
“First of all,” he starts his argument, “the Bible is an ancient collection of documents written by different human people with many, many contradictions.” He points his finger at the book in front of him. This is how everyone else starts this conversation. I used to think that Christianity presented a false picture of the world, but never did I notice a contradiction in the book. “What are those contradictions?”
As he adjusts his weight and opens the book to the beginning chapters, the server walks by looking at our glasses. Mine doesn’t seem to have gone down at all. He finds what he is looking for and, without making eye-contact, shares his thought.
“There is a different order of creation events in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2,” he says confidently. I wasn’t aware that Genesis two provided any chronology at all. Sip. It looks like you might be forcing some extra words into the story that aren’t there in order to create a contradiction. I don’t know about you, but I call that a straw man. Really, if you want to be contentious on this point, I doubt seriously you could look at Genesis 2 and tell me where it says God created the people before, ‘before’ being the operative word, He planted His garden. At least those are my thoughts. When I open my mouth, cautiously I might clarify, it comes out like this, “I don’t see where the order is different.”
“Verse five!” he exclaims, “Verse five!” What about verse five? “It records explicitly that no plant had sprouted!” The large book is being spun toward me as if the one who brought it wants me to realize my own hermeneutical blunder. I see verse five. I also see that verse five states very clearly that no man was there to cultivate the ground. Then, God formed people and planted a garden, but chapter two does not reveal the order. You have to add words to get that, or simply derive the information from the preceding chapter in the book. Isn’t that the way we usually read, anyway? Why would anyone start a different story in his or her mind after finishing chapter one? Why wouldn’t that person build on what was previous? Why would we assume that the story is disconnected? I think that reveals more about us than about the story this man is trying to disprove.
“What are you getting at, here?” I reply as I sip again, “You really have to tweak the story to get it to say what you are claiming it says.” I am also interested in something deeper than winning an argument. How shallow I have been. How could I settle for argumentation when this man needs Christ as much as I do? I am probably a much worse sinner than he, and here I was listening to respond. Let me try and understand this person. How can I love him like Christ loves me? “I wonder what has caused you to try reading the story the way that you have? What has caused you to start with a bias against the story such that you see what isn’t actually there?”
This man seems somewhat caught off guard by the question. He does what everyone else does when they don’t have a way to respond. He moves on to the next accusation, hoping to distract and gain an advantage. Rarely does anyone actually answer that question. Sip. Savor.
I guess people do that with more than facts, don’t they? We want things to be a certain way, so we find a way to justify it. God didn’t mean that. You can’t dictate morality. The church hurt me, so their God can’t be real. Since when has the existence or the character of God depended on the actions and demeanors of wretched people?
Whatever the reason this guy feels he needs to discredit a word given for the good of all people, I must apologize… and I must apologize.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever was done to you by sinful people.” To my own generation, I’m sorry. Here is the open hand. To that prodigal generation who took the Father’s inheritance and went to live for itself, we’re no longer children. We have lost too many too young. Why continue to make excuses? Why judge God based on what some sinful and hateful people did to us in the past? There are life and hope. This is my apology. Let me be honest.
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