Saturday, November 7, 2009

Confessions of a Christian Cleric... I like Atheists!

I recently posted a blog titled "Don't Believe In God?" in which I quoted the president of the Atheists of Florida, Rob Curry. As you know, I’m big on this idea of starting points for conversations about God and I’m a firm believer that everybody has a right to express their opinion without the antagonistic vitriol that tends to spew from those who differ in opinion.

At the risk of drawing the ire of many ‘good Christian folk,’ I have to admit that Rob Curry became somewhat of a hero to me when he responded to my post with graciousness and class. There was no underlying sense of frustration or bitterness whatsoever in his response (I’m just thinking of the ‘Christian’ response to their billboard). In fact, Rob made it clear that the Atheist's of Florida's intent for the billboard was never to dissuade anyone from pursuing whatever faith journey they are on, but simply to find other people who live life from their prism.

This is remarkable, and I’m persuaded that it’s a policy that the Church might consider adopting instead of an ‘us and them’ mentality. If we just spread the love of Christ through building authentic, loving relationships with people, who knows what may grow out of those seeds we plant. All too often we view the message of Christianity as if it were a product we’re trying to pawn off on people who don’t really want it anyway. In reality, the message of Christianity is summed up in the story of the man who found a treasure in a field, sold all he had and purchased the field; It’s a message of love and self-sacrifice; A message of caring more about the “treasures” that are found in the people all around us than in what you've acquired. If you haven’t already done so, click on the hyperlink above and read the entire post and comment. In case you don’t have the time to do so though, I’m appending Rob’s response so that you can see just how gracious he was.

"Rob Curry here. I'd like to take a moment to clarify one point with some inside information:We did not take any religious community issues into account in choosing where to place a billboard ad. The reason we choose Lakeland is because that is where our most recent new chapter opened a little earlier this year. This is likely to happen in other towns and cities where new chapters of Atheists of Florida are formed

I actually heard about the incident you describe for the very first time right AFTER paying for the board to go up. My reaction? No, I didn't jump up and down with glee to think of a division in this particular religious community, if that's what you're imagining. I merely shrugged my shoulders and went on to other things. It's not like this kind of event is so unusual, and as I see it, the people involved are all adults who will find their way through an unfortunate situation as best they can.

Here's the main point:We did NOT put up the billboard to change anyone's faith or beliefs. We put it up to find other atheists. (With greater than anticipated success, I might add.)Please do not automatically assume the entire world shares your own evangelical outlook. Some of us are content to live and let live. If you want to know more, please ask us. As you may guess, we're not exactly hesitant to say what we honestly think

By the way, I appreciate your mature support for freedom of speech and against the knee-jerk impulse towards censorship. You may rest assured that Atheists of Florida likewise supports the freedom of all Floridians, religious and nonreligious alike, to express their views."


Chinacat said...

Now, if you and others who believe the same as you would just let the Rush Limbaughs and Glenn Becks and Michael Savages of the world...who preach hate in the name of the religion you follow...we'd ALL be so much better off.

Chinacat said...

Sorry, fingers got ahead of the brain. That should read ...Savages of the world...know that they don't speak for you

Oh, and definitely add Bill O'Reilly to that list.

Ash said...

i love that you've made "friends" with an atheist. it's unfortunate that there are extremists on either side that holler at one another. but it's also true that that there are those who are tolerant of one another and can receive each other, in LOVE. and as one who believes in the Most High, LOVE is what it's about, LOVE is how we were made to be. i adore this statement, my friend: ", I completely concur and believe that my desire to "evangelize" is not borne out of a need to "convert" the world, but a desire to share a treasure I believe will be of benefit to anyone who cares to find out more" b/c to me that it ...spewing forth what the Creator of the Universe has done for me....sharing my fascination rather than bull horning it.

Joseph said...

Couldn't have said it better myself Ash. Oops, I did say it! :)

Thea said...

Not quite sure I understand the reference to what I understand to be conservative radio persons but I really appreciate this blog. It shouts the heart of Christian fellowship with those who don't believe the way we do.

Chinacat said...

Thea, these are people who loudly proclaim that they speak for ALL Christians in their condemnation and hate for anyone who believes differently (and that includes some of the moderate Christian denominations) than they claim to.

They would probably villify Joseph for this blog.

I think you would find that the majority of atheists really don't care if or what -you- believe, as long as you give us the same respect. A lot of the 'hate' supposedly projected from atheists to religionists (I'm including all religions in this) is simply severe frustration from being lumped with child molesters, murderers, rapists and baby eaters. And being told, even by US presidents that we should not be considered citizens or that we aren't fit to live, simply because we don't believe. And the majority of this comes from people who call themselves Christians.

I would like to think that the majority of Christians would simply ignore us, leave us alone...shake the dust off their feet when we say 'no thank you', but until you stand up and tell the people who have very large audiences through the media, many of who are influenced by their words, that these people DON'T speak for you, you will continue to be painted with same brush they are because it looks like you are silently agreeing with them.

Joseph said...

Chinacat, I appreciate your valued input but I would also like to add that broad brush strokes are the bane of our culture since it suggests that we assess people based on the stereotype of the 'single story.'

For instance, being black and living in the West, I've been judged much of my adult life on the stereotypes that accompany that fact. People suggest that it's a compliment when they say that I speak well. My question is always: why is that the case? Presumably because the stereotype suggests that black people don't generally speak well?

That's judging me based on the single story as opposed to getting to know me and understanding why I am uniquely the way I am. Again, as I stated in the thread with Bob, our objective as Christ-followers is not to "convert" the world but to share a Treasure we believe will be beneficial to all that find Him. Admittedly, we make lots of blunders as we navigate this path but our intentions are always well meaning.