Sunday, September 05, 2004

prepared to give an answer - part 2

I was at work on Friday (finally on my last day before I escape the machine and run away to be an unpaid actor!) and during my lunch break I received a call from a good friend who I hadn't spoken to in over a year. We have lots of shared interests, and I remember that we used to enjoy joking about the Christian 'cult' that was growing in our school. Because of this, he was more than a little shocked when I decided to join them! "This bloody Christian thing!" I remember him saying, "It's like a plague - an infection - no one can stop it!" Oh well, I thought, blessed are the persecuted.

My conversion encouraged the other Christians and we started to pray regularly together in the mornings before school started. I think as our fellowship grew, my friend began to think of his own soul a bit more, however becoming a Christian was, for him, quite unthinkable. So he turned to Buddhism. He actually read a couple of books, and even made notes on the central Buddhist teachings. As an atheist, Buddhism was the most appealing religious path for him, although now I would never call a Buddhist an atheist. They just see the same reality in a different way.

On Friday, when I spoke to him, he asked me about my faith. This was new to me - I had spent most of last year trying to get him to listen! I think I had mentioned to him in an email that my perspectives had shifted somewhat since last year, and so he asked me whether or not I still consider myself Christian. I replied that I did, absolutely, and I had been discovering new things about God all year. We chatted out Buddhism for a bit too, I told him about the encouraging dialogue between Christian and Buddhist monastic communities. Then we turned our thoughts to other faiths, such as the Hindus I encountered in India. Apparently he once thought that Krishna's first name was Harry. Work it out ;)

When I put the phone down, I realised how odd it was to have such a deep spiritual conversation with him - the anti-religious atheist who loved to take the piss out of my Christianity! But I was pleased; I don't get the opportunity to chat with many people about faith stuff. Most of my friends are either 'Shine-Jesus-Shine' Evangelicals or 'I-don't-give-a-monkey's' Atheists. Hence I valued my conversation with this self-dubbed 'ultra liberal Buddhist'. I pray for God's blessing on his walk of faith.

Interestingly though, when I do manage to get people talking about religious issues, my friends tend to focus on the 'law' of my faith. I had another friend who was asking me yesterday if I still believed sex before marriage was wrong, and whether or not I could take drugs and still be a Christian. I replied that it wasn't so much a question of what was evil, or worthy of damnation, but rather what would put a barrier between me and God. Something that missed the mark, a sin, would be hence inadvisable. I explained that there is no set law for these things; I believe that some things can be unhelpful for me, and yet perfectly fine for other people. St Paul said something of that ilk regarding the consumption of meat. I tried to explain that Christianity, or indeed any religion, is not about following a bunch of rules, but rather trying to find God, it involves attempting to empty ourselves, and humbling ourselves before God so that he may fill us and exalt us. This requires getting rid of the unhelpful, sinful things in our life.

I think this was sadly lost on my friend. I say this because he then turned to me and said: 'so do you think that "Hans Solo" is allowed?'

That sounds like you've had it dificult at times. I've been fairly lucky thus far - in discussing our approaches to the world and reactions with people, particularly late at night, our 'slow collisions' have often been mutually beneficial. Even if, should I even see that a desired outcome, there has been no conversion business.
Conversion doesn't necessarily have to be Damascus Road stuff. Although mine was quite dramatic in that respect, I now look back to the time before and after that event I can see other influences through which God undoubtedly spoke to me. Actually, when I consider it - I think it was my atheist history teacher who first got me thinking about God. This happened when we studied the German Reformation and got talking about predestination. Whenever there was a rubbish sermon in chapel, I would just drift off and muse about God's plans for us all :)
Well indeed - as someone who's not really had a conversion experience of any sort that all makes a lot of sense to me.
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