The view from down here

Questions For Christians

January 12, 2009

People don't like to be told, "You're an utter idiot." It's better if you can help them figure it out for themselves.

Christians love to tell you about Jesus and the bible, or what we're supposed to think, or be mad at. They sometimes drop bits of their folk wisdom into regular conversation, just to make a point in case you forgot that they read their bible every week.

For example, my lovely wife was talking with some people a while ago and the conversation wandered to California. Someone mentioned how lucky it is not to live in a place full of so much sin, after all, look what happened to New Orleans.

It's stunning what you have to believe about God to think that way, much less utter it on purpose.

What can you do if you find yourself on the other end of a tiny Christian commercial break? You can let it go and give silent sanction to the idea. You can face it head on and cause an argument, but I think there may be a middle ground where can we draw attention to the wrongness of such a statement without losing friends or causing a fight.

One way may be to ask questions to draw out the hidden sentiment behind such comments and put it on display. You don't have to agree with the sentiment, but you can voice your reaction to it in a subtle way.

Something simple like, "Wait, so you think God destroyed New Orleans because of sin?"

A sincere question is much less threatening than a contradiction, but keeps the idea from enjoying the sanctuary of silence. A follow up question might be something like, "How much sin does it take to summon a category five hurricane?" Or maybe, "Weren't there a lot of Christians in New Orleans?" After all, if he's enough of an authority to declare God's intention in the destruction of thousands of lives, he should be able to stand by his statement or admit that he doesn't really know what he's talking about.

You don't have to over do it. You don't have go all twenty questions every time someone mentions In God We Trust, but it's a way of saying, "Hey, I noticed you said something unexpected, can you really mean that?" Then you can take it as far as appropriate.

OF course, you can question or belittle anything, but that's not what' I'm talking about. Even an expert on the witness stand can be made to look like a fool by a clever lawyer who asks all the right question to feed the shadow of doubt. What I'm suggesting here is to use a question to voice disagreement, rather than say it outright, when doing so would be too controversial or unwelcome in an otherwise pleasant conversation.

But used well, it can be a very good tool to make your point. Being on the asking side always gives you a debate advantage, because you are setting the direction of the debate.

Some Christian's have a favorite rant about Creation. Is it really one day? What is a day to God? Maybe a day is like a million years to God. The next time you hear this, ask a question or two.

"So does the Bible say a day or a million years?"

"Do you really think God doesn't know the difference between a day and a million years?"

"Why would He say one thing but mean another?"

"Then are you interpreting what the Bible means, not what it says?"

"Is that common in the Bible, to mean one thing and say something completely different?"

"How do you know the difference?"

This technique was used pretty well by the maker of a documentary titled The God Who Wasn't There. The filmmaker, Brian Flemming, went to the Christian school where he grew up, and he talked with the principle.

The school has seven guiding principles about the truth of the Bible. Mr. Flemming asked probing questions about these principles, their basis, their evidence, and demonstrated that, of course, there isn't any. He then asked if maybe there should be an eighth item informing students that the others guiding principles are arbitrary and have no evidence.

That's when the principal asked to end the interview, and then after the camera kept rolling, he got up and left.

And that is really the only option left to most Christians when the questions get hard. Get mad and leave. And when you're on the other end of the questions, stay patient and answer them with confidence. Remember, you're not the delusional one.

So when comments are made, casually, in the middle of a conversation, intended to make everyone nod at the unquestionable truth of God, go ahead question it, even if only a little bit.

Copyright 2009 Daniel LaFavers