Just on a whim the other day, I stopped by a Christian student group on campus. I stopped by because a fellow faculty member was supposed to be giving a testimony of something God had recently done in his life. While I’m the sponsor for one group, there are actually quite a few Christian groups on campus–a student can pretty much go to some sort of Bible study every day during lunch. I usually don’t frequent them, but due to my colleague, this day was different.
Well, the colleague never made it to the study. But I’m still glad I came, because of the two guys that actually did make it to the meeting.
Not that they were the only two guys there…the room was jam packed. But they were atheists. Hey, who let these guys in? Juuusst kidding. It’s good when non-Christians come to Christian meetings. To a certain extent, that’s kinda the point.
As far as I could tell, they simply walked in on a whim…and afterwards, they really let it out. Come to find out, these guys weren’t there to make friends or check out the claims of Christ. One of the guys was really hanklin for an audience. Well, pretty soon, he got one. No sooner than the meeting ended, and he started layin’ into some of the regulars there. In a few minutes, there were about 10 or so gathered around either watching the “conversation” or actively participating.
I label it a conversation lightly. The guy must have been a Hitchens devotee: the arguments, assertions, manner, and vitriol seemed directly cut out of his playbook. When the Christian students would attempt to answer his challenges, he would interrupt, throwing every loaded term and straw man in the book at them.
Rather than jumping in, I sat back and listened. After a few minutes, one of the Christian students pulled me aside asking for help: “can you please step in and help us out? We could really use it.”
Nope, I said.
His challenges were the typical ones I hear: God’s omniscience excludes human freewill, the God of the OT is a God of violence, there’s no evidence for life after death, you mean you believe in a God who fathered himself through a virgin? religion causes wars like the Holocaust (not making this up…the guy really said that, verbatim), blah blah blah. They needed to take care of this on their own, however.
All year long I have been subtly communicating to the Christian students in my charge the importance of learning how to defend the faith. When I’ve pressed it, they’ve agreed with me to my face, but then nothing happens. They haven’t changed their behavior and values. They simply keep churning out the same ‘ol same ‘ol youth group Bible studies. The whole year, they’ve devoted 2 Bible studies to apologetics, theology, and defending the faith…and that’s just the group I sponsor. All the other groups, to my knowledge, have devoted zero Bible studies to those things. The Bible studies they’ve had have value, because they’ve been focused on the relational and emotional aspects of the faith. Can’t be a real good ambassador for Christ if you’re a jerk. Having a Christ-like character is one pillar of an ambassador, but there are other large pillars that have been almost completely neglected.
This is a recipe for a bunch of future atheists, not because Christianity itself as a worldview is anemic, but because their training is. They fail to see their study times as times of training for a future test(s). If they keep it up, one day they’ll get out of the confines of their youth Bible clubs and the secular world will pick em apart. An wholly unprepared Christian youth without much depth meets a hostile secular world…I can figure out the outcome of that one. If Anderson Silva took their training philosophy and applied it to his fighting, Joe Dirt could knock him out.
Despite what I’ve discussed with the students, this has gone on unabated. They have not seen their need. Sometimes, it takes a good thrashin’ to see your need. You know what they say: sometimes you don’t know you need a belt until your pants are hanging around your ankles. Because of all this, I was hoping that the atheist student would really hand it to them, though I didn’t tell anyone this directly.
And you know, they really had a tough time with him, for a number of reasons. His aggressive and abrasive manner really threw them, for one. They didn’t know quite what to make of his loaded language (they really couldn’t even see that it was loaded language. They just bought it and didn’t call him on it) either. Furthermore, I’m willing to bet that none of them had actually heard of his challenges. Good grief, some of them go all week by going to a different Bible study every lunch period. They are quite comfortable and content staying in the Christian bubble. Pretty soon, they were “punting” to faith. You know, I think it kinda shook them.
I’m not the type to leave them like that, though. All I wanted was for them to get a swift kick in the pants so they’d be motivated to take the intellectual life of the Christian disciple more seriously. Heavens ta mergatroy, its front and center in the *first* commandment! You’d think that would be enough. Anyway, afterwards I let all who were in on the convo know to come to my room today to debrief. The plan was to tackle the atheists arguments and assertions one-by-one in a calmer, more “practice-like” environment. This was going to be a teachable moment.
How many do you think showed up today? 2…yep...2.
Of all the vices, apathy, I’ve found, dies the slowest, hardest death of all. I’m dealing with the same sort of blahse` attitude with the wrestling team I coach. Apathy just gloms onto suburban kids like you wouldn’t believe. This is going to take some stick-to-itiveness to address adequately.
I held back the debriefing for a day, and spread the word that those who missed were not to skip out again. They can’t afford to.
I’m just not going to let this one go.
I’ll let you know what happens.