Friday, November 02, 2007

Christian magnet

A comment made by an online friend stirred up my juices the other day. She was making the distinction between different kinds of Christians in response to a political comment.
You need to make sure you note the difference between NOMINAL Christian (calls them selves that but attends only rarely and can't explain the Gospel to save their lives.) and ACTUAL PRACTICING Christians (Is an active member and can accurately convey the gospel.)
I am not a churchgoer, and I don't know that I could explain the Gospel to everyone's satisfaction, but I keep attracting actual practicing Christians in my life and I think I know why. I'm ethical. My brother, also not a churchgoer, said he experiences the same thing.

I recognize the difference between living a good and moral life and actually doing the work of worship. Maybe I'm just lazy, heh. Anyway, I'm living right on the buckle of the Bible belt and my article about Sujo John struck a chord with another of the devout. He felt he was saved by Christianity and wanted to tell his story.

As a parent, his story alarmed me, and I'll confess it's got me thinking about joining a church. The other thing that's got me thinking about regular worship is a letter from my son's preschool, which is at a Lutheran church. The letter read that I had not marked on a form a church that my family attends, and it invited me to consider their church because--and here's the part I liked--life is hard and it's going to get harder. People in my family are going to get sick. Maybe it'll be me. Accidents are going to happen, as will unexpected deaths. And when any of this happens, I'm going to need some ministering.

It was the most honest and straight-forward pitch I'd ever received from a religious organization, and I appreciate it. Here is the article, but I'll get you started with this:

What it is that transforms a sweet little boy or girl into a drug-addicted juvenile delinquent, Rob Reid cannot say. In his case, finding an identity was part of it. So, at the tender age of 11, he said, “I started experimenting with drugs.”

His drug use progressed from marijuana, to LSD, to cocaine, to heroin. Basically, you name it. By eighth grade he had an arrest record.

Think it couldn’t happen here in childhood’s incubation chamber? Rob Reid grew up with one foot in Fort Worth and one foot in Plano. Like a lot of kids he was shuttling back and forth between his divorced parents.

“I wanted to get into trouble,” he said. “I wasn’t running from abuse or anything. That’s kind of the problem, I grew up in a town very much like Flower Mound, with upper- middle class families, and drugs were just as prevalent or more so as they were across the tracks.”

One could lay the finger of blame at the divorce or suburban boredom or even a culture of instant gratification—Reid mentions some of them, but points to none of them.

From Flower Mound Officer Steve Caldwell’s perspective, peer pressure is the problem. “Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time it’s going to have to do with who they’re hanging with.”

After eight treatment centers failed to help him cure his addiction and with a lengthening arrest record that included possession charges and driving-while-intoxicated, by the age of 20, Reid’s rope was thinning, frayed and he was holding on with one hand.

And then he found Isaiah.



Blogger David N. Scott said...

I'd have to say that there is a useful distinction between practicing and non-practicing Christians, if nothing else as a practical matter to deal with selection biases (people tending to report Christian due to thinking it socially acceptable despite having no attachments to it).

That said, there's a pretty murky middle. For instance, plenty of Christians don't make it to church as often as they w/c/should, and plenty of atheists can understand the (American Evangelical) Gospel.

The Boo's probably going to grow up more fundamentalist than me, due to her going to a Christian school. But it's a great school on almost any axis and kids need values and support and having only one the Boo, we can afford it.

So... semi-related.

10:51 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

Nancy, a very thoughtful post.

In the end, if its not happening in the in the heart and soul and mind of the parents, the Christian school isn't going to cut it. Kids hit a certain age and the hypocrisy or indifference or lip service of parents will always win out. Getting the cart before the horse and all that...

2:23 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I think this post pricks the surface of some deep discussion, so I would not call it thoughtful, but as it has elicited a lot of smart comments, I would call it thought provoking.

I'm persuaded to your way of thinking that strong parenting, whether religious or not, makes the difference.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

I'm not sure I call it strong parenting....more like 'putting your money where your mouth' parenting. Evidence what you espouse and respect comes. Live a 'do as I say, not as I do' parenting and you get what you ask for.

But I do believe that God anchors His own and keeps families in tact, moored, and supported when the inevitable trials of life come slamming you in the heart. And they will come.

8:19 PM  
Blogger David N. Scott said...

In the end, if its not happening in the in the heart and soul and mind of the parents, the Christian school isn't going to cut it. Kids hit a certain age and the hypocrisy or indifference or lip service of parents will always win out. Getting the cart before the horse and all that...

I'm not sure if this was aimed at me or not. But, as I was the only one to mention a school, I suppose it may well be.

If so, you're being a little presumptious, I think. When I saw the Boo will be more fundamentalist than I will, I mean that theologically as, contrary to the belief of many of its adherents, American fundamentalist Christianity is a brand of Christianity like any other one, and has its own unique benefits and flaws.

Julie and take our faith very seriously and do, in fact, regularly attend church (Though I've had trouble since starting my new job. Been absolutely exhausted all weekend. But I'm working on that).

2:14 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I'm not sure I call it strong parenting....more like 'putting your money where your mouth' parenting.

That's pretty much what I meant.


Julie and take our faith very seriously and do, in fact, regularly attend church

I can't speak for Dana, but I know that you do, and I'm sorry that your work life is encroaching on that.

7:16 AM  
Blogger Dana said...

Hi David,

No, I wasn't directing it at you. I was looking at my own parenting with hindsight as I'm now with the youngest being 18.

I do think, however, there is a general truth in that children hit a certain age and the words of their parents matter less than the actions of the parents.

And I do think that Christian schools can't and shoudn't be expected to do the job of parents training their children up in the way the should go.

I hope that adds a little clarity to what I was saying earlier.

4:37 PM  
Blogger gcotharn said...

I love skimming through your blog.

First, I think you are dead on that moral people are attracted to your morality.

Second, it's a funny quirky circumstance that my extended family has an unfair bias against the Lutheran Church, b/c a Lutheran Minister murdered our cousin almost 25 years ago. My unconscious reaction upon reading your post: "Oh God! Don't join the Lutherans!" I must say, though, I'm charmed by their approach to reaching out. Very nice.

Third, as I get well into middle age, I notice a longing to focus more and more on eternal things: courage, love, wisdom, grace, forgiveness, et al. God is focused on eternal things. I am created in His image.

Fourth: church is both an opportunity to do good and contribute in your community, and a form of insurance against catastrophe.

Four years ago, my sister in law was paralyzed in an auto accident. She and my brother were heavily involved with their church. Their church has stepped up in every possible way: financial, manpower, technical expertise - even political. When my sister's school district refused to allow her to return to teaching, church members put behind the scenes pressure on the school district, which soon caved and returned my sister in law to her classroom.

Our society and our communities could not thrive w/o churches. They are an important cog in our spiritual and societal success.

6:12 PM  
Blogger David N. Scott said...

No, I wasn't directing it at you. I was looking at my own parenting with hindsight as I'm now with the youngest being 18.

I kinda didn't think so. But, honestly, I'm feeling a little defensive on the religious front lately due to difficulties making it to church (this week I had to work on Sunday! I feel really bad about it).

6:47 PM  
Anonymous Vivian Louise said...

Schweet! I love these conversations, even if I come to them late.

Understanding the "American Evangelical Gospel" is something that can't be that difficult. But is it really The Gospel, as presented by the four Gospel, and the entirety of scripture? I wonder. Often, I just don't think so. There is nothing wishy-washy about Jesus, the one in scripture. But the cow-eyed white guy represented by the Name-it-and-claim-it heresy, yep, he's a washout.

Nancy, I love the way that church reached out to you.

11:38 AM  
Anonymous AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI said...

Gospel!? Ethics!? Morals!? You make me laugh infidels!!! Ha ... ha ha ... ha ha ha!!!

3:21 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

DNS, these things happen... worship w/Boo & Julie, read a Psalm, pray for each other. He's in the midst of that too.

My kids still remember being small when we would have those golden moments at home and they would sing 'hums' because they kept forgetting they were called hymns. Those were the best times.

p.s. Vivian Louise, and we know not only is He not wishy-washy, he's also not the Malibu surfer babe leaving His footprints in the sand. Ack.

7:04 PM  
Anonymous Vivian Louise said...

Extra Ack! Dana. Gah, that's just not a God I could serve. What's the point of being Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Creator if you are also a wimp?

7:38 AM  
Blogger phammonds said...

Rob spoke at our church on Sunday. He had written a book about his struggle with addiction and in just five short minutes convinced me he had a story to tell. I'm glad he shared it with you. His life parallels my nephew's--in and out of rehab, jail at times but sadly he still can't seem to get his life together.

The preacher at our former church had a sermon titled: "I had these friends," which was pretty much the opening line of every person's sad story he had ever heard through ministering. It really hit home since we have two teenage boys, and we've talked about the power of getting sucked into doing something because everyone else is. I guess I was fortunate to have wonderful friends--and I still do.

If you are considering visiting a church, I'd love for you to come to ours. I think you'd love it!

10:46 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Regarding religion: I find your "ethical" statement interesting. Part of why I tell very very few people that I'm effectively an atheist (I'd probably call myself an atheistically inclined agnostic) is because the few times I have, someone is always utterly shocked that I can be ethical without a religious belief system.

Regarding church: I don't know that we actually will, but Chad and I like the idea of officially joining the Unitarian Universalist Church when we start a family. The idea is to give our future children a spiritual community that they can always feel free to go to for support, but we choose that particular spiritual community because it will allow them to explore various beliefs and focuses on doing good for the sake of doing good. I think both things are important for kids, though I don't necessarily think that always has to come from a church.

Regarding Rob: Though I never reached the point of doing things like heroin, his young self sounds very much my my young self. I'd even say my experimentation had a lot to do with looking for an identity, as well. Everything in my life was "normal," but I was just drawn to drugs and trouble as a very young teen.

Though it wasn't religion that got me out of it. It was being forced to step back a bit from that scene (when I got into MAJOR trouble with my parents) and given the opportunity to mature enough to see that heavy drug use is S-T-U-P-I-D and full of danger. Of course, it can take far more for addicts and others fallen further down the spiral.

11:30 AM  

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