I have been thinking for some time about atheism. Not about its legitimacy as a worldview, to be certain; most thinking Christians agree with C.S. Lewis that it turns out to be too simple. No, I have been wondering about the fact that it is a fundamentally negative word.
That is, the word atheism literally means Nope. It is broken down this way: “a=no/without” and “theos=God,” therefore atheism means “no God.” It is the same way with agnosticism: “a=no” and “gnotos=knowledge,” so agnostics believe in “no knowledge.” Both atheism and agnosticism are what we call antitheses: they cannot explain what they believe, so they can only define themselves by what they oppose.
Why is this significant? At first, I didn’t know the answer. Not until I listened to a Christian song with one cathartically disturbing line: cathartic because it’s something we need to hear, and disturbing because we have to hear it at all.
Nobody knows what we’re for, only what we’re against,
When we judge the wounded,
But if we put down our signs, crossed over the lines,
And loved like You did…
Somehow, these words from Casting Crowns become more poignant when you look at the different reactions of people to disaster. Every time something horrible makes the news, I watch millions of tiny explosions on social media. You have seen what I mean: people play the blame-game. Everyone fixes on their favorite scapegoat and then hashtags the thing to death. Think about it; by merely using the word “colors” in the title of this post, whether or not people actually read it, I am at risk for being labeled a racist, a homophobe, a jingoist, or a crayola salesperson, depending on a person’s individual bias.
Yes, and Christians are not blameless in this case. It’s sometimes hard to tell the church apart from the social clubs and political parties when people see us throwing mud pies at the people whom we should be helping out of the mire. That’s what the song is saying. Our worldview of original sin and divine sovereignty is naturally offensive- albeit for the right reasons- but when we act like Pharisees on Twitter, we offend all the more. We sit there playing at Chief Justice, as if making memes and trolling in all-capital letters will somehow undo the terrors of the most recent tragedy. Well, it won’t.
There is a time for gracious, rational debate which comes after a season of grief, but it is never appropriate to throw firebrands, arrows, and death in the aftermath of trouble. We can point fingers at the results of the problem all we like, and we can even fix legitimate blame, but that will never wipe out the underlying issue of sin.
Again I turn to C.S. Lewis, who pointed this out:
We must show our Christian colors if we are to be true to Jesus Christ.
True to Jesus Christ. That is all. We are not atheists, agnostics, or any other kind of antithesis. We’re pro-Christ, and nothing less.
Our problem is one of hypocrisy- that is, pride. We as Christians know with our minds and sometimes even with our hearts that we have no hope without God. We didn’t save ourselves or get to this “moral high ground” on our own; we have been saved by grace through faith. Without God, we would be just like the rest of the muddy world. And yet, when it comes to dealing with trouble, we pretend that we are the saviors with all the answers; come and beg us for salvation, O ye sinful people of squalor.
This is contradictory to our faith. We are lights to the world because of Jesus’ work and in spite of our own. If I can be so pretentious as to quote one of my own characters in Son of Ren: “Everything you have was given to you- and are you proud of it all?”
If you’re an unbeliever reading this, I want to take a moment and apologize to you on behalf of the church. Like the stories in the Bible, Christianity- that is, real Christianity, not empty social religion- is filled with messed-up people who try our best to live like Jesus. But, being human, we often fail. I’m sorry for the bad experiences you’ve had with Christians who tripped up, and I hope you’ll look past our mistakes to see Christ at work in the mess.
And, Christian friends, if you think about it, our human colors are filthy, ugly things. Jesus saw the best of our actions as dirty rags trying to clean up an even dirtier mess. This world does not need yet another shade of grey, no matter how “Christian” it looks compared to the other fifty shades. The world needs the pure white of Jesus; that is the only way we can tell that grey is grey.
If we let Jesus live through us, if we learn to see the world as He does, if we start to actually do what Jesus would do, then maybe the world could see our Christian colors. Christians are, by nature, a people set apart from the world. That often means that we have to be the grown-ups in a childish society, and the only way we can do that is by looking at the most grown-up person who ever lived.
This applies significantly to the teenage girl Christians. Adults are looking more and more to millenials for their opinions: the media is crafted to attract us and our male peers, the internet has ads designed to make our demographic click them, and even some parents look to their teenage kids to see what is and isn’t “cool.” And of course, third-wave feminism (another subject entirely) affords us ladies a special stage that guys don’t have right now. The situation has become a great asset to us. People listen to teen girls because they consider our ideas to be relevant.
And people are desperately crying out for some new ideas. You don’t usually hear those cries because the teenagers of the sixties left a louder echo; but you can see it beneath the surface, erupting in the latest conflicts and chaos. They need a new color entirely.
So start showing your Christian colors. It can be the easiest things: refusing to join the blame-games on Twitter, emailing a friend and asking how they are, praying for those who persecute you. Time to put down those signs, cross the lines, and love like Jesus would do.