Christians’ actions should combat atheism

Shaefer Bagwell argues for more action on the part of Christians to more effectively combat atheism.

Shaefer Bagwell, Writer

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. This is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable,” said Brennan Manning, a Franciscan monk, in a documentary called “Posers, Fakers, and Wannabes.”

These are familiar quotations. I, like most contemporary Christians, have heard them many times before. They never fail to evoke a curious mixture of guilt and self-righteous indignation in my heart.

It is popular to rail against Christianity. Lord knows, Christians have given the rest of the world enough to rail about. Christians have been behind thousands of years of religious and social repression. We have been complicit in global atrocities. The modern church is rife with well-publicized hypocrisy. Yet, you and I know that not all Christians are like that. You and I know Christians who are holy, loving, generous and compassionate servants.

Lack of blessing in Christian communities

But let’s be honest. You and I, as Biola students, are surrounded by these Christians everyday. We see them among our friends, our peers and our teachers. We are extraordinarily blessed to be in a community where we are immersed in the love of Christ on a daily basis.

Here’s the problem. Why isn’t everyone as blessed as we are? I’m not asking why there aren’t thousands of Christians in every community. This is America. There are thousands of Christians in every community.

So why does our church have the reputation it does? Why do the attacks against Christianity ring true with millions of nonbelievers? Why is it even plausible for someone to write a book entitled “God is Not Great,” and for enough Americans to agree with that basic premise that the book becomes a bestseller?

Living out our faith is key

The answer lies in the way contemporary American Christians live out our faith. The divorce rate in the American Christian community is just as high as in any secular community, if not higher. There is crime among Christians, even in a community as exclusively Christian as Biola. There is thievery and deceit and prejudice. Why?

I think its because we aren’t stirring ourselves to live godly lives. Joanne Jung, a biblical studies professor, uses the analogy of chocolate milk. Sitting in her biblical interpretation class and looking inward at my own walk with God, I realized that I — even as someone who has been raised in a Christian household and community, as someone who has been walking with God for as long as I can remember — am not stirred chocolate milk. I am a tall glass of plain milk with a pile of chocolate syrup on the bottom. I realized that I had been expecting my glass to stir itself. I was assuming, if I think about it enough and pray about it enough, the spoon will begin to move on its own, without any work on my part.

But that’s not enough. We have to act. We have to move, on our own volition, to stir the Holy Spirit in our lives, and to live out our faith. I bet that, were the Christian community to act together, to live as the church lived in Acts, it would make a difference. If we all became stirred chocolate milk, things would change. Christians wouldn’t be a cause of atheism at all. We would, as we should, be the ones fighting most ardently against it.

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