Famous Christians and Me

rob bell heretic famous christian

I’ve read a lot of religious books.

Specifically, I’ve read a lot of Christian books. (Can a book really be Christian? When did it convert?)

When I think of the authors of these books, I think of what faithful, interesting lives they lead. In order to write about God, I tell myself, you have to first be walking with God, talking with God, hearing him call you his own.

So as I sit here on the third floor loft of this 115 year old Michigan home, watching the wind whip snow through the street, I wonder how I could ever write about God. I don’t tour the country like Rob Bell, teaching people about how everything is spiritual. I haven’t sold a million copies of books like Lauren Winner. I don’t give away 90% of my income like Rick Warren.

In a sense I know this is OK. It’s unhealthy to compare yourself to others; everyone has their own thing, their own unique ministry and individual life. I know better than to get into the comparing game because even if I win, I lose.

But I can’t help but wonder about the seemingly large gap between myself and these other people. Perhaps it’s my grass-is-greener mentality coming through.

I’m looking out my window at a tree, an Indian restaurant, an ATM, a coffee shop. Where is God? Shouldn’t I be talking to him? Shouldn’t I be listening to him? Shouldn’t I go into the neighborhood and talk to people about the love of God?

Can I know God, worship God, have a meaningful life, a meaningful evening, a divinely-soaked experience here and now? In this ordinary life?

God is Silent and He is There

There were some weeks when I was not a Christian because I felt so intimate with God.  There were weeks when I was a Christian because our tradition invites us to remember that sometimes God is hidden.  And even though God is hidden, God is still present.  
–Lauren Winner

silence

“That’s not why I believe in God, Jamie – for that reason.  That’s not why I believe in him,” Jordan said, sitting on a tree stump and looking straight ahead.“Then why, Jordan?” Jamie said, raising his voice a little but still within a conversational tone.  “I don’t understand you.  I try to but I just don’t.  We’ve known each other since we were little.  We’ve done everything together.  Now here were are all grown up, able to make big decisions on our own.  And you still believe that Sunday School stuff.  I don’t get you, man.” 

Jordan smiled.  “A lot of times I don’t get me, either, Jamie.”  He thought for a few moments.  “You talked about God’s silence, how he’s never there when you try to talk to him…”

“Yeah.”

“And there doesn’t seem to be scientific proof that he exists.”

“Right.”

“But that’s not why I believe in him – those reasons.  I’m totally with you on a lot of what you’re saying.  Do you know how many times I’ve asked God to speak to me and he hasn’t?” Jamie gave a slight shake of the head as if he was interested in the answer but not too interested.

“Thousands,” Jordan said confidently.  “Thousands.  Do you know how many times I’ve actually heard God?”

“God talks to you?”

No,” Jordan responded immediately, “That’s just it – he doesn’t.  I’ve never heard God speak to me in my life.  I used to convince myself I did, because that’s what a good Christian does.  There have been times in my life when I tried so hard to hear him speak, but guess what?  Nothing.”

“That’s ridiculous.  You’re crazy.  Stupid, actually,” Jamie said matter-of-factly.  “And you still believe he’s out there.  He doesn’t speak, there’s no evidence of him, and you still think he’s there.  It’s literally unbelievable to me, Jordan.”

“I hear ya, man.  I really do.  And I think I might depart from what a lot of the pastors and scientists would tell you, but I honestly don’t give a rat’s excrement instrument.  I decided a short while ago that I’m not going to give the formulaic answer that I thought I was supposed to give all these years.  I’m just going to tell you what’s actually been happening to me, and you can take it for what it is.”

Jamie’s interest was piqued.  He hadn’t heard Jordan talk this seriously in a long time.

“I don’t hear God.  I don’t see God.  All the Evidence that Demands a Verdict-type books that scholars can write don’t do much for me.  I’ve read them.  Frankly I don’t care if you can or can’t prove God’s existence with a philosophical argument or with scientific data or a steady diet of positive music for the whole family.  As time goes on, Jamie, the reality of God being there – just being there – gets thicker and thicker.  His silence is deafening to me.  In a crazy, possibly sick sort of way, the longer God is silent, the louder he becomes.  Have you ever been around someone that doesn’t talk a whole lot, but when they do it’s pretty profound?”

“My dad, actually,” Jamie confessed.

“It’s almost like the wiser the person is, the less they speak.  It’s like he lets everybody’s words leave their mouths and even though he knows they’re just babbling about nothing and if they could actually hear themselves they would be embarrassed, but he doesn’t say anything.  He lets them keep talking.  And slowly some people start to realize, just because this wise person is in their presence, that their words are pretty insignificant.  The wise person’s silence becomes more and more evident.  I think it’s like that with God.  For me it is, anyway.  The longer I live in this world the louder his silence becomes.  I’m getting to the point where God’s silence is so much an evidence that he’s there, I forget that other people don’t think that same way.”

“You’re nuts, Jordan.”

“My point exactly.  But I told you I couldn’t give you the answer I’ve been trained to give you.  I can’t do it.  Mostly because I actually don’t believe it – the formula answers.  They’re not real to me.  What’s real to me is that God’s silence often overwhelms me.  The air around me is so thick with him that all these debates on whether or not he is or isn’t there seem like taking 10 steps back.  Wait, we’re still asking if he’s even there?  To me it’s like saying, ‘This tennis ball in my hand is a tennis ball,’ and a Ph.D guy says, ‘No it’s not.’  Uhhh…alright, you guys keep talking, I’m gonna go play with the dog or something.”

“You’re nuts but you’re funny.”

“Thanks for that, anyway.  You’re as stupid as I am, by the way,” Jordan joked.

“I know.  I know.”

A few hours later in his dark, quiet room, Jamie laid his head down on his pillow, and the silence was slightly louder than the night before.