Embracing My Atheist

Recently I had coffee with another pastor. He shared how he had lost a few people because they were in a crisis of faith. I have experienced the same loss recently. People who were dedicated and devoted people of faith disappeared from our community because they had lost their faith. I said to my pastor friend, "It's mostly our fault you know!" He agreed. Abraham Heschel once said that the first commandment… to not have any other gods before me… is the first one because idolatry is the root of all the others. Calvin said our minds are factories working around the clock in the production of idols, and labyrinths of idolatrous thinking. The church is constantly setting up idols for people to believe in. Then when these idols, these small gods, don't deliver, and the people for good reason lose their faith in them, we blame the people for it. Some of the people I talk to who have lost their faith are still caught in the same trap. Once they were on the shiny side of the idol, believing in hope that it was true. Now they are simply on the smudgy side of the idol rejecting it as false. Been there. I have been a devout idolator as well as a backslidden one. Now, when someone says they're losing their faith or have lost it, I say, "Fine! Been there. Am there. Will be again. Let's walk this together." Mother Teresa, frequently enjoying communion with Jesus before she went to Calcutta, receiving her call and going there full of faith to fulfill her vocation, suddenly lost touch with Jesus and never heard from him again. We throw around "Dark Night of the Soul" when we've had a bad week. Try never sensing the Lord's presence ever again! I validate those who never sense God's presence. I see honor in rejecting gods. It takes nerve to topple idols and walk away from falsehood. It is fearless to detach oneself from people who cherish counterfeit and peddle snake oil. And I think it sometimes takes courage to be an atheist. I embrace atheists, for in many ways I am one myself.

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