Speaking from the perspective of a Christian, it can be pretty scary sometimes when speaking with someone that is quite open about their disbelief in God. That person may even hold a view that is vehemently anti-religion entirely. While some folks would be pretty anxious about this situation, Matt shares his thoughts on why he treasures being around those that hold different beliefs than he does.
I have had the incredible opportunity, through playing music and touring, to travel the world a little, and travel the United States a lot. Like, seriously, a lot. I’ve played over a thousand shows, in every state except Wyoming, and am probably approaching 1 million miles of US interstate traversed. Yeah, that’s a lot of truck stop toilet experience. The most valuable thing about this travel has been the amount of people, and more specifically the diversity of people, that I have encountered.
Over the last 10 years, I have directly observed and interacted with an increasing amount of people who plainly, publicly, and intensely espouse a position that is anti-God or anti-religion entirely, both in person and online.
I am GLAD this is the case.
I am glad for a few reasons. First, I am not worried when I hear that less people believe in God these days. I don’t even think that is true. Rather, more people are willing to own up to the fact that they do not believe in God, so it only seems like there are more atheists and agnostics around. And because of their heightened willingness to be transparent, we can actually have more interesting dialogue between groups, which is a good thing.
It’s up to you and me to be engaging so that people seeking truth can have some help finding it. I find that nominal, passive “Christians” are probably less likely to encounter the real Jesus than a truth-seeking atheist. Additionally weeding out the true believers from the nominal will hopefully help lessen the perception of hypocrisy in Christianity, although even true believers are not immune from hypocrisy, me included.
Second, I am simply glad that people are comfortable enough with ME to be honest and real. While they almost certainly know where I stand, they are able to say directly AND POLITELYthat they totally disagree with the most important thing that I care about. This polite approach occurs in person at least, but online…not so much. I think this is worth cultivating as a person; to be someone that is welcoming of other people’s views, especially ones that are opposed to your own. You will learn a lot this way, and better serve others. I believe Jesus had this particular quality. I do not think he was a crafty wordsmith, skilled in the art of shut down with a need to prove himself right.
Third, I am always glad when diverse people are interacting at all. This is something that 10 years ago was much less common in the music scene. I know this is the trend in other areas of culture as well. This is a good and interesting thing, and sometimes a highly entertaining thing. It is typical now at an Emery show to meet a 16 year old girl who thanks me for being “a hero for Christ”, and the drunk aggro-metal guy behind her is trying to high-five me and tell me that “Emery F%#&*!& rocks!!” This gets even more bizarre at living room shows. Christian bands used to only play with Christian bands and have Christian fans. Same is true for straight edge, and many other genre/movements (I do imagine white power bands to be the exception as I’m pretty sure they are still a very sectioned off group).
Christians: It is great to be around like-minded people, but if you want your cause to grow and affect others, then you need to be able to find things you have in common with OTHER types of people and genuinely allow yourself to interact with them. If you only keep within your own camp, then something is wrong. You are either afraid of the world, or, selfishly, just participate in the little club you are in because of how IT serves YOU. You may want to reflect on the following questions.
Are you concerned that someone may say of you, “He can’t be a Christian. Look at with whom he associates. Look who he treats with dignity, respect, and love.” They said this about Jesus.
The Bible says be salt of the earth and light to the world, “earth” and “world,” meaning the unredeemed aspects of existence. Are you doing this?
Non-Christians: Thank you for being willing to interact with us. We know we can be dorky, mean, and sometimes pretty rude to you. We know we are not better than you are, and most of us simply want to share something awesome with you. We are just kind of bad at it. I do ask that you give credit and be open to what Christians think, as well. There are many people far smarter than any of us that truly hold beliefs that you may regard as stupid. It will not serve you well to be closed-minded to the possibilities of things that you say are unprovable. You too are subject to many biases of culture and upbringing that lead to potential delusion.
Are you open to the possibility that you could be wrong about Christianity? If not, would you have to label yourself somewhat closed-minded in the same way you label Christians?
Do you safely dismiss Christianity on the basis of its followers’ imperfections, hypocrisy, short-comings, and ignorance? Or, do you take into consideration that folks like you are also imperfect, hypocritical, and ignorant about many matters, and therefore these failures can’t be used as counter-evidence against people of faith?