9/11/12 Jake, 21
A young man skillfully skateboarded through Chicago's busy downtown traffic and sat down to rest on the sidewalk ahead of me. He looked like he might have some time to talk, so I asked about his spiritual beliefs. Jake, 21, believes that the Bible and other religious books should only be read figuratively, to the point that, for example, he believes Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, and other religious leaders are all one and the same, that the Bible is just a result of centuries of exaggeration and distortion, and that the Tree of Life in Genesis represents cannabis, which conveniently supports his recent discovery of the pleasures of pot smoking. Jake told me he grew up in a strong Christian family, attending a non-denominational Bible Church. I asked when he had veered away from his families' beliefs. "I was just as zealous about my faith as my parents until about a year ago, when I had an atheist girlfriend. She got me questioning my beliefs, and there were a lot of questions I couldn't answer. Then I started experimenting with pot, and it was like it expanded my mind to all sorts of other questions I had never thought of before." Jake viewed his parents as deeply faithful Christians, so I asked "Have you ever seen your parents sharing their faith with anyone besides yourself and people they know at church?" "You know, I really haven't..." he said. "...and I thought that's what Christianity was supposed to be about!" Could it be that since your parents haven't been sharing their faith with others, they weren't aware of or didn't see any need to prepare you for the challenges to your faith that you would face from the world?" Jake's response was like I had really hit the nail on the head, and that the problem was prevalent in the whole church. I acknowledged the failures of our churches, telling him that "Too often our Sunday gatherings are like a team gathered around its quarterback in a huddle. He gives them plays straight from the playbook and an inspiring motivational speech, they give him great praise in return, they break with a resounding "Let's go!" - and then they do go - to the water cooler, the sidelines, the far end of the field, anywhere but the front lines. The quarterback gets sacked and they wonder what went wrong!" Jake and I talked about several other things including the love and justice of the Gospel, but I think it was my honest appraisal of his church experiences that helped him to see he has missed out on much of what biblical Christianity is all about, and that this has left him unable to defend what faith he did have. He thanked me for talking to him. "This is what its all about -you're doing what you are supposed to be doing!" I appreciated his compliment, but I still hope he listened.