Because of the rain my drive to the airport was murder, and, of course, the
flight was full. No, I couldnt change my seat assignment, said the unsmiling
gate agent. So I braced myself for a middle seat. With carry-ons I had zero leg
room, andwouldnt you know it?this wasnt even a deli flight.
I was fumbling with my seat belt and thinking how unfair life is when she
spoke to me.
Is your home in Atlanta or New Orleans? asked the woman whose aisle seat I
Business or pleasure?
Uh, oh, shes going to be a talker.
Business, I replied, thenanticipating the follow-up questionadded sweetly:
Im on my way to the annual Southern Baptist convention.
Turns out she was quite opinionated about the subjects of church, organized
religion, faith in general, and she launched in.
She once had been active in a congregation, singing in the choir and
teaching Vacation Bible School, but over time things went haywire. The minister
of music left his wife for the organist. Then the woman she was supposed to
co-teach VBS with just never showed up. The final straw was when a deacons son
and her son went on a partying binge, and yet the powers-that-be blamed her son
more than the other boy. She and the church parted company.
Today shed been to see her son, now grown and living in Orlando. It was a
sad tale. Hed lost his high-tech job, and his wife had moved out. Yes, the
couple belonged to a church, but, no, the members werent helping. In fact, they
were adding fuel to the fire by gossiping and taking sides.
All that was mild compared to what she told me next: Because of tropical
storm Allison, the bottom floor of her house in Baton Rouge was standing in 14
inches of water. Yet shed left that disaster to fly off and be with her
Suddenly, my cramped quarters and rain-soaked shoes didnt seem so
And what had she done when she got there? First and foremost, she prayed
with her son, then she cooked his favorite casserole (providing leftovers),
then she sat down at the kitchen table and helped him write a to-do list with
this at the top: Ask God for help.
I was a little surprised that she had such a God-centered approach after her
misfortunes, and I told her so. Her answer: Oh, its not God I have the problem
with. Hes in my heart all the time. Its churches and so-called Christians I
As the plane landed and we headed for baggage claim together, I told her I
wished she would try a different church, give another one a chance, then we
became separated in the crowd and she was lost in the blur. But not lost in my
mind and heart. Yet I never even learned her name.
Stories like hers fascinate me, not only as a journalist but as an on
mission Christian who is on the lookout for clues to our culture. Over the
years Ive collected comments from many nonbelievers and non-churchgoers Ive
Following are samples that may give you insight into the thinking of people
who dont accept Christ as Savior or who dont see church as necessary or
relevant. By listening
to what nonbelievers say about what keeps them from the faith, we will
identify some of the barriers that we and our churches can try to
Carolyn Curtis is editor of On Mission.
56, married, three kids, retired Navy captain, VirginiaI
know why they say there are no atheists in foxholes. When Im in deep trouble, I
do pray. But I just dont see the need to be involved in a church. We know lots
of fine people from our years in the Navy, and our neighbors are great. Plus, I
think we have a pretty good fix on right and wrong. I dont see the advantage to
going to church.
28, single father of two, taxi driver, District of
ColumbiaI dont like restrictions. I know if I went to church
they would tell me what I should do and what I shouldnt do, just like my
grandmom. I dont see many guys buying into it.
28, homemaker, two kids, MissouriI dont like hearing
that were bad. Every time Ive gone to church when were back in Illinois to
visit my parents, the preacher has talked about how sinful we are. I dont think
its a good message for the kids to hear. It plants negativism in their minds.
And, goodness knows, they get enough of that from society.
48, owns insurance agency, divorced, ArizonaI do believe
in God. Its Jesus I have a hard time understanding. I just dont get the part
about His death on the cross. If someone explained that to me once, then I
guess Ive forgotten. And, when I do visit a church, all I hear is He died for
your sins. What does that mean? Hey, I think I know what sin is, and when I do
it, I seem to wind up paying for it, one way or another. So I just dont quite
get the connection between my sins and a man dying on a cross. Maybe Im stupid.
But, Ill tell you, people at churches act like its so fundamental to their
faith that Id look like a jerk if I asked them to explain.
67, divorced, grandmother, retired from teaching,
ConnecticutI have a feeling that if I went to church I would
have to tell people about my past, and I did some things that I just dont want
to talk about. I admire people who can share those secrets with people, but I
would rather keep them to myself. Im not talking about being a murderer or
anything like that. But the circumstances of my divorce and the relationship I
have with one of my daughters might not pass the scrutiny of church people. I
dont want to be judged.
44, systems analyst, married, four sons, North CarolinaI
was raised in the South where I got a mixed message. On the one hand, being a
Christian was part of our culture. We went to church, but it seemed more like
the responsible thing to do, like keeping your grass mowed. On the other hand,
we were taughtespecially as malesto be strong and self-sufficient. This seemed
like the opposite of what I heard at church which was to trust a God I couldnt
even see and lean on Him for everything. I guess I just never got around to
resolving this conflict.
39, auto-mechanic, second marriage, two kids, TexasMy
wife is very religious and wants me to be. But I think what she calls faith is
just emotion. What she believes makes her feel good, makes her feel secure.
What makes me feel good and secure is working hard, taking care of my
35, manicurist, lives with boyfriend, AlbertaIve seen
supposedly Christian people do terrible things to each other. Some of the most
vicious things Ive ever heard of were done because people claimed God told them
to act that way. Im talking about narrow-minded attitudes and mean-spirited
31, married, no kids, computer technician, IowaId flown
into town on a Saturday in order to take advantage of a lower airfare. I was
staying in this hotel over the weekend preparing for a Monday morning meeting.
Wouldnt you know, the cable TV went out, so I picked up the Gideon Bible and
decided to read it. Some of it sounded good. But then I found inconsistencies.
Like, God gives Moses the 10 Commandments. One is Thou shalt not kill. Then
later He tells His followers to go and kill all these people! Whats that
51, sales manager, divorced, one daughter, FloridaIve
never been able to buy the idea that Jesus is the only way to heaven when I
know so many people of other religions who also believe in God. It makes no
sense to me that He doesnt love them in return. And, if He does, why wouldnt He
take them to heaven too?
44, married, two children, hotel management,
MississippiWe moved here from Nevada. My wife and I were both
raised as Jews but were not observant. I was worried about coming to the Bible
belt, but Ive found the people arent as pushy about religion as I expected.
Still, I sense a racial prejudice, and I think the churches foster it. They
seem to worship separately. If they cant tolerate a person of a different color
in their church, imagine what would happen if people like us walked in?
33, beautician, second marriage, no kids, WisconsinI
know so many Christians who have personal problems that it makes me wonder
whats the advantage to being one. I hear all this stuff from my customers.
Husbands who leave them. Parents who are mean. Kids who rebel. I dont see the
Part 6 of an occasional series on how to reach people who have no interest
in Christ or His church. Click here to view Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, or Part 5.
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