When I was four, I wanted to be either an astronaut or Spider-man.
Gram (my loving, supercool grandmother) even made me a nifty hand-crafted Spidey outfit before I was in kindergarten. I think that, for at least a few months there, I actually believed that I was Spider-man.
I’m fairly certain that super hero and space explorer are not uncommon long-term goals to most four-year-old boys. For me, somewhere in the decade that followed my fifth birthday, I lost much of the desire for NASA membership. But I still hold out hope for that radioactive spider bite. A guy’s gotta have dreams, you know. Clearly, I have a pretty deep geek streak. It does have its limits, but it is pronounced. For example, I’ve been to many a comic book convention, but never dressed as a super-hero (not that I rule it out in the future, mind you). I’ve attended many a sci-fi convention, but I don’t know a word of Klingon (I definitely rule that out). I own practically every video game system known to man, but I’m not very good at playing any of ’em and, at this point, average about an hour every month or so of video gaming time.
Nearly three decades after Gram crafted that beaut of a Spidey suit, my nerdy inclination led me into a bona-fide, real life adventure. How perfect is that? Even when I was four, God was providentially working through Gram to prep me for hero duty.
An American Baptist at Starfleet
“I condemn false prophets, I condemn the effort to take away the power of rational decision, to drain people of their free will—and a hell of a lot of money in the bargain. Religions vary in their degree of idiocy, but I reject them all. For most people, religion is nothing more than a substitute for a malfunctioning brain.” ~ Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” ~ Psalm 53:1
In February of 2006, I decided to check out a local convention dedicated to addressing the interests of my fellow computer-game aficionados and Spidey wannabes. It was called VisionCon. I’d been to one of the VisionCons before moving to Seattle in the late ’90s. With this being the first winter following my return to the southwest Missouri area, it seemed like a happy sort of nostalgic trip down memory lane waiting to happen, so off I went.
While the blessings of fantasy and a capacity for vivid, creative imagination are some of the most wonderful gifts of God to man, the culture in which we live has corrupted them about as thoroughly as it has every other good thing entrusted to our care. So it is that one does not attend a sci-fi convention these days for the purpose of basking in the glow of its biblical fidelity.
The typical convention of this sort tends to be tilted a bit further away from Christianity than the general culture at large. New Age ideas permeate the atmosphere and the Forces of Tolerance are generally inclined and encouraged to enforce the party line.
This particular con—the first I’d been to in years—seemed to have ratcheted up the party atmosphere to a level approaching that associated with a sports or rock ‘n’ roll themed event. As I wandered around the hotel hosting the event, it was pretty clear that this was not your Aunt May’s sci-fi convention. The booze was flowing and the music was loud. There were more than a few drunken Klingons and stoned vampires stumbling around the halls.
After taking in the sights and sounds (and nothing else), I was about to head on home when I found myself happily hugging a long lost friend, who we’ll identify here as “Vince” (not his actual name, but the one I’ll be using here to identify him).
We spotted each other in the hallway at the same time and, before I really knew what was up, Vince was hugging away and I was hugging back. He was thrilled to see me and I was relieved that he was thrilled to see me, which, in an instant, made me thrilled to see him, too.
He and I had known each other a long time ago, and in what seemed to have been a galaxy far, far away. The last time we were what you could call close was well over a decade earlier, when he was still in high school and I was still a teenager, having returned from an Alaskan adventure. He had been raised in a fairly hedonistic atmosphere, and I don’t say that meanly. I always liked his mom, but she had embraced, for as long as I’d known her, a flamboyantly counter-Christian lifestyle.
Back in the day, the groups that we ran with would often gather at Vince’s house, in part because it was centrally located in the middle of town and partially because his mom was well-off financially and they had an in-ground swimming pool. We were always welcome there.
It wasn’t uncommon for there to be ten or more of us gathered there at once, and what made the whole thing even cooler to me at the time was the fact that these folks—people ranging in age from teenagers to thirty-somethings—were very much open to real conversation. I loved that. They could and would, for the most part, dive deep into any subject.
I didn’t mind at all that I was usually the token vocal Christian in the bunch. I liked it, actually. It was everything a wannabe super-hero Christian kid could hope for.
We really did tear up the subject matter back in those impromptu discussion sessions at Vince’s house. Most would participate, though there were many who mainly just looked on and laughed as we let our passions for the issues of the day run wild. Generally, I tended to be the squeaky wheel of opposition to the prevailing views in the room, but I didn’t mind. It was fun. It wasn’t uncommon for these poolside chats to center around the divergent opinions of me and one particular friend who was a cherished part of the group, a man we’ll call “Rob”.
Rob was a very bright and articulate guy. He was five or six years older than me and he absolutely loved a good debate. And if there was one thing he lived to oppose, it was biblical Christianity. I appreciated the fact that he was bold, open, and eager to advance his views almost as much as I enjoyed making every attempt to mercilessly pummel those views into oblivion. Rob was a blast!
He and I would tend to go at it and, maybe more than we should have, dominate these debates the longer that they went on. But it was all in good fun and, as intense as these things would get, we rarely, if ever, wrapped up one of these sessions personally angry with each other. That, in my opinion, qualifies these little get-togethers as nothing short of miraculous. Providentially so, you might even say. And apparently, I wasn’t alone in this assessment.
As Vince and I stood there happily smiling and reminiscing, and probably making fools of ourselves with the strange display we must have presented to the stormtroopers and werewolves passing by, he relayed to me how he had often looked back at those glory days of debate events hosted in his home, and how they had impacted him. The impact that he described to me centered on how, as a teenager, he had basically embraced every major expression that Rob had made in his presence during those formative years. Subsequently, he’d chosen some incredibly destructive paths in his young life. As if that wasn’t intense enough, Vince followed these remarkable revelations up with what was, for me, both a welcome and terrifying observation. He expressed to me there in the VisionCon hallway that, as he had in recent years frequently recalled and rethought those raging arguments between Rob and me, and all that had come his way in their wake, he had come to view Rob as the devil on his left shoulder, and me as the angel on the right.
I hoped that he was making some kind of joke. Spider-man I could cope with. But an angel? No way.
A Personal Invitation to the League of Spirituality
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. ~ 1 Peter 3:13–15
And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. ~ Mark 13:1
After hanging out a while longer, Vince insisted that I attend a get-together he was having at his place the following month. I was instantly flattered, honored and intrigued. His place was the same home that was the scene of all of those pitched philosophical battles of yesteryear, so I was not only honored that he would invite me, but excited by the nostalgic appeal of it all.
Apparently, this was a gathering that he hosted annually, bringing in friends from throughout the region for a whole weekend of socializing, sharing ideas, and playing games. The more I heard, the more serious—and seriously fun—the whole thing sounded. This was a pretty big deal, and I became anxious for April to roll around.
In the weeks leading up to the grand gathering, Vince sent out updates and messages to the gathering group’s email list, to which I’d been added. He graciously introduced me to the guys and gals in the group, and the more I pondered the situation, the more apparent it became that I was not only a long-lost, treasured blast from the past being happily introduced into a new circle of close friends, but I was also enthusiastically welcomed in that I would be filling a specific role in this group.
The informal club already had a wide variety of worldviews and religions represented through its membership, but doggonit if they just didn’t seem to have an actual, real, live Bible-believing Christian on the roster. So it was most fortuitous that I had re-emerged. Finally, the collection could be complete, with me filling the Christian chair at the annual spring gathering of this League of Spirituality.
Vince was happy. Everyone else was warm and welcoming. I could hardly wait. I only wished Rob could’ve been there.
An American Baptist in the Happy Land of Tolerance .
“Pluralists can only tolerate other pluralists.” ~ Ravi Zacharias
It was very good to see Vince’s home again.
My introduction to the rest of the weekend’s participants went well. They were all very nice, welcoming, and warm to me. Everyone was aware of where I was on the belief spectrum, for the most part, and they really were wonderful in their accommodation.
They never asked me if I wanted a sip of this or a drag of that. They knew better and they were respectful. I appreciate that even more as I tell this story now.
The afternoon was a hoot and the evening started well. We talked and played games, mostly. There was one huge table that we all gathered and sat around. Everyone seemed to be having a good time and, every now and again, there’d be some kind of heavier subject matter thrown around for consideration. It was only a tiny taste of what I’d remembered from so long ago at that same place, but I liked it.
The others seemed to as well. There were three other guys who did most of the chiming in on religious or spiritual or political things, and I was happy to jump in when the way was made open and the path was clear.
Yet as the conversations progressed, it became obvious that there was an increasing discomfort building after one person in particular would speak; that person being me.
Was I loud? Nope. I didn’t yell at anyone.
I joked around and laughed at most of the jokes told by others. I was a generally happy, smiley guy. The trouble was that if someone asked a question, I would answer it honestly and, to the best of my ability, accurately. Talk about a buzz kill.
The whole deal came to a head when one of the League members treated me to the whole “God on the mountaintop” illustration. “You see,” he said, “we may all be on different paths up the mountainside, but they all lead up to the same summit at the end of the day.” He smiled as he said it. I smiled too. Then I responded. And then he wasn’t smiling anymore.
When I said that all non-Christian paths do indeed lead to the same place, and that biblical Christianity alone led to another, the rest of the League of Spirituality seemed to immediately regret the notion of having a Christian chair on the panel.
All of a sudden, there was only one happy person in the room where just a moment before there had been many.
Their postmodern views simply could not tolerate anything about the core of my worldview. Any claim to exclusive, objective truth simply could not be accommodated by their peculiar brand of selective openness. Once my mouth was opened, however warmly or kindly my words may have been packaged, their presence alone made the uncomfortable truth of the League’s rank hypocrisy unavoidably clear. These folks weren’t tolerant at all.
But then, by definition, they never could be. You see, pluralists can only tolerate other pluralists. They can and do talk a good game about all of that peace, love and happiness stuff, but they absolutely, positively cannot suffer any of the core claims of biblical Christianity. They simply hate the stuff….as they must.
Jesus can be God for me. The Bible can be truth for me. Christianity can be the way for me. That much is fine. Moreover, it’ll qualify you for a prime position on the League of Spirituality discussion panel. All you have to do is change “Jesus is the truth” into “Jesus is a truth” and you’re in. It’ll be peachy keen. But should you insist that this Jesus, Bible, and Christianity are the objective truths by which to judge all people in all places at all times…well…the happy land of tolerance will plant its collective boot up against your backside and dropkick you straight out of their hypocritically intolerant little bubbleworld fantasyland. And pronto!
It matters not how nice you are; coddling ’em will never make enough of a difference. It matters not how respectful you are; there’s no compensating for the offense of an objective truth with teeth.
At the end of the day, if you clearly express fidelity to the universally applicable truth of Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior and Lord described in Scripture, you…are…outta there!
I knew all of this going in, so when Vince emailed me after the magical gathering of the tolerant to inform me that I made many of his other guests so uncomfortable that they’d not be attending next year if I was still in “the Christian chair,” I let him know that I understood completely, thanked him for the original invite and a wonderful, enlightening time. I told him that he didn’t have to worry or stress about any of it. I wished him well and happily moved along.
After all, that’s what tolerant guys do, right?
Let’s Get (and Be) Ready to Rumble!
The way of the Lord is a stronghold to those with integrity, but it destroys the wicked. ~ Proverbs 10:29 (NLT)
These are encounters for which all Christians should be prepared. They’re going to come our way, and with increasing frequency as the culture continues its descent into open warfare against the Lord we serve and with whom we are identified. When we understand this and prepare accordingly, we are equipped to glorify God in even these challenging circumstances and situations.
It all begins with recognition. We must have no illusion that biblical Christianity can or ever will be tolerated by any opposing perspective or system of belief. And remember: All non-Christian views are anti-Christian by definition (and this includes with a secular conservative flavor or spin as well as those with a secular liberal tint). There is no middle ground. The starkness of this truth is a blessing in that it allows us great clarity as to who is “on our side” and who is an active opponent. The answer is and always has been that only biblical Christians are allies and all others are opponents. The current climate of increasing hostility to truth should make this all the easier to recognize.
This is certainly a hard truth, but it is truth nonetheless. Embracing it is an essential first step in our preparation for the battles that we absolutely, positively will face so often in this life
Even many within the professing church will come to hate us as we clearly proclaim and exalt the undiluted truth of biblical Christianity. It should come as little surprise then that we would meet equally intense opposition from those more openly opposed to biblical Christianity from outside the church.
We will lose friendships.
We will be excluded.
We will be isolated.
We will be persecuted.
We will even lose that beautiful, comfortable, ornate “Christian chair” at the League of Spirituality, wherever and whenever it meets.
We will be hated by the world. That’s a promise. It’s not a maybe, could be, or possibly kind of thing; it’s a locked-in, absolute, incontrovertible fact of Christian life in this world.
The above post is adapted from a subsection of the book Fire Breathing Christians entitled The Forces of Tolerance are out to get you
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