On Friday night I spent my third time volunteering with Friday Night Stories, a ministry that comes from Second Stories. I’ve mentioned the program before in this blog and how sharing hot dogs with strangers on the corner of 82nd and Powell is so very far from my comfort zones in a classroom or nursery. This week was the first time that I lost all track of time and just talked with some people. It just felt like someone’s front yard rather than a strange intersection.
The one who made the greatest impression on me that night was Travis, a recent transplant from New York City. The discussion was about religion and tattoos, which made a lot os sense since he is in the process of having his left arm inked with some of the atrocities of the Catholic Church. You see Travis is a Militant Atheist, which he explained means if there is ever a religious war he is prepared to pick up a gun. Happily he is not going to start said war, just join in if necessary. I mentioned at one point in the night that one of those guns would have to be pointed at me, but again happily he has bigger and worse fish to fry first and doubted he would have enough bullets to get to me. What a strange comfort. Throughout the conversation I found myself agreeing so much with his comments about the hypocrisy that is present in religion and how often God is used to defend bloodshed. What I could not manage to say loud or clear enough is that those leaders, the nazis, the bad popes, the racists, the televangelists, do not speak for the masses of this faith. I cannot say I hate these individuals with the same passion as Travis, but I do not claim the same view of God that they do. He said that he took great comfort in knowing there is no God because he would not want to go to “their” heaven. I wasn’t sure how to explain that those individuals he hates probably aren’t going to be there to get in his way.
At one point his friend declared that religion, any religion, is simply the greatest crutch mankind ever created. The conversation veered off quickly, but I mulled over this metaphor throughout the rest of the night and how correct it is. Religion, or rather God is a crutch. But why does a person use a literal crutch? Because they cannot stand on their own. Because something is broken, either permanently or enough that it needs time to heal. Sin is a permanently broken leg that means I cannot stand alone. I need something / someone to help me walk straight and move forward. Yesterday morning I completed a quarter marathon in upper 60s temperature, which felt like low 80s by the time I was done. Once I crossed that finish line I received a charm necklace to celebrate which was all nice and good. Then a teen offered a bottle of water…YES YES YES. I was at the end of my strength, my power, and my will. I needed this liquid crutch to make it another step, let alone the 20 stairs I had to climb to get out of the arena and back to my car. I did not create the crutch, but I will depend on it with my life.
One last thought before I hit send, I wonder how Travis would react if I called myself a Militant Christian? I wonder how I would act if I actually viewed myself that way? What would it mean to have a militant faith?