I was too young to remember all the details, but dad invited an atheist to speak at the church. Pretty gutsy move as this was in a small town in the Dakotas in the late 1960’s. It attracted newspaper coverage and pretty sure it attracted some harsh criticism. Again, I don’t know remember many specifics but remember hearing things around the edges.
Years later I had graduated from high school and my parents were assigned to move to Sioux Falls. I asked if I could stay in Aberdeen to work for the summer and then I’d be off to college. I lived with my best friend who happened to be Jewish. The family kept Kosher in the home and they still hold Sabbath services in their synagogue when in town. I spent Passover meals with them, learned about other Jewish holidays, and they patiently answered my questions about Jewish tradition.
Recently, I asked dad why he invited an atheist to speak and what happened after. Dad said he was doing a series on difficult issues in the church. He said actually the church members were mostly supportive. They looked on it as a perspective and a way to sort out what was important to their own faith. However, a church in another state put together a petition for dad to have his clergy credentials revoked and dad said he probably wouldn’t do that again.
Isn’t it a shame that we’re afraid to confront questions about our faith?
Looking back, the summer with the Jewish family helped me more than any other event – more than any pastor, church, or class – to sort out where Jesus fit into my faith. It made me realize that Jesus WAS important to my faith and that is important to me. And I got to that point because I questioned my faith.
One of the members of dad’s congregation said after the fallout, “If we can’t handle a couple atheists in our own den, how weak is our faith?” Yep.
(Blog Photo courtesy of Rev. Rick Pittenger)
LOVE IT! When I went to college to play football (and kind of get an education!!! HA!!) – I was from a SMALL town in SoDak with Methodists and Lutherns – a good friend who I met at school was Jewish! I asked him about his faith once – and if he believed in Jesus and if he was “real”. He responded – “That’s like asking if I believe in Knute Rockne!” It opened up conversations, communication and a bonding friendship!! Able to see that through our differences, we can find common ground!
Many memories and thoughts from today’s blog. I remember peeking in the living room to see the “strange” people. While initially I was scared and uncertain, I discovered they were regular people. I have never lived where Jews were a large share of the population, yet throughout my life there have been Jewish people that have been important to me. Faith, my faith, their faith, non-faith, semi-faith — it matters, it changes things — and we remain people, humans. The mix of life can help us; we don’t have to try and cleanse it.