Virtual Voices

To hell with the wishy-washy

Religion

I had dinner not long ago with two agnostic friends, Melissa and Neal (not their real names), who are engaged to one another. They are more educated about our dogma than the average Christian, and more faith-friendly than a good many "religious" folks. You can speak from your heart about what your faith means without getting the awkward silence you might expect from the church-as-social-club types many of us know.

They are both open and searching, I suppose, as many of us are. Neal explained that while he is undecided about the content of Christian dogma, he believes there is a God, and he feels himself moving toward Catholicism. We had a good talk about various strains of Christianity. In the midst of our conversation, Melissa turned to Neal and announced, "You'd better become Catholic or Orthodox or something serious, or else stay agnostic. I'll divorce you if you become a Unitarian."

Neal and I were taken aback, but we shouldn't have been, knowing Melissa. She wants a man who will be either cold or hot, who will decide not to embrace God or who will commit himself to the entire Christian faith, and not just pick and choose portions that scratch an itch. Whether her opinion of Unitarianism is fair is another matter; it seems we can find unserious, ill-educated, uncommitted Christians in any church.

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I respect Melissa's sentiment, and I suspect it goes to the heart of not only American Christianity, but also Western gender relations. Too many men have stopped being men, and a good many women are sick of it. I don't have to work hard to imagine what she thinks of Gene Robinson, who hasn't even the wherewithal to play Christian bishop when he stands in that capacity to pray at an inauguration event.

Arrogant fool that I am, I went away from dinner thinking that Neal got himself a good lesson from his future bride. It only struck me later that Melissa's allusion to Revelation 3:16 applies equally well to me, to all of us. We shouldn't confuse them, of course-she wants Neal to commit one way or another, whereas the Laodicean church was likened to hot mineral water (there were hot springs near the city) that is allowed to cool and turn undrinkable. Be either cool and refreshing, was the warning, or steaming hot for bathing. But commit to the Lord, period.

While Melissa allows for an agnosticism that Christ does not, they are in agreement about the repugnancy of lukewarmness. We should be loving, yes, and tolerant, and confident enough to debate doctrine, but there's no room in heaven, it seems-or at the altar with Melissa-for a wishy-washy man.

"But if it does not please you to serve the Lord," Joshua admonished the Israelites, "choose gods for yourselves today whom you will serve." The Israelites had a panoply of demons posing as gods from which to choose, whereas today we have lesser gods, like intellect, entertainment, wealth, security, grievance, and adoration. We latch on to them, even many professing Christians, because we forget how the lukewarm will be vomited out. "I came to send fire on the earth," Christ said. Don't cling to what can't endure the refiner's fire. Choose this day whom you will serve.

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