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Crying out

"Crying out" Continued...

Issue: "The schools that Arne built," April 11, 2009

For example, even after my rationale for studying Russian was gone, I still needed to demonstrate for Ph.D. purposes my good reading knowledge of a language. One night in my room I picked up the only unread Russian language work in my bookcase, a copy of the New Testament given me as a travel souvenir and held onto simply because in those days I hoarded books. Reading the Gospels for the first time without punctuation by sneers, I started to wonder who Jesus really was. It helped that I needed to read slowly, thinking about the words, and frequently consulting a Russian-English dictionary.

God's "unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace": Assigned as a graduate assistant in 1974 to teach a course in early American literature, I had to prepare by reading . . . Puritan sermons, including those of Increase Mather and Jonathan Edwards. Those dead white males made sense to me. Some love Puritan arguments and others hate them, but my childhood prejudice that Christians were stupid people who worshipped Christmas trees was fading fast.

And even movies: The ones that stuck with me the most were Westerns directed by John Ford, Howard Hawks, Anthony Mann, Budd Boetticher, and other notables. In those films characters often stayed neutral for a while but finally had to take a stand. The process was embarrassingly slow in my case, but I was slowly starting to think in Christian terms. In a smaller aftershock of my break from Communism, I was also becoming a devotee of political liberty and free-market economics.

I was slow. In 1975, instead of visiting a church to find out what flesh-and-blood Christians believe, I started reading about Christianity in the University of Michigan library-and there headed down a rabbit trail with Gabriel Marcel and other Christian existentialists, as well as neo-orthodox theologians who said they had wedded Christ without much concern for whether the bridegroom actually existed. I had not left Communism merely to believe in pleasant myths. The question was and is truth: As the apostle Paul put it, "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. . . . If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied" (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).

To be continued . . .

Read other episodes in this multi-part biographical series.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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