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“I know there are people out there who are silently going through what I went through”

In Essence magazine,Black Panther‘s Letitia Wright reveals how her faith helped her heal and prepare for the role of a lifetime:

“I said I wanted to give it up, then went into becoming a Christian. My friends told me about it and I thought it was nonsense and I realized that it wasn’t, that the spirit of God, the holy spirit is very real. And, I realized that and I felt centered.”

The actress added that soon God revealed that she needed to continue her work and find ways to inspire others, which is one of the reasons she’s so open about her faith and her mental health.

“The reason why I share this story is because I know there are people out there who are silently going through what I went through,” Wright told ESSENCE. “It’s a thing that goes on, especially creatives, putting so much pressure on ourselves and it leads to depression.”




Diving in to Faith Conversations

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“What do you do for a living?” she asked. Eight of us were waiting on shore for the dive boat to pick us up for a two-tank dive during my visit to Grand Cayman. The boat was late.

“I’m a pastor back in the States,” I replied.

“I’m an agnostic myself. But I find value in all faiths.”

“It sounds like you’ve had several friendships with people of various faiths?”

And we were off. Delayed in diving into the Caribbean Sea, we dove into conversation about religion. I talked about what Christians have in common with other faiths, and a few important ways the Christian message is unique.

The experience reinforced some long-held convictions about faith conversations.

First: You don’t have to invent ways to talk about faith. Just be ready to engage with the interest people show in the topic.

Second: When having a conversation on faith, don’t forget to actually make it a “conversation.” Christians sometimes perceive evangelism as a sales pitch you make in duty to God. But there’s no “evangel” in that kind of “evangelism.” The word “evangel” means “good news.” How has your faith been “good” for your life? Answer that, with the give and take that’s natural to any good conversation, and you’ll be doing it right.

Third: Show the beauty of your faith and then the logic, in that order. Don’t think of evangelism as gearing up for an apologetics argument. Instead, start with why you personally find it so beautiful. As I talked with my dive partner on that sandy beach, that’s what I did. I mentioned that while all religions have certain things in common, the unique Christian claim is that God entered our world in Jesus. I told her that such a claim told me the lengths God was willing to go to make himself know to us. “Make it attractive,” Pascal wrote about the faith. He was a 17th century mathematician and physicist, so he certainly had enough intellectual firepower demolish intellectual arguments against Christianity. But he advised, “Make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.”

 

(The Anchor Course can be a useful tool in ongoing conversations about faith. Click through the menu items at the top of this page to find out more about The Anchor Course)




“It seems unwise not to make inquiries”

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Imagine if you got a letter from some bank saying that some wealthy person–and here a name is given that you have never heard–has left you money. Even if you were of a skeptical nature and you had no evidence that this could be true, it would be unwise not to make inquiries. If a man has come into history claiming to have the gift of eternal life and the key to the meaning of things, and if he has not passed into obscurity like other claimants but has convinced many people that he is right, it seems unwise not to make inquiries.”

Tim Keller, Making Sense of God, page 238




“We are just at the beginning of a new age of religious searching”

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“What tells against forms of unbelief is the series of nagging dissatisfactions with the modern moral order, and its attendant disciplines, the rapid wearing out of its Utopian versions, the continuing sense that there is something more. These can send people off in many directions, including those of the immanent counter-Enlightenment, but they also can open avenues to faith. Here is where one of the disadvantages of belief…has a flip side which is positive. The very fact that its forms are not absolutely in true with much of the spirit of the age; a spirit in which people can be imprisoned, and feel the need to break out; the fact that faith connects us to so many spiritual avenues across different ages; this can over time draw people towards it…In any case, we are just at the beginning of a new age of religious searching, whose outcome no one can foresee.”

Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (p. 533, 535)




Imagine

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In response to the Paris attacks, I’ve seen a number of posts and replies on social media quoting John Lennon’s song, “Imagine.” A pianist set up in front of the Bataclan music venue where one of Friday’s attacks took place and led hundreds in singing the anthem, and Coldplay performed a rendition of the song on Friday. This song continues to serve as a response to Islamist terrorist attacks ever since 9/11. Back in 2002 when I was living in the Cayman Islands, the island’s newspaper was kind enough to publish the following editorial from me.
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Imagine.

That’s what John Lennon wanted us to do. In a poignant voice he sang—

Imagine there’s no heaven, It’s easy if you try,
No hell below us, Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries [sic], It isnt hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for, No religion too,
Imagine all the people living life in peace

The song’s popularity has returned since September 11 when men shouting “God is great!” took over the cockpits of 4 jet airliners to plunge them into prominent American buildings. Over the next several days we discovered that these men, and many others where they came from, hope heaven will welcome them for their “martyrdom.” Suddenly Lennon’s vision of how beautiful life would be without religion sounded fresh and relevant again. Neil Young sung the song on a live TV show raising donations after 9/11, growling the lines above with bitter sarcasm in his voice. Our local newspaper, the Caymanian Compass, quoted Lennon’s lyrics in their entirety on the back page of a booklet commemorating the 9/11 tragedy.

The former Beatle urged us to imagine a world where we all live only for today. So let’s imagine—it’s easy if you try:

Let’s see . . . the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia . . . the systematic “re-education” and execution of dissidents in Vietnam . . . the bloody revolution of Chairman Mao in Communist China . . . and Stalin’s “purges” . . . and don’t forget the brutal management of power in Castro’s Cuba (just read the book “Against All Hope” before you disagree with that last one).

Lennon urged us to imagine a world where we all live only for today. But we don’t have to imagine it. We can look back across the last century of a world exhausted by communistic atheism and see it.

Sometimes I’ll hear someone trot out that tired old line, “More people have been killed in the name of religion than for any other reason.” The implication behind the line is, “So, religion contributes to our world’s problems, it doesn’t solve them.” But none of the vast, horrible atrocities I just listed off took place in the name of God. In fact, they took place in societies that firmly and dogmatically rejected any belief in God whatsoever. I certainly don’t favor violence that is done in the name of God, but I’d venture a guess that more people have been killed in the pursuit of stamping out religion than imposing it. The Communist experiment of the last century proves my point.

It’s interesting that many years after Lennon recorded “Imagine,” and a few years before he was murdered, he began a spiritual search. What intrigued him most was the life of Jesus. He even hesitantly declared at one point that he had become a Christian, though by doing so he was more likely expressing his admiration for Christ’s teaching than announcing his conversion to it. Obviously the utopian sentiments he expressed in the song “Imagine” didn’t satisfy him in the long run. I wonder where his examination would have brought him had a deranged gunman not ended both his life and his spiritual search.

Imagine.




About Tom

ANCHOR COURSE LOGO Tom Goodman is a graduate of Baylor University and Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, and he holds a doctorate from New Orleans Seminary. He has served as pastor in Louisiana, north Texas, and overseas in Grand Cayman before becoming the pastor of Hillcrest Church in Austin, Texas. Diane and Tom have been married since their days at Baylor University, and they have two sons, Michael and Stephen. Tom enjoys scuba diving, watching the latest Netflix DVD with Diane, and chasing mis-hit golf balls.
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