I get this sort of letter a lot. Someone drops by one of the pages I’ve written critical of some religious leader, in this case it’s Billy Graham, and they draw their conclusions about my history and how much I know about the Bible from it and use it as a springboard to initiate an email conversation with me. The irony of this is the fact that a lot of the questions they ask are already answered in various entries I’ve already written. Invariably these are some of the most polite and well written emails I get so it’s hard to be too annoyed by them. It’s the sort of email that makes you sigh instead of seethe because you’re just so tired of having to point out how presumptuous the writer is being for the millionth time. Here’s the email as I received it:
I read the blog about Billy Graham’s statement in 1972 towards the Jewish people. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I have read other things about Billy Graham that are not good at all too. As a matter of fact, most bad things I heard about him are from Christian churches. What I have heard probably would disturb me more than it would you, because I am a Christian. Also, I have heard statements Billy Graham made that are strange because they are not scriptural or biblical. That bothers me too, but I never have taken up with any of these televangelists. I think just about all of them are quiet strange and it is not long before I hear them say quite a few things that are bizarre and far from biblical truths.
As a Christian who follows the Lord Jesus Christ, I always try to do what he wants me to do. I minister to the homeless out on the streets. I use to minister to the men in jail. One preacher one day dropped a homeless man, who I knew for about a year, at my house. So I let this man stay with me until he could get on his own feet, no charge and no money laid down. The preacher said to me that he heard that I minister on the streets and then he said,“Well that’s good son, but there is no money in it.” Now that really struck me. I told him that I didn’t do it for money, but because the Lord led me to by the Holy Spirit and I didn’t need money for it. It doesn’t take money to tell about the love of God.
The love of God was demonstrated when he gave his only begotten son, Jesus, to die for our sins. All of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The bible teaches us there is none righteous, no not one. But Jesus came and died on the cross for my sins and your sins and the sins of the whole word. Salvation is a gift from God through Jesus Christ and can not be earned by good works – to any who receives Jesus into their hearts. When we ask Jesus to forgive us for our sins and to come into our hearts, the Holy Spirit begins the work of God in our hearts, working on us and changing us from within. I know, because he change me and the Holy Spirit lead me to him.
I don’t know if you have ever read the bible, but I invite you to. I read the King James Version and it has been a blessing. If you want to read the bible, start in the book of the Gospel of John. I understand you are an atheist, so is the man who raised me. Would you pick up the bible and see what it says for yourself. You may be surprised. One scripture teaches us that we are to beware of false preachers for they are after our pockets.
I would like to hear from you. I am about your age. If and when you get a chance, send me an e-mail.
Take care, Michael
Here’s the reply I sent back:
- Hi there Michael,
There is little that most Christian leaders do anymore that disturbs me. For that matter what Billy Graham said in 1972 doesn’t really disturb me, it just reinforces the already low opinion I have of most Christian leaders. One doesn’t have to look too hard to see plenty of examples of so-called Men of God saying one thing and then acting in a contrary manner. At times the hypocrisy runs rampant, but that tends to come with gaining positions of power by supposedly being a moral and spiritual leader.
I’m pleased to hear you help out the homeless, but the claim that you are not charging them is somewhat misleading. You seem to admit that you are proselytizing to them in exchange for your assistance. Admittedly that’s a small price to pay for a helping hand, but I’d be very much more impressed with you if you helped them without feeling the need to minister unless asked by them to do so. Perhaps that’s how you approach it, but you don’t really say so I can only guess as to how you go about it. If you’re like many Christians who help the less fortunate then you probably take the time to minister to them whether they’ve asked or not and probably without regard for determining if they already hold a faith or if that faith is different from your own or if they’re even receptive to learning about your faith. That’s a bit pushy in my book, but you are helping them out and that’s at least something.
As for your mini-sermon on God’s love, well, I’ve head it all many times before. I even used to believe it, but, much like the homeless you purport to help, you didn’t bother to determine anything about my religious history prior to launching into your proselytizing. You admit that you don’t know if I’ve ever read the Bible, but if you had taken the time to look at more than one entry on my blog you would’ve already known that I’ve read it front to back no less than four times in my life and that I keep a copy handy as a reference when debating believers. In fact I’ve studied the Bible more than many Christians I know personally and am quite comfortable looking up relevant passages to the points I’m trying to make. I’m not at all surprised by what’s in the Bible, though I was the first time I read it through and that surprise was not a pleasant one. It’s a terrible book about a God that does terrible things while claiming the mantle of Perfect Goodness and if I thought for a moment that any of it was true I’d still have a hard time worshiping an entity I find quite abhorrent.
I find your comment about the false preachers to be an interesting one. From where I’m standing, they’re all false and the various approaches they take to trying to show me salvation differ only slightly in their details. The arguments are almost always the same. Your’s is an email I’ve gotten many times over the years. It’s what I call the “Good Cop” style of letter, which is always better than the emails that tell me I’m a worthless shitbag who is going to burn in hell using language that makes me look like a Saint in comparison.
Thanks for the email, Michael. If nothing else it gave me something to write one more blog post about. Keep up the good work with the homeless. They could use the help even if it does come at a minor price.