Top-shelf Christians

I found this article a long time ago which nearly describes my faith experience to a T.  As I was re-hashing some things with God this morning, I was again reaffirmed by this wise man’s story and thought I’d share:

I received an email from someone puzzled about the grief I experienced when I gave up on God. This person felt liberated when she left Christianity.

I understand how some would feel that way. Many of you only know Christianity from bad books, TV preachers, and the people who watch them. If that were all I knew of Christianity I would celebrate my liberation from it all the days of my life.

But I was exposed early to the real stuff – Top Shelf Christianity – Deep and Old Christianity. This kind is practiced by people who work until they stink and take life in great draughts. Their hands are as rough as their hides, and they DO their faith in secret, hiding their good works in obedience to Christ. They know how to love and be loved in return. Their laughter is loud and has its roots in joy.

These Christians don’t want your money and they don’t advertise. You will only find them if you MUST find them. These are the ones who took me to Mexico as a boy and showed me pain and joy. They hid nothing from me.

I was also blessed by being exposed to the right kind of Christian thinkers. C.S Lewis and his friend J.R.R. Tolkein. Frederick Buechner, Carlyle Marney, and Thomas Merton. Will Campbell who wrote “Brother to a Dragonfly” and Eberhard Arnold. Frederick Dale Bruner and Martin Luther King Jr.

You did understand there was more to this than religious TV and the drivel they sell in those awful Christian bookstores, right? After all, Christianity didn’t sustain itself for twenty centuries by shitting Hallmark cards before a live studio audience.

Hell yes, I grieved. I thought not “believing” in God meant losing this life and, worse, losing these people.

I decided not to give up without a fight. I can be a stubborn son-of-a-bitch. I sought answers. I read the good stuff and talked with the good people.

I learned some things. I found my way.

Turns out Christianity is an Eastern religion. The earliest Christians were Hebrews. Semites. People of the East. They did not know how to separate mind from body. They were holistic before holistic was cool.

In our world we have separated mind from body to our great loss. Here a man may betray his wife and neglect his children, but say he loves them “down inside”.

Bullshit. There is no “down inside.” Love is something you do, not something you feel.

Likewise, we think having faith means being convinced God exists in the same way we are convinced a chair exists. People who cannot be completely convinced of God’s existence think faith is impossible for them.

Not so. People who doubt can have great faith because faith is something you do, not something you think. In fact, the greater your doubt the more heroic your faith.

I learned that it doesn’t matter in the least that I be convinced of God’s existence. Whether or not God exists is none of my business, really. What do I know of existence? I don’t even know how the VCR works.

What does matter is whether or not I am faithful. I think faithful is a hell of a good word. It still has some of its original shine. It still calls us to action.

Once I stumbled upon this very old truth, I prayed the most honest prayer of my life.

God, I don’t have great faith, but I can be faithful. My belief in you may be seasonal, but my faithfulness will not. I will follow in the way of Christ. I will act as though my life and the lives of others matter. I will love.

I have no greater gift to offer than my life. Take it.

That’s it. I pushed all my chips across the table. The preacher bet it all. Why? Because the idea that there is a God who cares for us busts my heart wide open. Because I pushed reason as far as it can go but I wanted to go farther still.

– Gordon Atkinson, Real Live Preacher.  For his whole story, visit his website.


1 thought on “Top-shelf Christians”

  1. Hi Jody!

    Visited your site today after a long time, and came upon this gem. How inspiring!

    Thanks for posting it.

    Take care,


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