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Is it acceptable to tell ill atheists that you are praying for them?


That was a nice, short post.

Okay, I do have some more to say. This subject came up at Wesley J. Smith's blog, Secondhand Smoke.

Smith's position is that it's legitimate for Christians to tell healthy atheists that they are praying for them but is insensitive to tell ill atheists the same thing. This is a rare case in which I disagree with Wesley, and I think the question raises related interesting issues.

It's important that people who give advice to Christians take seriously the implications of considering Christianity to be true. Now, if we Christians took Christianity to mean that we should do something heinous--like blowing up civilian buildings with all the people in them--it would be quite legitimate to take this to be a reductio of Christianity. One could then say to the Christians, "I don't care that you think your religion is true. Your religion is telling you to do something evil; therefore, something must be wrong with your religion, at least as you interpret it. You should be able to see that."

No problem with that form of argument. But when we are talking about things that are obviously not intrinsically wrong, like offering prayers to sick atheists, people need to realize that there can be a problem with telling Christians that they shouldn't do something that is natural, understandable, or even (in some cases) mandatory if one grants the truth of Christianity.

Consider what a Christian might well believe about his sick atheist friend: This person is going to go to hell and suffer eternally if he doesn't turn around, repent, and accept Jesus Christ as Savior. This person is now gravely ill. That means he probably doesn't have that much time to make that major change in his life. Therefore, there is a particular urgency to the situation.

Now, consider what it means to say, simply, to one's friend, "I'm praying for you." Is this inherently pushy or offensive? I cannot for the world see why. In fact, it seems to me that one will take it to be so only if one thinks that there is something inherently "icky" or embarrassing about Christian faith itself or perhaps inherently embarrassing about sharing one's Christian faith. This comes up in many of the comments in Wesley's thread (not comments by Wesley, I hasten to add) with repeated phrases like "pushing your beliefs on them."

On the contrary, it would be "pushing one's beliefs on" the atheist friend to say, tacitly or explicitly, "I'm going to sit here in your hospital room and not go away until you make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. I'm just going to keep on arguing with you until I wear you down." That would be pushy, rude, and counter-productive!

But telling the friend that you are praying for him is extremely gentle and is, in fact, an expression of love. It is a way of telling him that you are doing something that you believe to be for his benefit, that you are trying to help in one of the only ways presently available to you. It also conveys the idea that you wish to offer your faith for his consideration and that you are available to discuss it with him should he wish to do so, and it conveys that in an indirect and tasteful fashion.

One of the reasons I think it is important to talk about this is that the secular world is more and more accepting the notion that Christian witness is inherently problematic, inherently pushy or even inherently a bad motive for doing things. I noticed this very disturbingly in the coverage of the recent slaughter of medical missionaries in Afghanistan. The Taliban claimed that they were "proselytizing." The media insisted that they were not proselytizing and called family and friends to witness to this supposedly meritorious fact about them. The disturbing implication was that the "accusation" by the Taliban (!) needed to be taken seriously and answered on the assumption that "proselytizing" would have been bad and would have somehow mitigated their murders. Again and again we heard that they gave of their time and effort to help people medically without trying to "discuss religion."

Think about the change this represents. It used to be that we talked about missionaries as preaching the Gospel without hope of earthly gain. The bad, ulterior motives, according to the old way of looking at things, were earthly glory and money. Now, the implication is that giving humanitarian aid (not sharing the Gospel) is the good thing to do and that the bad, ulterior motive is the hope of converting people to Christ. This is a very ominous shift and is one that we should address directly and reject.

I suggest that Christians reject the word "proselytizing" entirely for Christian witnessing and missions. I also suggest that Christians watch out for suggestions that Christian witness is in bad taste. Of course, there is a time and a place for everything, and we exercise prudential judgments about this all the time. But when the mere social disapproval of sharing our Christianity is allowed to dictate our standards of prudence, we are being lazy and being conformed to this world. The fact that the secular world increasingly thinks of Christianity as an entirely private thing that shouldn't be shared with anyone does not mean that Christianity really is a private thing that shouldn't be shared with anyone.

All this is, perhaps, rather far afield from the original subject of sick atheists. It might well be suggested that the atheist's sickness is itself the kind of thing that dictates a prudential judgment against any mention of one's Christian faith. But this hardly follows. It has been known to happen that people who are ill come to reconsider their former rejection of God. God can use illness to soften hearts. This--again, on the assumption that Christianity is true--is an argument for the Christian to reach out to the sick atheist even more than to the healthy one. The Christian should pray for guidance in contacts with the sick atheist friend in order to decide what to say and how to say it. But by no means does the mere fact of the sickness mean that nothing should be said.

If Christianity is true, and of course I believe that it is, it is the most important truth in the world. God loves you. God sent His Son to die for you. You can be forgiven of your sins and live in eternal bliss, in enjoyment of the beatific vision, with which the sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared. If that isn't worth talking about, I don't know what is.

Comments (22)

Great post, Lydia. Thanks.

What Beth said.

Don’t all people, whether saved or not, need to witness God's love? Don’t the unsaved need to witness our compassion and care for them as a true expression of God's love? Don’t the ill unsaved need to see it too, whether they are open at the moment or not? Isn’t this the least painful way for them to see that God does indeed exist? The unsaved do need to have their faulty assumptions exposed in order to allow them to see the conclusion of those assumptions. But this must always be done out of our real concern and understanding of their thoughts. Forcing them towards the painful conclusions of their assumptions will hurt them and we must not press further than what is needed at the moment.

When someone is ill it is not normally the time to cause them more pain, unless you have a really strong leading from God. It is a time for compassion, and I believe that they accept your show of concern in praying for them, at least according to what they understand of "your worldview". But then follow that up with a visible demonstration. Perhaps even say, "I am going to visit you every day," and then bring a small gift each time, or refresh flowers, and offer to stay while weary relatives, who have been staying with them, are allowed to take a break and perhaps go out for a walk. That would speak to me if I were ill!

I could be wrong about this, but I'm pretty sure I heard the rabidly anti-religious, and gravely ill, Christopher Hitchens on a radio talk show say that he did not object to people offering prayers on his behalf, though he of course thinks them useless.

I also think that gravely ill Christians ought to ask their atheist friends to pray for them, just to see the reaction. If a Christian can't have fun on his death bed, what good is he?

Yes, it was interesting that this post at SHS was occasioned by Hitchens' illness, and Hitchens seemed to take a more laissez faire attitude to it than WJS, though normally I would bet a good deal on Smith to be right and Hitchens wrong. However, Hitchens did specially praise Francis Collins (listed as an "evangelical Christian"--I didn't know about the "evangelical" part) for _not_ saying anything about praying for him when he visits.

If a Christian can't have fun on his death bed, what good is he?

Never thought of it that way. :-)

This issue is very much more complex than it seems on the surface and I do mean complex. I have finals to grade for the next day or so, but I hope to get back to post, soon. I will say that the most charitable thing to do is to ask the atheist if he minds if you pray for him, not to simply tell him that you are praying for him. You may disagree, but it is possible for one to do more harm than good in prayer. Prayer is usually a very good thing, but I've seen too much in life to trust that the vast majority of people know what they are doing in this area in this day and age. I have seen people damaged for life by indiscrete prayer. I take this matter very seriously and caution that the subject of spiritual abuse is not well understood, even in the Church. Children and the Profficient have a natural sense of prayer. The rest of us must pray that our inexperience will be met with God's mercy.

The Chicken

I like what Bill said.

Chicken, while there are dangers in some forms of prayer, aren't most of the dangers in various sorts of mediative prayer and the like? Unless you are either (a) praying to God to damn the ill atheist, or (b) praying out of a sense of pride or something, I have difficulty seeing how a simple prayer of petition for your friend can be dangerous. Especially if your petition is simply for your friend's spiritual welfare, God will certainly make up for what is imperfect in your prayer.
Praying to get rich, now, that might be dangerous. But did someone here suggest praying for that?

After reading the comments by Wesley Smith and Christopher Hitchens, I see that my previous comment was too much of a gloss in assuming a mild atheist with whom you have some relationship. There are, of course, many factors to consider such as personality, relationship, and degree of emotional response to "religion".

After reading what Christopher Hitchens said himself, I am left wondering what the proper response would be to someone with such a mind, and a mindset. My thought is that he does need to be pressed to see the results of his assumptions, notably in the area of meaning. He is finding what he is looking for in "religion", in other words, his negative expectations. But he still seems to be searching for meaning. Could he not be pressed in this area? Should he be pressed? Would questioning him on the meaning of his life, and how he might find that meaning, be the right thing to do?

I am not expecting a discussion here. I am just wondering "out loud".

David, I'm guessing that if someone were Hitchens's close personal friend, he'd have a better idea of the answers to those questions. My _guess_is that I'd hesitate to press a lot but would not hesitate to tell him that I was praying for him.

Chicken, I'm with Tony. The Bible tells us again and again to bring our petitions to God. Romans 8 even makes it clear that if we are unsure what to pray for someone, the Holy Spirit will pray on our behalf. You can't go wrong there! To me whether to pray for the atheist is a knock-down. If he's your friend especially, *of course* you should pray for him. It's a duty. The somewhat more delicate question is whether to tell him that. Which I think will just depend on timing, the relationship you have with him, etc.

Is an indiscrete prayer one that is combined with other prayers? :-)

Okay, I'll stop.

I suppose most atheists and most Christians expect consistency from themselves and from others. I suppose most sick atheists simply expect their Christian friends will be praying for them, and probably to say they are doing so. Even if, for some reason, atheists don't expect it, it's going to happen anyway. Conversely, while I don't suppose atheists will pray for me if I am sick, I do expect they will offer their support and best wishes, and to say so. If someone finds those consistent actions at all offensive, that person is probably just too touchy.

Chicken, I'm with Tony. The Bible tells us again and again to bring our petitions to God. Romans 8 even makes it clear that if we are unsure what to pray for someone, the Holy Spirit will pray on our behalf. You can't go wrong there! >

Actually, you can. People often mistake what God is telling them to do for what they think God is telling them to do. The passage in Romans 8:26- 27 makes this clear:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.
And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

You did notice that there is a distinction made between the hearts of men and the mind of the Spirit? The Spirit intercedes according to the will of God, not the will of men. It is possible to pray for something that is not the will of God and yet think one is praying for something God wants. The Spirit will always intercede according to the best needs and desires of the heart, but that may not always be apparent to the person praying. You may desire the person to be healed, but God may need the person to suffer. St. Alphonsus Liguori had some interesting words on this in his pamphlet, Uniformity to God's Will

4. It is especially necessary that we be resigned in corporal infirmities. We should willingly embrace them in the manner and for the length of time that God wills. We ought to make use of the ordinary remedies in time of sickness -- such is God's will; but if they are not effective, let us unite ourselves to God's will and this will be better for us than would be our restoration to health. Let us say: "Lord, I wish neither to be well nor to remain sick; I want only what thou wilt."

Certainly, it is more virtuous not to repine in times of painful illness; still and all, when our sufferings are excessive, it is not wrong to let our friends know what we are enduring, and also to ask God to free us from our sufferings. Let it be understood, however, that the sufferings here referred to are actually excessive. It often happens that some, on the occasion of a slight illness, or even a slight indisposition, want the whole world to stand still and sympathize with them in their illnesses.

But where it is a case of real suffering, we have the example of our Lord, who, at the approach of his bitter passion, made known his state of soul to his disciples, saying: "My soul is sorrowful even unto death[2]"and besought his eternal Father to deliver him from it: "Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me[3]."But our Lord likewise taught us what we should do when we have made such a petition, when he added: "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt[4]."

How childish the pretense of those who protest they wish for health not to escape suffering, but to serve our Lord better by being able to observe their Rule, to serve the community, go to church, receive Communion, do penance, study, work for souls in the confessional and pulpit! Devout soul, tell me, why do you desire to do these things? To please God? Why then search any further to please God when you are sure God does not wish these prayers, Communions, penances or studies, but he does wish that you suffer patiently this sickness he sends you? Unite then your sufferings to those of our Lord.

"But," you say, "I do not want to be sick for then I am useless, a burden to my Order, to my monastery." But if you are united to and resigned to God's will, you will realize that your superiors are likewise resigned to the dispositions of divine providence, and that they recognize the fact that you are a burden, not through indolence, but by the will of God. Ah, how often these desires and these laments are born, not of the love of God, but of the love of self! How many of them are so many pretexts for fleeing the will of God! Do we want to please God? When we find ourselves confined to our sickbed, let us utter this one prayer: "Thy will be done." Let us repeat it time and time again and it will please God more than all our mortifications and devotions. There is no better way to serve God than cheerfully to embrace his holy will.

St. John of Avila once wrote to a sick priest: "My dear friend, -- Do not weary yourself planning what you would do if you were well, but be content to be sick for as long as God wishes. If you are seeking to carry out God's will, what difference should it make to you whether you are sick or well[5]?'' The saint was perfectly right, for God is glorified not by our works, but by our resignation to, and by our union with, his holy will. In this respect St. Francis de Sales used to say we serve God better by our sufferings than by our actions.

Many times it will happen that proper medical attention or effective remedies will be lacking, or even that the doctor will not rightly diagnose our case. In such instances we must unite ourselves to the divine will which thus disposes of our physical health. The story is told of a client of St. Thomas of Canterbury, who being sick, went to the saint's tomb to obtain a cure. He returned home cured. But then he thought to himself: "Suppose it would be better for my soul's salvation if I remained sick, what point then is there in being well?" In this frame of mind he went back and asked the saint to intercede with God that he grant what would be best for his eternal salvation. His illness returned and he was perfectly content with the turn things had taken, being fully persuaded that God had thus disposed of him for his own good.

There is a similar account by Surio to the effect that a certain blind man obtained the restoration of his sight by praying to St. Bedasto, bishop. Thinking the matter over, he prayed again to his heavenly patron, but this time with the purpose that if the possession of his sight were not expedient for his soul, that his blindness should return. And that is exactly what happened -- he was blind again. Therefore, in sickness it is better that we seek neither sickness nor health, but that we abandon ourselves to the will of God so that he may dispose of us as he wishes. However, if we decide to ask for health, let us do so at least always resigned and with the proviso that our bodily health may be conducive to the health of our soul. Otherwise our prayer will be defective and will remain unheard because our Lord does not answer prayers made without resignation to his holy will.

Sickness is the acid test of spirituality, because it discloses whether our virtue is real or sham. If the soul is not agitated, does not break out in lamentations, is not feverishly restless in seeking a cure, but instead is submissive to the doctors and to superiors, is serene and tranquil, completely resigned to God's will, it is a sign that that soul is well-grounded in virtue.

What of the whiner who complains of lack of attention? That his sufferings are beyond endurance? That the doctor does not know his business? What of the faint-hearted soul who laments that the hand of God is too heavy upon him?

This story by St. Bonaventure in his "Life of St. Francis" is in point: On a certain occasion when the saint was suffering extraordinary physical pain, one of his religious meaning to sympathize with him, said in his simplicity: "My Father, pray God that he treat you a little more gently, for his hand seems heavy upon you just now." Hearing this, St. Francis strongly resented the unhappy remark of his well-meaning brother, saying: "My good brother, did I not know that what you have just said was spoken in all simplicity, without realizing the implication of your words, I should never see you again because of your rashness in passing judgment on the dispositions of divine providence."

Whereupon, weak and wasted as he was by his illness, he got out of bed, knelt down, kissed the floor and prayed thus: "Lord, I thank thee for the sufferings thou art sending me. Send me more, if it be thy good pleasure. My pleasure is that you afflict me and spare me not, for the fulfillment of thy holy will is the greatest consolation of my life."

I have not recovered from finals, yet, and this is a fairly intense topic, so I will wait a few days from going on at length.

Chicken, while there are dangers in some forms of prayer, aren't most of the dangers in various sorts of mediative prayer and the like? Unless you are either (a) praying to God to damn the ill atheist, or (b) praying out of a sense of pride or something, I have difficulty seeing how a simple prayer of petition for your friend can be dangerous. Especially if your petition is simply for your friend's spiritual welfare, God will certainly make up for what is imperfect in your prayer.

The reason I am so serious about this topic is twofold: 1) prayer is my vocation in life and 2) I am an expert (oh, how we misuse that term, God forgive me!) in Charismatic theology - no, I don't mean a person who goes to prayer meanings and prays in tongues (although I have had a great deal of experience in that) - I mean someone who has dedicated 14 years of intense study to every facet of the historical, theological, and sociological development of charismatic/ecstatic forms of prayer from Biblical times to the present. I can tell you the exact day that the modern Pentecostal movement started, who started it, what they were thinking, how it developed into its modern form (which is quite detached from what it was originally intended to be - how that happened is really interesting), etc. I am also an expert the Vatican might call in to make an assessment of one of the modern manifestations of the movement, not because of the theology, but because of the physiological signs accompanying it.

It really does depend on what one brings to prayer. Meditative prayer and Charismatic prayer are more intimately related than most people think. The dangers from these forms of prayer done badly are not only to the individual praying, but they can affect others, as well. It is complicated to get into and I don't have the energy, yet.

In any case, I, as most of us, have seen prayer do miraculous things, but I have also seen it do real damage - rather, not the prayer, but the subtle hubris of men in prayer. I know of one case where a man died an anxious death because of prayer when he should have died at peace. I owe it to the memory of that man to try to finish my book on modern Charismatic theology, but that is for God to decide.

It is good to pray for sick people, but how one prays and what one tells others about the prayer is a matter of prudence. One should do one's good deeds in secret, where possible. To simply rely on the Holy Spirit to correct your mistakes and willy-nilly launch into prayer is a form of the sin of presumption. Only the simple and the proficient have been freed from that weakness. I repeat, pray, but always think that things may not be as you believe them to be.

Lydia, I know it was a simple question with what seemed like a simple answer, but it really isn't, at least not to me. Telling an atheist that you are praying for them brings everything about being human into play. We have a duty to pray for the salvation of everyone, including atheists, but sometimes prayer is simply a substitute for the really hard work that we need to do to reform ourselves. Let us reform ourselves, first, then we will see better how to pray for the atheist.

More, later, if I haven't worn out my welcome, already.

The Chicken

Just to clarify, MC: I would not recommend praying for ill atheists, or for anyone who is sick, solely that they will be healed. Very much to the contrary. I would recommend praying first and foremost that God would bring them to Himself. This may require that they _not_ recover. I think that if I as a Christian told a sick atheist friend, "I'm praying for you" he would at least tacitly understand that his salvation was one of the things for which I was praying. Certainly I would also pray for his healing, but only if it were God's will. To all such petitionary prayers must be added, "If it be your will," and I was taught as a child in the Baptist church that this is one of the meanings of "In Jesus' name" added at the end of a prayer. I would never give a sick friend the impression that prayer for his healing meant that he should expect to be healed. That would be entirely misleading. The most important thing is that he come to Christ. If he asked me to talk about the matter more, that would come out in the conversation.

I would like to speak up in support of Masked Chicken.

I can vouch for the fact that misguided prayer can result in grave harm both to the one who prays and perhaps even to the one prayed for.

A number of years ago a naive and well-meaning friend suggested that I join in a small-group prayer for a young girl of our acquaintance who was near death. We were all confident that the force of our prayers would restore her to life. Shortly afterwards, however, we learned that the girl had indeed died, even as we were praying.

Of course we were all devastated. Some of the group even lost what little faith they had to begin with.

What's more, I believe that our prayers caused the girl pain and confusion as she died. I have no doubt that she is now with God but it was presumptuous, even indecent of us to intervene in the moment of her death.

Now I understand that we were attempting to contravene God's will in the matter. It still horrifies me. Of course it was not wrong per se for us to pray for her, but it was very wrong for us to attempt to use that prayer for our own selfish ends. Who were we to try to tear her away from God? Who were we to try to deprive God of one of His saints?

Some of the group even lost what little faith they had to begin with.

Maybe they didn't have much to begin with.


Hold on: I never, never, never said that you should pray for someone to be healed and make that person feel that he should definitely expect healing as a result of your prayers and think that God didn't hear, etc., if he is not healed. There was nothing wrong in praying for the girl. There was nothing wrong in telling her she was being prayed for. But both she and the people praying needed to understand that, "Be it according to Thy will" was part of the prayer and that the ultimate purpose and intent of the prayer, beyond the petition for her healing, was for God to work in her life for her best good, which might not mean healing her.

C.S. Lewis once said that the important thing is that our prayers are _heard_ and _considered_, not that they are answered as we might wish. God is a person, not a dispensing machine. If I pray for a sick person, I always pray that, if it is not God's will that he be healed, God will use the sickness in his life for good.

It seems to me that the problem here is with an incorrect notion that if we only have enough faith and pray hard enough, our primary, this-worldly request will be granted. _That_ is what is presumptuous. There is nothing wrong with _making_ the this-worldly request, but we should never assume that God is going to grant it, nor should we lead anyone else (especially not a patient) to assume this.

Interestingly, Hitchens mentions that there is something of a secular version of the "God will heal you if we pray hard enough" way of talking which can also lead to let-down. He says he is sometimes depressed when he thinks of friends who tell him, "If anyone can beat this, you can." He feels occasionally that he will be letting all these people down if he dies!

If I had to pick someone to have faith in when I was sick, myself to "beat this" or God to do what is best, I sure know which one I'd choose!

Lydia, I agree with you completely! I apologize for not making myself more clear. I know it wasn't wrong for us to pray for the girl, etc.

The problem was that weren't well-formed enough in faith even to understand that there was any distinction to be made between what we wanted to happen and what God intended to happen. We were going to make God heal that girl through sheer prayer power!

That's why I wanted to chime in and confirm that the caveats which Masked Chicken has stated really are vital. If someone had admonished our prayer group in such terms we would never have behaved so recklessly and foolishly.

I hope I'm making some kind of sense...

All prayers of petition, if they are truly Christian prayers, include a pre-requisite intention: "If it be Your Will, Lord." As long as that pre-requisite intention, then any prayers on behalf of a sick person cannot possibly fall afoul of the worries, concerns, and cautions that Chicken quotes from the saints - as is clear from the quotes themselves. All these saints make it perfectly clear that what God really wants is union with His will. If a prayer of petition includes the intention "if it be Your Will," then we are in effect saying something like "please heal this person if it is good for their welfare, but if not then please do something for them that is even better for them than healing them." If God heals them on account of your prayer, the God Himself accounts that healing them is better for them than leaving them in their suffering, and this is totally compatible with what is quoted in Romans, St. Alphansus, and St. John of Avila.

St. Theresa, in the Interior Castle, herself gives a correction to the quote about St. Francis: at a certain stage of the spiritual life, a holy person wishes to receive trials and sufferings from God to more fully embrace the cross. But in a more developed stage yet, the person ceases to desire this, and is willing to simply accept: accept suffering if that is God's will, and accept relief or even joyful things if THAT is what God sends - without so much as asking for anything else than God's good grace so far as He wishes to give it.

The examples of the sick praying to ST. Thomas and St. Bedasto show this also: God initially heals them precisely in order to prepare the ground for for the grace which He is about to send: the realization that good physical health is not foremost in God's mind in healing them. That God grants their SECOND prayer achieves in them confirmation of their development in understanding and union with His will, not because He changed His mind.

The examples Chicken brings up with evil results - people losing their faith - are exactly the sorts of things I had in mind when I qualified by comment: as long as you don't pray out of pride or some other defect. Of course, in these cases, the cause of the evil results are not the prayer itself, but the defects the praying person brings to the event. And the corrective is not to reject praying for a sick person, but to correct your interiorly sinful prayers of their false hopes, false promises, false intentions, pride, and so on. Whenever it is possible to do a good deed sinfully, the corrective to the sin is not to avoid the good deed, but to turn your heart away from the sinful motive or intention for the deed.

Conval., I do understand what you are saying. I think some of this arises from a mistakenly literal application of some of Jesus' words: e.g., "Ask and ye shall receive" or the one about having faith as a mustard seed and being able to move mountains. C. S. Lewis had an interesting commentary on those verses. His position was that they apply only to a very special and small group of people who are so in tune with the will of God that they don't make mistakes and have some sort of special intuition that allows them to pray with that kind of confidence and simply get what they ask for. I suppose George Mueller might have been that kind of person, if Lewis was right. I think Lewis's point, though, was that none of us ordinary folks should take the verses literally.

I certainly think a lot of harm has been done in that way.

When I was very young, a Sunday School teacher told us the story of a woman who was going to grow up and be a missionary to India. Amy Carmichael. According to the story, she had dark brown eyes and wanted blue ones. So as a little girl, she asked God earnestly for blue eyes one night, because she had been told to pray and trust God to answer her prayers. She ran to the mirror in the morning and was deeply disappointed to find that she still had brown eyes. When she told her mother that God had not answered her prayer, her mother pointed out that often she, as a good mother, gave the answer "no" to her requests, and that God does the same. God was answering, just not answering "yes." When Carmichael grew up, she went "undercover" into the Hindu temples to rescue children from sex slavery as temple prostitutes. (Of course, in Sunday School we were just told that the children were slaves, not that they were temple prostitutes.) She couldn't have done this if she'd had blue eyes.

I don't know if the story is true, but it made a big impression on me as a small child.

I enjoyed the post, Lydia.

Good common sense. It's unfortunate that this post, which connects the dots between if the Christian faith is true, then this follows speaks more to professing Christians than it does to the secular crowd. The secular position understands the logical conclusions of Christian faith, finds them distasteful, and so seeks to marginalize it with many many social, popular, and governmental instruments. These instruments include the prohibition on 'proselytizing' that you mention in your post. This crowd does not need reminding of the logical implications of the Christian faith.

It seems that there is a minor middle class, without animosity toward the faith but honestly forgetful of its implications, where I suppose Wesley Smith fall. These need to be reminded that A implies B, and you do a good job of accomplishing that. But the lion's share of the remainder is a large nominal Christian class, that I'm afraid your post would surprise.

Thanks, Brett. I think it was especially to the nominal Christian class I was speaking, but also to the basically well-disposed middle group.

It's so strange to me that Christians--or those who identify themselves as Christians--don't "get" certain things. I think that it does show the wisdom of Paul's warning, "Be not conformed to this world." If one spends all one's time surrounded by people who have certain assumptions (usually unspoken) to the effect that one's Christian faith is distasteful and should be kept in the closet, it's easy to adopt these assumptions without thinking twice about them. Asked to address a specific issue, I suppose such Christians would just talk about being "prudent" or not causing "offense," etc.

There really is something to be said for a fundamentalist upbringing, complete with frequent renditions of "Dare to Be a Daniel." It teaches one the importance of that question, the title of a book by a most _non_-fundamentalist physicist:

What do you care what other people think?

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