A chance encounter

I had a chance encounter with a secularist who was listening to a podcast on polyamory in a forest trail the other weekend. Seriously. I was marshalling a trail run and from behind me I heard the crunch of footsteps on the trail. I wheeled around expecting to find a lost competitor but it turned out to be a local on a trail walk. 

I asked him a few questions to find out more about his interest in bush walking and in telling me more about it he let drop that he normally attended meetings of the Secular Party on Sunday’s. The Secular Party by-line is “Challenging Religious Privilege”. Apart from advancing their particular view of life they are preoccupied with opposing religious engagement, especially of the Christian kind.

The conversation traversed a few issues and eventually arrived at polyamory and gender fluidity before the chance encounter was abruptly ended. I didn’t identify my beliefs but rather assumed the role of interested listener and enquirer. It’s not often that I bump into a committed secularist and get to hear their point of view.

The overwhelming feeling I get when I do encounter secularists, atheists or people who are committed to a non-religious ideology or cause, is a lack of true conviction and resulting warmth. I certainly detect a strong commitment to a set of beliefs and world views, but what I’m sensing is something inherently negative: it is not so much for something as against something. It’s not championing but rather negating, oppositional.

I sometimes get that uneasy feeling with a lot of thinkers, authors and speakers from within the fold: that their primary offering on the issue of the church and Gospel is oppositional. Too many points of view are made upon the rubble of the edifice they are seeking to tear down.

When exchanging ideas and beliefs with people in these situations I’m aware of the inadequacy of simply engaging in competing ideas. The essence of my faith is not contained in ideas, philosophies, political views or neatly arranged bodies of theology. At the heart of my faith is a connection, a relationship with God. The Gospel certainly has massive ramifications for my beliefs and world view, and therefore my political and social views. However, at the heart must always be affairs of the heart – the access I have to God through the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross.

I could try and construct a set of social and political beliefs that brings me kudos in at least some parts of society, but that would put me in opposition to other parts. Our evangelistic engagement must centre around the person of Jesus. We aren’t offering ourselves (and our unique worldview) to the world, nor are we offering our churches. We are a forgiven and redeemed people pointing to the source thereof. If we lose that focus we’ve gone off course. We aren’t supposed to only be in a contest of ideas, we’re supposed to be ambassadors for Christ. That’s not to say we mustn’t be in the public square voicing our concerns about issues of justice and compassion and allowing our faith to push us out into the world to be salt.

Survey after survey finds that Aussies generally don’t have an issue with Jesus. May as well stick with the topic then…

2 Corinthains 5:18- 21 “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”


Stan Fetting, June 2017