Reading last Thursday’s “Ask an Atheist” column was saddening for me as a Christian who knows the writers of both columns and knows they are consciously writing lies about the Christian faith with the express intent of intellectually coercing skeptics who are on the fence about whether to start accepting God’s free gift of grace. I have intense respect for the atheists and skeptics from SURE [a group for UCSB atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and secularists], primarily because — as I have told their membership before — if it weren’t a historical fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead three days after His crucifixion, after which He appeared to hundreds of eye witnesses, I would be an atheist. I’m not a Christian because it makes me feel good, or helps me get through problems (as it happens, God helps me with both), but because the resurrection is true — Jesus openly demonstrated Himself to be God. But my respect for them is severely diminished when they accuse Christians of “ritualistically hack[ing] off parts of a little … girl’s genitals.”
Let me be clear — never, in the entire history of Judaism and Christianity, has the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ordered female genital mutilation. Never. This is a smear not only against the Jewish and Christian faith, but a smear against the living God. No, the only religion that requires female genital mutilation is Islam — the one religion that “Ask an Atheist” has never smeared so ruthlessly (and falsely). I encourage the Nexus editors to watch more closely for these writers’ libelous slanders, to which they seem to be frighteningly prone.
That said, I want to briefly engage these brazen slanderers on their hit piece against Jefferson Bethke and his viral video, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” First, this video is not representative of the entire Christian faith, and many Christian writers — Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Reformed denominations — have written critiques of his work, which can be easily accessed on the web. Bethke is representative of a small faction of Protestants who are not quite sure how to intellectually engage the more ravenous critics of Christianity (typified in the weaselly pieces written last Thursday). In order to make their faith appealing, these well-meaning Christians simply accept the false premises of their attackers (i.e., “Christianity causes wars”), but then say, “Even though the church is really bad, you can still have a relationship with Jesus.” It’s a way for the less intellectually savvy to share their faith with their friends, who may have heard similar lies about the church, so they too can experience the love of Jesus.
Unfortunately, it’s a poor method of argumentation, and the predatorial “Ask an Atheist” writers know it. The fact is, if you go to just about any Christian church on Sunday, you won’t be witnessing any genital mutilation, or hear a sermon on why America ought to bomb Iran. Instead, you’ll watch as hundreds of people join together in song, praising God for His grace and love. You’ll hear a minister talk about how mankind, lost in sin and rebelling against God, was saved by the King Himself, who chose to leave His heavenly throne, become a man and take our death penalty for sin so that we would not have to face eternal punishment. You’ll see meek and tear-stricken sinners receive a piece of broken bread, dipped in wine, as they remember the God who freely submitted Himself to torture and crucifixion for their sin, so they could experience eternal life with Him.
In most religions, man is either trying to save himself from punishment, or trying to become like God. In Christianity, God took on human form to save us from the punishment we deserve. Ours is a truly unique and beautiful religion. All the sins that have been committed in the name of Christianity cannot take away from the magnificence of the Christian faith revealed in Scripture. Jesus Christ, the sinless savior, died for your sins and rose on the third day. If you confess your sin to Him, and place your trust in Him, receiving the forgiveness He bought for you with blood, sweat and tears, you will be with Him forever. There is no self-righteousness, hypocrisy or word play here. We are all unworthy sinners; only some, by the grace of God, are brave enough to admit it and humble enough to find their salvation in Christ alone.
Steven Begakis is a fourth-year political science major.