I was having lunch with a friend I had not seen in ages. Chris is a philosophy instructor at a Portland college. I met him seven years ago when I attended an Atheist-Christian Philosophy dialogues. They were reading Nietzsche’s The Anti Christ. I went because my dad was atheist and I wanted to experience what he was thinking. He liked Nietzsche.
Over the years I grew to like Christ. Chris introduced me to a Satanist, who was part of the group. Brian and I met often and talked about the Book of Satan, which I had read, and his meetings with Anton LaVey and Marilyn Manson. Before Brian left town he said, “OK, you have convinced me that there is a god.” Chris would laugh, “Man who’d a thought a church of Christ preacher and a Satanist would hit it off!”
I read a lot of Nietzsche and enjoyed the discussion. Chris and I would have debates/discussions with each other at Cascade, the coffee house, and together with the United States Atheists of Portland. Once when discussing The Simpsons (he claimed not to have watched it) he said, “Ron, I’m convinced you’re going to hell,” to which I replied, “You don’t even know if there is a hell!”
I remember going off on a student of his, who claimed to be a Christian, once. He was attacking Chris’ morals and I hit the roof. “He’s a good father, family guy, and well respected by students and staff at the college.” The guy was way out of line—especially since he equated morals with a Christian belief system.
Chris has said three statements that have kept me focused on a mission for Jesus.
1. In 2003 I was thinking that the philosophy discussions were a waste of time. I was debating using my time for something else. One day he said, “Church of Christ—oh you’re at that church. If I ever became a Christian I would go there because you all seem to be closest to the truth.” Needless to say I kept going because I was reminded that I have an obligation to the truth.
2. He took me to task about not witnessing to my family. “Seems to me if salvation is needed in people’s lives wouldn’t you work harder for those you love?” It made me try more in this area.
3. This most recent lunch we were putting together another coffee house and panel discussion at Cascade this spring. Chris asked how the new church was doing and why Lori and I left where we were. I shared what God was doing at Agape. He said, “That’s the ministry of Jesus—that’s exactly what he and the apostles would be doing today. Today people see power and oppression in relationships as truth. Seems like you’re doing that.”
It’s odd. The critique and resistance to social justice ministry seems to come from some within the church but those in the community applaud it as the reflection of Jesus’ ministry.