I had a pretty cool experience with one of my beta readers last week.
My coworker has been begging to read my book and I finally broke down and gave it to him. He’s a guy who grew up in church, he plays the bass guitar for his worship team and he’s pretty traditional in the religious sense.
I’m telling you all of this because this is precisely the type of reader who may not read my book. When a person doesn’t see anything wrong with a system that they are part of, they don’t feel the need to make it more functional. There is no need to fix something if you don’t think it’s broken.
The person who has been hurt by the church or its’ fundamentals is the one who sees the disease that hides under the surface of religion. The person who watches a close friend take a devastating stumble and wants to know what they, as a Christian, are supposed to do will see the disease and will not want to be a part of it. How can you keep from being part of the disease? Read my book for my answer to that.
My friend took my book home with him for an afternoon break. He pulled into his driveway and picked it up to flip through it for a second. An hour and a half later, he was on chapter five and it was time to come back to work. It sucked him in. He was so excited to tell me that he couldn’t wait to read the rest.
A long weekend went by. When I saw him again he avoided me. It was odd. I pulled him aside and told him to hit me with it. I need to know what he thinks because he won’t be the only one who thinks it.
He told me that I had completely ripped his world out from under him. He and his wife had been reading together and then sitting around questioning everything they had ever known about God and their religion. He was resisting the information in my book. He was resisting the thoughts he was having because they messed up too much of his traditional upbringing.
He started rattling off all of this stuff that he had been taught, but I knew wasn’t in the Bible. He said that he was taught that Christians have the power to not sin. He said that sickness was under the authority of God and we could command it to be gone. If it remains, then something was wrong with the person who was praying or the person who was sick. He said that I used a lot of Old Testament scripture and he was taught that the New Testament made the Old obsolete.
I didn’t argue with him. I had plenty to say, but it’s not my job to make people agree with me. I put everything I know into my book and I don’t have anything new to say.
What would I have said? If Christians were able to avoid sin, then why did Jesus have to be crucified? What do you say to the woman who just buried her little girl who died of leukemia? How much of the Bible do you have to cancel out to make your religion work? Even so, I’ve used 102 New Testament scripture references and only 26 from the Old Testament. I know because I spent an hour counting them.
I was pretty sad for the next day or so. I was disappointed that I had supported my theology so strongly with so many different trusted sources and he was still unable to grasp it. Even when he couldn’t support his upbringing with anything at all.
When I went to work on Thursday I found my book had been returned. I hoped that he would follow up with me, but I didn’t want to push it. When I saw him, he beamed at me.
Later he pulled me aside and told me that he officially loved my book. He said that I brought up a lot of questions and every time he thought I had lost my mind, I came around and answered his questions. He said that he had been in a religious bubble for so long that the thought of not being there made him feel uncomfortable. I had shaken him to the point of vertigo. He still has a lot of information and questions rolling around in his head, but he’s not afraid of them anymore.
I have achieved at least one small goal that I was after. I took someone by the shoulders and shook enough dust off of his religion to show him some of the disease.
The disease of making God small enough to understand, copy and predict. If you can make your god small enough to figure out, then you’ve got the wrong god. The I AM stays just beyond our understanding.