I had someone ask me a few weeks ago, not terribly long after the 9/11 attack, why I believed in God. After all, most sysadmin types don’t. Or they aren’t Christian–they’re pagan, or they dabble in Eastern religions. I understand the appeal. For one who’s used to building PCs and even operating systems from best-of-breed components (or best-of-economy components, or some other selectable criteria), the idea of assembling your own religion from best-of-breed components is nearly irresistable.
I can tell you how I became a Christian, but that’s not the same as why I remained one. I’ll focus on the latter. It’s a more pleasant mental place to be.
So let’s go back to that original question: Why can I be a Christian after such a terrible thing? And since you believe in God, why didn’t your God do something about it?
Someone sent me a nice explanation for it. It’s a little longwinded, so I’ll summarize and paraphrase. It said we’ve been telling God we don’t want Him. And God’s a perfect gentleman, so when He’s told He’s not wanted, He butts out. We’ve told God we don’t want Him in our schools. We’ve told Him we don’t want Him in our courts. We don’t want Him in our government. We don’t want Him in our business. We don’t want Him in our streets. We don’t want Him on our televisions and movie screens. And each time we’ve told Him to get lost, he’s sorrowfully complied.
Then, when tragedy hits, finally someone misses Him.
So where was God when those evil men hijacked those four planes?
Well, we told God where we didn’t want Him to be. But I saw Him. I saw Him in the actions of Todd Beemer, who rounded up all the big guys he could find on United Flight 93 and overtook the terrorists. I saw Him in President Bush, the onetime laughingstock who’s guided our country the past two months.
That’s consistent with my experience. I’ve seen places where God isn’t welcome, and I’ve seen bad things happen there. Lots of bad things. Sometimes terrible things.
But everywhere I go where God is truly welcome, good things happen.
So, yeah, I believe in one God who created the heavens and the earth. I believe He had one son, Jesus Christ, who is the only way to God the Father–incidentally, God the Father is the same God that Muslims and Jews believe in. We’ll come back to Jesus in a minute. And I believe in the Holy Spirit. I can’t explain the Holy Spirit. But I’ve seen His work, I’ve felt His presence, and yeah, it’s weird. But powerful. I know some of the appeal of Satanism and of pagan religions like Wicca–most of the appeal–is power. They don’t compare to Holy Spirit power. And personally, I’d much rather go to a God who’s willing to look bad by saying no when He knows what I’m asking for is bad for me or someone else, rather than going to a god who’ll give me whatever I ask for to ensure I come back for more. God’s a whole lot smarter than me, and has a much better perspective than me. I’m better off when I defer to Him.
OK, back to that whole Jesus thing. Do I really believe Jesus is the only way? Well, Jesus said He was. I just got back from spending a good part of the evening with three good friends. Whatever they say, I’ll take them at their word if they tell me it’s true. None of them has ever done what Jesus did. So I take Jesus at His word.
But there’s another, more selfish, more lazy reason for it. This appeals to the sysadmin in me. I make computers do as much of my job as possible. That’s why I like Christianity, because Christianity does all the work for me. Let me explain.
Truth be told, there is one world religion, and that religion can be summed up in exactly two words: Be perfect. Now, religions like Hinduism and Buddhism and Confucism all tell you to do that, and they give you some ways. Beyond that, they offer no help.
Islam teaches full submission to Allah. Again, it offers no real help other than some practical advice.
Judaism is a bit different. Again, it tells you to be perfect. It offers some practical advice. But it takes it a little further. It also offers a promise. It offers forgiveness of sin. It offers reconciliation with God. But it doesn’t say how.
That, my friends, is where Christianity kicks in. It delivers on that promise of Judaism and offers others. The most beautiful one: Jesus told His disciples He was going away, but He’d send the Holy Spirit to be with us, and live through us. God, living and breathing inside you. You’re not perfect, but God is.
That’s the beauty of it. Let’s just say–God forgive me–that Jesus was wrong. And we’ll say that Gandhi and his Hinduism was right. So Gandhi went to heaven on the basis of his works. Well, who was greater? Ghandi or Mother Theresa? Tough call. If Gandhi’s in heaven, Mother Theresa’s definitely not in hell.
Now, I don’t hold a candle to either of those two. But I’ll put my best up against the best of my peers in any other religion. I know we all struggle. But we do some good things too. If I’m wrong, and it is on works alone that we get to our ultimate destination, my Christianity will get me the same place as my peers’ Buddhism or Islam or Judaism gets them.
And that’s why I don’t think Jesus can possibly be wrong. He’s either right, or when He’s wrong, He’s still right.
So I’ve seen enough of God that I won’t deny His existence. I’ve seen and felt and breathed enough of His power to know I want Him on my side. And here’s Jesus saying, “Be perfect. Not only will I help you, but when you fail, I’ll pinch hit for you, and credit my statistics to you.”
I’d be a fool to turn down that deal. So that’s why this sysadmin who ought to be an atheist or a pagan or a Buddhist is a Christian.