Some years ago I carried on an extensive two year conversation/debate with a group of atheists. It was a valuable learning experience for me – I can only hope for them as well. The core subject of the discussion was why they considered Christianity intrinsically ‘hateful’. The discussion ranged considerably in all kinds of directions. It got started because of comments made by an old friend of mine – once a fellow minister – since turned atheist. When I questioned him about his comments, he felt the discussion would be more profitable if held with the online atheist group to which he belonged. The discussion was hosted by an atheist blogger whose online title was SEB (Stupid Evil B******) While it lasted, this conversation became the single most popular and enormous blog SEB had ever had. I often thought he should have paid me for upping his online stats. Ah well. The conversation ended when enough of the atheists resented its continuation sufficiently that I called a halt. I tell you all that so I can tell you this. Every once in a great while I have checked in on the SEB blog just to see what was going on there. I will say, sadly, that I never saw any great change. But, I just recently checked in and saw that SEB (his real name was Les Jenkins) passed away this last March. In one of his last posts he observed that he was approaching the age at which his father had died of pancreatic cancer – a specific possibility he felt he didn’t have to worry over since his doctor kept on top of that. He did worry that he was obese, diabetic and physically inactive. He hated exercise and dieting, feeling that in a just world, healthy food would taste better than the unhealthy kind and exercise would show positive results in just a couple of days. His doctor told him that his happiness would increase if he just stuck with things long enough for the benefits to accrue. He decided that, while he did not wish to die young, he was ‘happy’ eating and sitting and could not justify the ‘misery’ of better eating and regular exercise. After all, ‘happy’ is the goal of life, right? Then came a period of extreme weariness and some abdominal pain. Tests, procedures, stage 4 pancreatic cancer, spread to the liver; (the very thing he thought he wouldn’t have to worry about) chemo, blood thinners, internal bleeding, hospice, a post by a relative announcing the final arrangements. In recent years I said goodbye, for this time, to my parents with gut wrenching grief. There was none of that for SEB. Just a flat blanket of sadness. I never met the man in person. We agreed about almost nothing. I deeply resented his brand of gleeful ‘thumb in the eye’ blasphemy. But I know that God loved him and I know from having read and been a participant in his blog that he had plenty of opportunities to come to know God – all squandered in unrelenting and largely unreasoning malice toward the very concept of the divine. But this is the nature of free will and is encompassed in God’s love – He will not force us to come to Him. I wish SEB’s widow and children well. In all cases, I trust the love, mercy and justice of God implicitly. As to that: SEB’s sins are not worse than or even particularly different from mine. If our eternal destinations differ (left with God) it is only a matter of accepting an invitation. I can only encourage everyone to accept that invitation while you can.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Pastor of Indian Run Christian Church