I was just cutting the photo of the three American men who tackled the train gunman, so that I could add it to my blog, wondering like most other men who read the story if I would have had the bottle to do what they did, and answering “no”, when I became aware of his presence in the room; medium height, well-built, forty-ish, with dark curly hair, elegant casual clothes and a sceptical smile.
” Nice to see you appreciate some genuine excellence,” he says.
I ask him what on earth he means.
“Day by day you write hundreds of words about God and Jesus and all sorts of religious virtues but you never praise the kind of thing these men did.”
” I praise the virtues of the Christian tradition”
” Yeah, but do you suppose all your mild-mannered, God-fearing, self- sacrificing heroes and heroines make the slightest improvement to the world? They may be very heavenly minded but they’re no earthly use!”
“I’m don’t accept your description of my heroes and heroines. The Bible for example is full of pretty robust characters…”
” Yeah, the Old Testament has some tasty types, but of course that’s the bit you only accept in a patronising kind of way, whereas your bit, the New Testament, has scarcely one interesting character, they’re all so bland, they hardly ever do anything human or exciting.”
” Come on, come on, surely Jesus is interesting even to non-believers…”
“So you say. But OK, let me ask you a question. You’re on a train or a plane when a guy with a gun and a grenade stands up and threatens to kill everyone on board. Now, who do want sitting beside you, Jesus or one of these Americans?”
“Now, come on Mr. Bible Blogger, it’s a simple question. Give me a simple answer.”
“I suppose the honest answer is the Americans, but…”
“No buts please, I’m impressed by your honesty, so don’t mess about with it. Let’s just admire your answer: at a critical moment in your life, you, a bible -believing Christian would prefer to have three young Americans by your side than Jesus Christ your Lord…”
“Now hang on a minute…”
” And shall I tell you why you would make this choice like most other sensible people? Because two out of the three were actually trained to do something useful. They were ex-marines. They had chosen to learn how to cope with danger. So they didn’t even have to think. They knew how to respond in a way that maximised the chances of some good happening and minimised the chances of evil…whereas Jesus, with all his virtues would have been practically useless. He’d be telling you that if someone blows your first head off, you should turn the other towards him!”
” But Jesus never pretended to be the answer to all life’s problems; only to show people God’s Way.”
“I’m not just talking about situations of danger here. I mean almost anything ordinary and practical. Does Jesus help you to have better sex? Or to choose between GM and Organic farming? Or to cope with your husband who’s got Altzheimers, or to make good pasta, or solve the Greek debt crisis, or get rid of Donald Trump, or paint a masterpiece, or bring up a teenager? And if God’s Way is not do with all these things, what the hell is it to do with?”
I want to tell him that Jesus is not a substitute for human wisdom and skill, but rather the one who equips me to be the best that I can be, ready to learn all that I can learn for this life and the life to come, but I know I haven’t thought this through, and anyway, he’s already taking his leave, with a quick bow. I can hear him whistling as he goes down the road.
I love this. It’s honest and leaves me equally perplexed, as you are at the end of this dialogue.