Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The "Devine" and the Rod, a Christian Social Dilemma

So I was minding my own business, digging a drainage ditch at the end of my driveway. I've been working off and on all summer and with the rainy winter just around the corner, I need to get it done.

I was startled when Scottie, my neighbor, walked up behind me.

“Whatcha doing?”

I explained my little civil engineering project to him in detail. He seemed intrigued, especially when I told him about my attempts to find the buried power line leading up to my house. I knew it crossed the driveway somewhere, but hopefully not in the area I was digging. After all, I had used a metal detector to find it, and there were no beeps in the area I was digging.

“I can find your power line for you.” Scottie said with great confidence.

I was a little confused at this point, thinking he must have a better metal detector than me, or more time on his hands to look.

“No, that’s OK. I’m sure it’s not where I’m digging and that’s all I need to know.”

Later on in the morning I moved to another project of building my wife a really nice garden area (to help her with her kids-moving-away depression). I saw Scottie walking up through the yard and approaching me. He watched me straining to dig post holes in our very, rocky old glacier moraine soil. He gave me some very helpful tips, of using a iron bar to break up the rocks. But then he added, “I found your power line.”

“Oh,” I said with a perplexed look on my face. I didn’t see a metal detector anywhere, plus I had told him that it wasn’t important.

Noticing my puzzled look he added, “Wanna see?”

“Sure.” I followed him across the yard and down the short-cut to our lower drive way, through the woods. Only as he walked in front of me did I see the copper wires he was holding in his hand.

When we got to the driveway area where I was digging, he used the toe of his shoe to trace a linear outline through the dusty earth, marking the course of the power line.

“So how do you know this?”
He then, in silence, started to show me. He held two short 1” diameter copper tubes in each hand, then placed the heavy gauge copper wires, bent like a hockey stick in the tubes.

The short end of the wire went into the copper tubes in each hand so they could rotate freely. He walked around and when he was over the spot where he thought the buried wires were, the copper wires in his hand crossed. “Yep, they are right here.” He looked at me and he must have read the perplexity in my face like a book, as he went on to try and defend what he was doing.

“You see, the copper in the wires in the ground had an attraction for the copper in the wires in my hand and they draw the wires in this direction.” He paused . . . .still getting no response from me, then added, “I can find water using a willow branch for the same reason. The water in the ground draws the water that’s in the willow and makes it point down. How hard it points down will tell me how deep the water is, say, one hundred feet verses two hundred.”

I was still trying to decide what to say. Of course I don’t believe this. He was trying to explain things from an earthly perspective . . . within the realm of physics. However, all major forces of nature have been discovered and described. There is no such force where two molecules of copper, or two of water, can “draw each other together” over relatively long distances . . . from a few to many, many feet.

Also I had watched Scottie carefully and I saw how the trick was done. All you have to do is tilt your hand very slightly and the copper wire would swing in the direction of the tilt, following gravity. But it makes it look like it was under the influence of some other power. Scottie attempted to “teach me” how to find the buried wire. As I held the wire in my hand, I intentionally, by the same slight of hand, made it move in the opposite direction as it had for Scottie just to prove my point

Still in my silence, Scottie was observant of the doubt written on my face. Then he took a very different twist and explanation. “Mike, I don’t think you have the gift. You see, the ability to do this is a gift of God. An old Baptist pastor passed it down to me.”

So now he was explaining it from a, upper story (as Francis Schaeffer would call it) reason. A super-natural miracle, and therefore should have nothing to do with physics. You can’t have it both ways . . . a miracle and a work of physics.

Now here is where the real problem comes in and how this situation is an issue in the Church. You see, Scottie is a very good man, a wonderful neighbor and a great friend. He is also a confessing Christian. But then, after telling me that this little magic trick was a “Gift from God,” he then asked for my confirmation. But I don’t believe it at all! As a matter of fact, I think I know where the buried wire is and it is no where close to where his little wire trick said it was. But how do you respond to a question like this?

If I say, “No Scottie, I don’t believe that this is from God. Really, I think this is insulting to believe that God has been reduced to doing very simplistic illusions like this, rather than raising people from the dead or splitting the Red Sea (which I’ve crossed before in a boat) in half.” If I do say that, it would really make Scottie mad. He may not express his anger, but I’m sure that he would not be so willing to speak to me or be my friend as before. The reason, as I found out later, he has a rather wide reputation for being a dowser, gifted by God, within the Christian community.

But then, what if I smile and say, “Wow Scottie. That’s amazing (and I think that is how my wife would deal with these social situations).” The problem with that approach is that . . . well, simply stated, I would be a bold-faced liar and isn’t lying sin?

So, what do I do? I just kept smiling, trying to show how much I do like him and want to be his friend, but I don’t say a word. It was awkward! He finally just walks away.

But I face something like this every time I enter an Evangelical church. I use to get a long great with Evangelicals. Then, about 15 years ago, I made a vow in my heart to stop lying, especially lying for Jesus.

Now I am faced with this social dilemma every Sunday morning. People are often saying to me, God did this or that. I just keep the same odd smile. I could use a linguistically approach if thinking, Yes, God did do that. He created the laws of physics and the laws of physics did that. But I know what these people are saying. They are saying that God did a miracle. God worked OUTSIDE HIS LAWS and found a parking space, caused the phone to ring seven times, caused their dog to bark at a certain time, or helped the cleaners get a spot off their dress. But I can’t go along with that anymore. Not only is it lying, it is demeaning to God and I find that offensive. Would the creator of the universe be reduced to doing card tricks or making a wire spin around the inside of a pipe . . . or maybe bending spoons?

But at the same time, I am a human. A man whom God has created for social interaction, fellowship and friendship. I was a far better friend when I went along with Evangelicals and praised them for the miracles that they were attesting to. I don’t scoff at them or show them any disrespect. Actually, I do the same as I did with Scottie. I smirk and say nothing. But they are begging (with their eyes) for my approval and amazement. Sorry, I just can’t do that any more!

I was telling my wife, Denise, about my experience with Scottie. She interrupted me to say, “You didn’t say anything to him did you?”
“No, of course not! I really like Scottie a lot and I wouldn’t say anything to offend him. But I can’t lie any more!” How tempting it would be to give him praise and say, “Wow! Look what God has done.” I’m sure that our friendship would jell. But . . . can Christianity continue with their superstitions and not be harmed? I think not.


Brian said...

It interesting, isn't it, that we can't be honest with the very people we should have some of the best relationships with. Scottie would have taken it as a personal offense if you would have disagreed with him. Just like the guy at my church last week who said Christians shouldn't ever walk into bars. Or another who sees any science which points away from a 6-day creation as a threat to Christianity.

By the way, I'm glad that you're still posting and hope that you will continue to do so. I find my self in agreement with a lot of what you say but I'm still at the theoretical level. The practical examples you talk about are extremely useful and help ferret out the dualistic patterns my mind still operates in.

MJ said...

There must be a lot of use around . . . those trying to fit in, who want to be part of the church . . . but who constantly battle these type of issues.

I was back at church Sunday, after being going for two weeks. The adult SS class is led by the pastor. Most of the lesson was the story about how he had confronted a high school kid at a soccer match who was using profanities?????? What does this have to do with anything? Is that kid more or less likely to come to Christ?

I'm going to a local Episcopal Church on Friday night where they are having a discussion on philosophy. Could be a new possible direction.

MJ said...

I just had another discussion with a relative who strongly believes that dowsing is real and a gift from God.

I really respect Randi, who goes around trying to dis-prove fake miracles. I think he is doing God's work, even though he does not consider himself a Christian.

Randi has offered 1 million dollars to anyone who can demonstrate dowsing is more accurate than chance along. After two decades, no one has won the million.

Lying for Jesus is the worst kind of lying. Christian should be the least superstitious people, not the most.