A few months ago a friend told me about a conversation he’d had with an atheist in Colorado Springs. That Colorado city, the Mecca of American evangelical Christianity, may be the last place an atheist would feel at home. But there he was, right in the middle of a lion’s den. My friend had met him and started talking to him about Jesus. The man was interested.
As our train ambled through the outskirts of London, I thought I would kill some time by quizzing my children on a few items I’d tried to instill in their brains as a little bonus above and beyond their school curricula. I elicited mild groans and chuckles when I asked, “How did the Gettysburg address begin?” and “Can you count to ten in Spanish?” But when I asked, “Can you name the books of the Bible?” a train rider across the aisle turned, and his eyes flew wide open.
It’s Dad’s birthday next week, I tell the boys. What shall we get him? Without hesitation, they chime in: the Phacops rana at A2Z. A2Z is a science and nature store in town, where our youngest is taking weekly yo-yo lessons. His father has been admiring this particular trilobite for months. And why not?
I had just shown a group of pastors and laity a scene from the movie Chariots of Fire. Christian missionary and runner Eric Liddell says about his running and his God, "To win is to honor him." A man in the group responded, “I don’t believe that line comes from Liddell. It’s pure Hollywood. It is out of character for Liddell to be so focused on winning.”
Is winning compatible with the Christian faith? What are the criteria by which we measure "winning"?
This past summer at our family home in Croatia, I was immersed in George Weigel’s long biography of the late John Paul II, Witness to Hope. As the intense focus of world attention on his funeral made clear, he was a great world leader and, in many regards, a global moral conscience. That was plain for all to see during his life and even more clearly after he died.
When he’s at home, Rowan Williams, former archbishop of Canterbury, begins each day with a short meditative walk, or sometimes with some slow prostrations, followed by 30 to 40 minutes of sitting on a low stool to repeat the Jesus prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner”). Usually he repeats the words silently, saying them while breathing out. “Over the years increasing exposure to and engagement with the Buddhist world in particular has made me aware of practices not unlike the ‘Jesus Prayer’ and introduced me to disciplines that further enforce the stillness and physical focus that the prayer entails,” says Williams (New Statesman, July 8).