Christians tend to compare their personal conversion experiences to Saul’s encounter on the road to Damascus. Not all of us, of course, talk freely about what happened in us and to us on the way to becoming Christian. Our levels of comfort with such talk vary widely depending on our congregational culture, our notions of evangelism and our ability to be self-revelatory. But when we do think about that journey, and when we’re willing to talk about it, we say that our conversion was—or was not—a Damascus Road. We tell our young people that their experience does not need to be a Damascus Road experience, although it can be. There are many paths of Christian transformation—and the light from heaven is only one of them.
We are gathered here in a Christian church as participants in a Christian memorial service to honor the life of Richard, a man who said that he did not believe in God. What right have we to do this? It would certainly be an affront to his memory were we, by this service, to deny him the right to have been the man he was. We cannot pretend or even suggest that he really was somehow, despite his insistence to the contrary, a Christian believer. Indeed, it would be a scandal if we who claim to honor Richard’s memory did not allow him, by his unbelief, to call into question our Christian belief.