Dallas, TX –
I recently lunched with a self-described Fundamentalist Christian childhood friend who was upset. According to him, when the winner of the Masters Golf Tournament, Zach Johnson, was being interviewed by sportscaster Jim Nantz, Mr Nantz was, "clearly uncomfortable" when Johnson said "My faith is very important to me. Jesus was with me every step." I offered that perhaps Nantz was not "uncomfortable" at all, but rather, simply continued to interview Johnson regarding Masters Tournament specifics.
Nope. This could never ring true with my friend. He insisted that by not responding to this man's witnessing in a time of great achievement, the press was marginalizing Johnson's intended point; that all "glory goes to God." I suggested that the "glory goes to God" part is filed under "Believer 101". Adding, That goes without saying . Or so I thought. Before America became the promised land of New and Old Testament testification. Gone are the days when personal faiths, like children, were seen and not heard.
Ours is an era when people freely question whether Oprah Winfrey or Barack Obama is "black enough". Overnight, everyday plain John Protestants like me are not "Christian enough" unless we become Evangelical. It's not like I don't get it; I was raised an Episcopalian by a Catholic mother, attended Methodist and Holiness churches. My brother-in-law is Church of Christ. My friends and lovers range from Baptist to Mormon. I've been around the Biblical block.
All that seems to validate no one. Must you shout it from the hills like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music: "The hills are alive with the love of Jesus." That I'm more reticent than many regarding faith compels some to question my piety, as my friend questioned Jim Nantz when he did not respond accordingly to Zach Johnson. There is absolutely nothing wrong when others bare their Christian soul and bear witness, but it is rarely revelatory. When someone tells me about the importance of faith in their lives, I'm tempted to respond: "Yes, and I cannot say enough for how oxygen helps me breathe." It goes without saying. Or it used to.
So someone's not dying to hear you've been "born again". Does that unmask them as a heretic? Isn't personal rather than public faith an option? Apparently not. Our not so brave new world insists; it's not enough to be changed by childbirth; we must become Celine Dion, the first mother to discover parental love. Stopped drinking? Preach from the rooftops that your liver is rising from the dead. Reformed smokers; rejoice telling even those who never smoked at all how you rebuked that devil weed that held you hostage!
Suddenly everyone's become a "Sally Field's Academy Award speech" Christian; He loves me. He really loves me!" By the time the 30th Grammy winner announced "I owe this to Jesus", I was ready to recount the ballots. Does anyone ever think perhaps God appreciates your work, but doesn't play favorites for best dance track remix?
Believe me; there's no heathen here. With God as my witness, I'm simply saying this prayer and singing that hymn; Give Me That Old Time Religion ?
Rawlins Gilliland is a National Endowment for the Arts Master poet.
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