The Pastor's Buzz

Pastor Buzz Trexler's blog for God's people in The Meadow.

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Name: Buzz Trexler
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Journalist for 29 years; married to Donna for 28 years; parent of David, 27, and Elizabeth, 24; pastor of Green Meadow United Methodist Church in Alcoa since 2002.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

How do they know we are Christians?

It's interesting the e-mails that I sometimes wake up to in the morning. They come from people far and wide, and with a wide variation as to what's on their mind. For instance, I received this e-mail on Tuesday morning from someone I will just call "Phoenix"; my reply follows the original e-mail:

From Phoenix:

I'm an atheist Buzz, and so my morals aren't based on the divine, but on compassion, nurture, and bonds to my fellow man. In Phoenix, I see the homeless regularly. In their eye is hope and despair. I bring them food and hopefully a sense that they are still connected to mankind.

But ya know, I've never bumped into a Christian who was also there to give me, and the homeless person a hand. Sometimes I think you Christians feel that belief your ideals sanctifies your inaction.

It's Christians that gives Christianity a bad odor.

Pastor Buzz replies

Thanks for taking time to e-mail me about your thoughts concerning Christianity and the failure by many who claim the name of Christ to actually put his words into actions.

However, I would suggest that you are painting with a broad brush.

For instance, I am a part-time pastor of a small United methodist Church ... and I mean small! We average only about 30 in worship on a given Sunday (even less in the summer months), and yet this community of faith:

  • Regularly prepares and serves meals at the local soup kitchen.

  • Maintains a fund to meet the needs of those who call the church seeking assistance with utility bills, gasoline costs, rental deposits (so they will not be homeless), and other needs.

  • Is currently in the process of establishing an in-house education program for teenage moms and moms-to-be who face dropping out of school because of their situation.

  • When Holy Communion is served, church members bring peanut butter for the local food pantry.

I could point out other places where the church puts feet to the missio dei, but I will merely point out one more thing: In all of the times that I have volunteered in the soup kitchen, delivered food to the projects of Knoxville, served on medical mission teams in Guatemala, and other such acts, I've never once seen an atheist lend a hand, nor offer one to me when I was "a lost ball in high weeds," as we say in this neck of the woods. However, I never really thought much about that lack of presence.

So, what does that say?

I would venture this:

  • Perhaps it's because there is no standard to which atheists are held, but atheists hold Christians to a higher standard because they know whom we claim to represent. That's an acknowledgment when you think about it, huh?

  • There are carnal Christians in this world ... and, yes, it's a crying shame. It really does damage the sharing of God's love. But as my wife said to me in recent days, "Just because someone is baptized, does that make them a Christian?"

Thanks for giving me some early morning pondering time. Please feel free to write me again. ...

Grace and peace to you,


A footnote ...

I never received any other communication from Phoenix, at least as of yet. However, after I hit the Send button I decided I should have added one other statement: Unless Phoenix asked someone, or unless someone volunteered the information, how would he know whether his coworkers with the homeless, or anyone who offered assistance to him, were Christians?

The question also holds true in regard to knowing whether someone is an atheist.

Of course, it is said they will know we are Christians by our love... not by how vocal we are about our presence.

Grace and peace to you all ...