talking religion

Maddie Patrick (left) talks with Craig Hargrove.

Here at The Perspective, we strive to facilitate an on-campus dialogue that is more open, more honest, and more substantive than what the status quo currently offers.

Only by engaging in a fervently candid exchange of ideas can we overcome the social barriers that stand in the way of a full understanding of one another–and thereby a fuller understanding of what it means to be a college student in the 21st century. Where better to start than a tenaciously ineffable subject, about which criticism is the ultimate taboo? Religion – perhaps the most pervasive social force in existence – seems to be inexplicably off the table in polite conversation. It dictates our worldviews, our ethics, and our Sunday mornings; yet any forthright discussion about the nature of our beliefs is routinely eschewed from everyday discourse.

This conversational indolence allows people to trudge along through life without giving much thought to the religion they ostensibly profess. If you claim to be an adherent to a particular faith, or outwardly reject any such faith, you should be prepared to defend what it is you believe. Only then can we begin to know where it is that our friends and colleagues retreat in times of doubt or dismay.

One pernicious roadblock that stands in the way of attaining this understanding is the sheer difficulty that religious and nonreligious people encounter when trying to communicate with one another. The devoutly religious speak in what often seems like a different language; their vernacular rings with divine invocation, their vocabulary boasts theological prowess. No matter the situation, Bible quotes are dropped with ease, almost sounding automated, but not necessarily contrived.

Hoping to overcome that impenetrable roadblock, I brought together two people of radically dissimilar religious views for a discussion. Nothing required either of them to participate, and they were bound by no rules or regulations–just each other.

Craig Hargrove, an active member of the Fresh Springs International Family Worship Church, started off our discussion by explaining what a personal relationship with Jesus Christ means to him. “I began to realize that there was nothing I could do that could save me. Christ died on the cross for me because he knew I was a sinful person and had a sinful nature. He has already paid the ultimate price for me, so just because I believe in him, and I see him as lord and savior, I now can have eternal life with him.”

How does a nonbeliever react to this kind of statement, spoken so definitively and with such earnest conviction? How can he or she convey their disagreement without coming across as insensitive or callous?

Maddie Patrick, a disavowed Catholic who now considers herself an atheist, was handed this task. “I think Craig and I – I think we can both understand where each other is coming from, but still fundamentally disagree. He believes in a god, and thinks Jesus is the one true savior. I don’t believe in a god, but we live our lives the same. I’m not going to try to convince Craig that there is no god. I wouldn’t want him to try to convince me that there is a god. I can’t say that I’m right, because it’s just what I believe – and he can’t say that he’s right.”

In high school, Maddie taught CCD, or the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, to fifth graders every week. As she matured intellectually, Maddie began to grow skeptical of Catholic doctrine, and gradually came to reject the faith outright. And as much as she may want to reconcile her personal affinity for Craig with the underlying philosophical rift that separates them, Maddie was forceful when it came to a subject that was close to her: Christian edicts on homosexuality.

“Christianity’s most popularly-known teachings about homosexuality alienate people. They take away the rights of gay people, and that to me is just wrong.” She continued, “They’re human beings. And a lot of homosexuals have one partner for a long time; they’re good people. Some of them might even go to church. So to take away someone’s right to get married, to raise a child in a loving home, to me is wrong.”

Homosexuality often seems to be a catalyst in prompting frank discussions of religious belief; most nonbelievers are content with a “to each his own” mentality regarding religion, but when the beliefs of others begin to adversely impact their friends, their relatives, or themselves, tensions that would have otherwise been dormant tend to flare up.

Craig responded, “The way I look at homosexuality is, I don’t believe a person is born a homosexual. And I believe that either they have been put through situations that make them think they are that way, or causes have created that. I don’t know how to explain it without going into great detail, but that’s my personal belief. I still don’t believe that affects whether Christ is still the savior, because he loves everyone.”

I couldn’t help but interject. Could Craig see how someone who considers him or herself gay – and doesn’t feel that they had a choice in the matter – would feel alienated by the sort of sentiment he was invoking? “I don’t hate homosexuals,” he said. “I have friends who are homosexuals. But we agree to disagree.”

Very well – but moving beyond homosexuality, did Craig think that Maddie and I, as atheists, could lead fulfilling and meaningful lives?

“Do you think you can?” he asked.
“Do you?” I persisted.
“I don’t know,” he said. There was a pause. “Do you search for truth?”

“Of course I do,” I said. “But I don’t think there is one objective truth to be found in a religious text. I study politics, philosophy, sociology, and things of that nature. My life is a pursuit of knowledge.”

“That’s awesome,” he said. His enthusiasm felt genuine, but I’m still not sure Craig actually believes I can lead a fulfilling life without accepting Jesus.

The conversation ended on a somewhat baffling note: Craig revealed that he doesn’t take medication for religious reasons. Even if a doctor prescribed a pill that could save his life, he would refuse to take it.

“According to this world, I’m crazy,” Craig concluded. But at least now we know where he’s coming from.


7 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Noah,

    I like how this article started, but I feel that near the end of the article Craig was being attacked. To question if Craig was sincere about you living a fulfilling is absurd. Just because some people of the Christian faith believe you need Jesus in your life does not mean all of them do. On another note I would like to read an article about how different religions view medicine.

  2. Caroline,

    …Isn’t the importance of Jesus just about the only thing that Christians have in common these days?

  3. Alisha,

    I definately feel Craig was misquoted at times and things that were taken off the record ended in the article. Only reason I know this is becuase Craig is my friend and told me he was disappointed in the article’s “account” of the conversation. Personally I think you took a few quotes on Craig and focused mainly on the side of Maddie’s point of view. I think the writer’s opinions were evident in the artivle just by the way the person wrote it.

    • Alisha,

      Craig was not misquoted — I have the entire discussion on tape. Nothing was off-the-record, either. I’m going to contact Craig about this, but rest assured that care was taken to ensure that everything in this article is accurate.

      I was part of the story, and though I made sure to represent each side fairly, I made no attempt to exclude my own personal opinion.

  4. N/A,

    Maddie said: “He believes in a god, and thinks Jesus is the one true savior. I don’t believe in a god, but we live our lives the same.”

    I’d like to wager that, no, they don’t live their lives the same. The author of this article may live his life pursuing knowledge. However, in light of Craig knowing Jesus to be his Savior, wouldn’t you think he would feel ever indebted to this Savior and purposefully live his life for Jesus?

  5. Caroline,

    (Alisha) Bias-less news does not exist. So rather than putting the conscious or unconscious slant that is always present in “objective” media, the creators opted to put the “perspective” of the writers and students out in the open. Though I can’t argue for the accuracy of the depiction of the interview, I felt it was necessary to point out that the opinion evident in the article was by no means unintentional.

    (N/A) Is being “indebted” to someone who lived thousands of years ago an impetus for living a more meaningful or even more moral lifestyle? Or is indebtedness one might feel towards Jesus something that would preclude him or her from acting and thinking in ways relevant to modern times? I couldn’t tell what you meant….

    Anyway, it isn’t really possible for someone to “live [their] lives the same” as someone else with views that are so dissimilar… Even with something as simple as their views on homosexuality, their actions are bound to reflect their opinions. That’s not to say that Craig would go around hatin on the LGBT crowd, but does that mean he is willing to support gay marriage? Or if he does support gay marriage does that mean he has to advocate for it with a spoonful of repentance? It seems the no strings attached sort of acceptance that Maddie would be able to offer a gay or lesbian friend would differ greatly from that of Craig’s. …People are content to say to each other’s face that they live lives equally fulfilling, but I find it hard to believe anyone can actually feel that way without completely invalidating their own point of view. So I’m curious as to what they believe is the correct way to deal with homosexuality.

  6. Kristina Mercado [feel free to facebook me if you have questions],

    I agree with Alisha. I do think that Craig’s words were slanted and even by the end of the article almost made a mockery of. To call him crazy for deciding to not take medicine is hitting below the belt, and yes I say hitting for a reason. I feel that by the end of this he was attacked.

    What many people do not know is that there are MANY doctrinal differences in Catholicism and Protestantism [or what most of us call “Just Christianity”.] to the point where Christians only follow the teachings of the Bible, having the knowledge that there is one way to God and that is through Christ Jesus. That once you are saved, you are written into the book of life, and when you die you go to heaven, that Jesus died for all of our sins, and completed the task, not just part of it.

    Catholicism leaves things out and adds things in, like for example a pope, and the edited version of the 10 commandments [if you look at a Catholic bible and a Christian bible you can see the difference where it talks about not having any idols before God.

    Also, I have first hand experience where doctors could not deal with illnesses I had, let alone find what was wrong with me, but through prayer all my ailments and pains were gone, and I can ONLY thank JESUS for that.

    As a close friend of Craig’s I can honestly say his words were not used right. The way his quotes were used made it seam as if he was confused, and one thing Craig is NOT is confused about his faith.

    To Caroline, Yes those who have accepted salvation through CHRIST JESUS are indeed indebted to HIM. He was pure, without spot or blemish, His blood not having one ounce of sin. He was the ultimate sacrifice, and His death made it possible FOR ALL ETERNITY for people to be saved from hell. So yes, I consider myself eternally indebted and GRATEFUL that Christ died for ALL of us, and even allowed a FORMER HOMOSEXUAL [yes you read that right] into His Kingdom/Family.

    If you do not know me then you do not know what I went through my WHOLE LIFE, not knowing that I CAN COME OUT of HOMOSEXUALITY. That it wasn’t something I had to be. That it is a spiritual thing that can you can actually get rid of. Yes, i used to be a part of PRISM, and after my salvation I realized that I did not have to live that way any longer. I have no hatred or prejudice for homosexuals, I just know that you don’t HAVE to live that way. I thought it wasn’t an option, but now I know that THROUGH CHRIST ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE including being FREED from homosexuality.

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