I’m making some discoveries about human nature as a result of taking cancer radiation. As I write this, I’ve had 20 treatments on the head and neck area, and have 10 to go. The radiation itself is not a major problem. You just lie there for 25 minutes and don’t feel a thing. However, as the treatments accumulate, the side effects begin to show up, and that’s where the fun comes in–sunburned neck, dry mouth, and nausea. Without saliva, you can no longer eat solid foods.
One of the more surprising side effects is the loss of taste in my mouth. Or to be exact, the presence of an awful taste, one which no mouthwash or toothpaste can neutralize. The last milkshake I bought–trying to get in the requisite 2500 daily calories–tasted like paint. Or what I expect paint would taste like. That’s why head-and-neck patients all lose weight. They have no desire to eat and have to force themselves to down the various smoothies and Ensures and soups.
I remember food. I watch the Food Channel and dream. I’m reading a novel on the Wright Brothers at the moment, and it seems that every morning the author has them eating bacon and biscuits for breakfast. I love bacon and biscuits. (I’m like the lady who, when asked her favorite animal, replied, “Bacon.”) But alas, I can’t eat it–mouth too dry, taste too weird.
I have a friend who is anti-God, hostile toward churches, and suspicious of all Christians. When a church does something good, she suspects their motives. When a preacher says something right, she twists it into something bad. It’s nearly impossible to have a conversation with her on religious grounds. I see light, she calls it darkness.
The problem is not with the food. The weirdness is in the mouth.
When your taste buds are corrupted, nothing tastes the way it does. The taste is corrupted and perverted by the presence of the alien substance inside the mouth.
My unbelieving friend’s problem is not with the church or the Bible or God. The weirdness is in her, in her heart and mind. It makes her see good and call it evil, see white as black, and black as white.
Three clippings from the most recent issue of Christianity Today (March 2005) illustrate the problem.
Recently Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said to the Louisiana chapter of the Knights of Columbus (for you Baptists, that’s the Catholic men’s organization), “God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools…and he has not been disappointed…. Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity.” (p. 21)
The cover article celebrates “The French Reconnection,” a revival of biblical Christianity presently underway in France. One father who was outraged at his daughter’s conversion to Jesus said, “Here I thought she was just going out for a weekend with a new boyfriend! But then I found out it was to read the Bible!” (p. 31)
The weirdness is in him, not in her and most definitely not in her salvation.
Some Muslim countries that were hard hit by the recent tsunami are now restricting the money which comes into their country to be spent by Christian organizations. They are so afraid that Christians may actually introduce someone to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they would rather prevent that person from getting assistance at all. And in many places, Christian relief workers who are doing nothing but dispense help in the kindest way they know are being persecuted. The Christian workers, of course, are agents of satan. (p.19)
The weirdness is in the critics, not in the workers.
In a city the size of New Orleans, we often have several conventions running simultaneously. Not long ago, a drunk conventioneer stepped onto a street car at a downtown intersection. As he settled into a seat, he found he was surrounded by delegates attending some kind of Christian convention. Several people in front of him were praying, the group behind him was singing hymns, and across the aisle, a believer was sharing with another rider how he could know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The inebriated rider pulled the cord and got off at the next stop. When he rejoined his group, he told them about the experience. “I had to get out of there,” he said. “It was hell.”
For him, it was hell. But the weirdness was his, not theirs.
“The god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (II Corinthians 4:4)
I want my brothers and sisters to remember my weird, radiated mouth the next time you are criticized for believing this nation needs revival, for knocking on doors to tell others about Jesus, and for reading your Bible in public. Some will call you fundamentalists and will lump you in with those who bomb clinics and drop bombs. They will accuse you and others like you as being dangers to peace and threats to America.
Just remember, the weirdness is in them, not in you.
The Apostle Peter lived in just such a cockeyed world. He advised fellow believers: “Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles (i.e., the outsiders), so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do evil, they may, by observing your good works, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (I Peter 2:12)