One of the most common complaints I hear from readers is that my writing is too religious. Borrowing a phrase from an email I just read, I am guilty of “injecting religion into everything.” I need to “tone down the religious talk,” according to a guy on Twitter. “Please cool it with the Jesus stuff,” someone else recently told me. I was informed by many people that the piece I wrote last week about fathers was “ruined” because I “brought God into it.” Some of the commenters here have given me the moniker “Pastor Walsh,” because only pastors talk about religion, I guess. I have even noticed, unsurprisingly, that many of the people who lodge these complaints often declare themselves to be Christian. In America today, nobody hates hearing about Christianity more than a Christian.
Rather than ignore these criticisms, I thought I might try to explain why I don’t plan on toning it down. In fact, I’m headed in the opposite direction. The reason is very simple: I really do believe this stuff. I have often been pretty bad at living and acting according to my belief — I am no expert when it comes to following the teachings and making all of the sacrifices a Christian is called to make — but no matter my personal weaknesses (which are many and daunting), I still believe it all.
When Scripture says we are fighting not against “flesh and blood” but “the powers of darkness,” I believe it. And when it says that the Devil is prowling the world “like a lion seeking someone to devour,” I believe that, too. And when Revelation tells us about the war between Michael and the angels of God against Satan and his minions, I believe exactly what it says. I have sometimes wished that I didn’t believe any of it. I have even had terrible times in my life when I have tried not to believe it. But I still do. I believe it for the simple fact that it is true, no matter how I happen to feel about that truth. It just is. That’s all.
We are in a spiritual battle. No topic really matters apart from this deeper spiritual truth. The political arguments are only significant to the extent that they are manifestations of the underlying spiritual war. Every meaningful debate reflects, in some way, the eternal battle between Good and Evil. To ignore the eternal and focus entirely on the temporal seems not only dishonest, but also dull and boring. We are in the midst of a war between the powers of Heaven and the armies of Hell, and these people want to just talk about politics? That’s like if aliens invaded Earth on the same day that a new Star Wars was released, but nobody paid attention to the aliens because they were more interested in watching the movie.
As far as “bringing God into everything,” it is not up to me to do so. I cannot bring God in or take Him out. He is already in everything, except sin. And in those dark, wicked crevices of existence where He is not present, someone else is there. We cannot go anywhere, we cannot retreat to any corner, we cannot debate any topic that is truly “ours.” Nothing exists just on the temporal plane. As C.S. Lewis put it: “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second is claimed by God, and counterclaimed by Satan.”
So, one way or another, whatever we do, whatever issue we discuss, whatever argument we have, we are aligning ourselves either with Him or him. That seems a relevant fact, and should probably be mentioned as often as possible. There is an entire mountain beneath the surface of this island. Without the mountain, it would be just a bit of sand floating in the ocean, easily swept away and forgotten. That is how an atheist sees human existence. As Christians, we know better.
Speaking of atheists, I understand that they will laugh when they hear this kind of talk about God, spiritual war, angels, demons, and so on. They really have no choice but to react that way. If God is not true, then He is ridiculous. To treat Him as anything less than ridiculous is to admit that He might be true. The sneer of an atheist doesn’t bother me and never has. Sneering is their only defensive mechanism. I don’t hold it against them. I pity them. I pray for them. They are miserable and stubbornly holding onto their misery.
The problem is that many Christians try to stake out a similar position. But that position isn’t actually available to us. They want to admit that all of this spiritual stuff is true, but then relegate it to the background. They want to say they believe in God, but there is no reason for God to “come up.” They want to acknowledge the eternal with a dismissive wave and then get back to the business of ignoring it.
As I said at the beginning, I understand this inclination. I have felt the inclination. It can be scary to think about these things. Especially if we are living deep in sin. Indeed, even the virtuous cannot help but tremble in fear when they contemplate themselves standing before the Heavenly Throne. But the fact remains. And it is a massively important fact. It is the fact upon which every other fact is built. It is the fact that every fact leads back to. It is the tree that holds every branch.
There is a whole side to existence — the more real, more solid side — that we cannot see, though the beings on that side can see us. They not only see us but act upon us. They attack us, or help us, or hurt us, or heal us. Every moment of every day there are legions of demons and legions of angels fighting over you, personally. You are in the middle of a great battlefield, and you are the prize the two sides are fighting over. Indeed, you are the battlefield, in a certain sense. They are waging this war inside your soul.
And when you die, which could be literally any moment — and will certainly, in the grand scheme, be soon — you will either join the angels in Heaven or be consumed by the demons in the darkness of eternal oblivion. We must believe this if we are Christian. And if we believe it, how could it not dominate our thoughts and our conversations?
But, yes, we can “tone down the Jesus stuff” if we want. And if we keep trying to “tone Him down” in our lives, there may come a time when we really succeed. We may enter a place where Jesus is silent forever, and nobody speaks His name. We will have finally gotten what we wanted there. And I think, now that it is too late, we will realize that we do not want it anymore.
So please don't ask me why I write about God. Ask me why I ever write about anything else.