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‘Faith’ the atheist concluded ‘is a crutch for the weak.’ As he sat down, I seethed in my seat. Although I was aware of this argument I couldn’t believe that a supposedly educated man would use this aged saying as his closing gambit. The theme was ‘Do we need God in the 21st Century?’ As I imagine these things always do, it turned into ‘Does God exist?’ In the God corner weighing in with faith were a Christian Bishop and a Muslim Cleric, and in the no God corner advocating free love and nudity a naturist and the above mentioned atheist.

The time came for questions from the floor and I, still seething, slowly raised my hand. ‘You say that faith is a crutch for the weak’ I aimed directly between his God denying eyes, ‘But you have a faith, you might not call it God, but you believe in something – does that make you weak?’ Revelling in my quick witted challenge I sat down, while all atheist boy could mutter was ‘Good one.’

The thing is after 12 years of almost constant reflection on what I counted as one of my shining moments, I now think the atheist was right. Well almost right, he said faith is a crutch for the weak, I would now say Christianity is a crutch for the weak, or at least it should be. I wish I had been wise enough to explain that way back then Jesus came for the weak, that He came to make them strong, to achieve through them what they could never achieve themselves and thus glorify God who is ever working through them. I wish I’d explained that God uses the foolish to shame the proud, that his kingdom is upside down and completely opposite to the values of the majority. I wish I had said, you are right I am weak and that’s the point, because in the church of Jesus, the weak are welcomed, the hungry are fed, the poor are cared for, you won’t find middle class drifters, but classless grafters working to reach even more people in need. And just you wait, you wait and see what we’ll achieve. Are you wounded? We’ll patch you up? Hurting? We’ll listen. Depressed? We are here. Unsure. We can wait. Broke? We know a man who can help. Not by our own merit, but by clinging to the strength of the One who has touched lepers, healed blindness, confounded the religious, stirred up the system, carried the device of his own execution on a scar ridden back, the One who consulted with prophets, who walked on the waves and calmed the storms, the One who has beaten even death and is calling your name right now.

Mr atheist we, the body of Christ, embrace your poorly thought out cliche, and if you still think it’s a smug retort to leave our cheeks stinging then you might not want to be in the way when we come marching through.

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