Last night we went to hear All Souls Orchestra, under Noel Tredinnick, BBC "Songs of Praise" music conductor, playing melodiously outside the youth-oriented culture of London, in a church in Tonbridge.
As part of the event, Andrew Palau, the 30 something son of famous evangelist Luis Palau spoke searingly about his lost past. A bit like the Prodigal Son, he left his father's house and chose instead to become "cool". For no real reason, he rejected his family's committed Christianity on the West Coast of America, in favour of drinking, sports, drugs and the corporate life in Boston. He told us that this disengagement was not justified due to hypocrisy he had encountered in Christianity in his home church.
He described how this life led to overwhelming guilt from his failed and superficial relationships and from drug taking. Eventually at 27, his fear of his own conscience became so strong that staying in an inebriated state in the evenings watching sport on TV was the only way to cope. He also spoke of his inability to sustain meaningful relationships. All this time, his parents and friends never gave up contacting, writing to and praying for him. Finally, drawn invisibly and unwillingly, he found himself at a mission in Jamaica, saw a young woman whom he fell in love with and was converted himself. They married, have two sons and have just adopted an orphan Ethiopian girl, aptly called "Saviour". Romance, family, connection, meaning, and truth.
Like peeping through a curtain, one gets real insights into the atheist's life from someone suddenly rescued from it. They admit its weaknesses, its dishonesties, lack of fulfilment, its hidden loneliness, its pain, its temptations and secret guilt. What strikes me most is their total inability to "connect" with others, through their own alienation from God.
Connectedness was one of the astonishing blessings immediately accessible to me on becoming a believer. Suddenly, miraculously, one was no longer living in a "fridge". God was (and is) always there and one meet some of the best people in the world.
One discovers that there is "such a thing as society". Actually, in this broken, post modern age, society now only continues among "believers in Heaven". So one can add that to the list of believers' "benefits".