Sunday, June 26, 2011

To My Atheist Friends

Correction:  Maya Angelou did not write this.  And I have updated the text to reflect the true author's words.  See Snopes for the full story.  Shame on me for not checking my facts, and thanks to Anonymous, whoever you are!

By Carol Wimmer


When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not shouting, “I’ve been saved!”
I’m whispering, “I get lost!
That’s why I chose this way”

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I don’t speak with human pride
I’m confessing that I stumble -
needing God to be my guide

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not trying to be strong
I’m professing that I’m weak
and pray for strength to carry on

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not bragging of success
I’m admitting that I’ve failed
and cannot ever pay the debt

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I don’t think I know it all
I submit to my confusion
asking humbly to be taught

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not claiming to be perfect
My flaws are far too visible
but God believes I’m worth it

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I still feel the sting of pain
I have my share of heartache
which is why I seek His name

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I do not wish to judge
I have no authority
I only know I’m loved

30 comments:

Always On Watch said...

Generally, I don't care for Maya Angelou's writing. But this is an excellent series of quotations.

I wonder: Do public school students who often study Maya Angelou, ever see these words?

Silverfiddle said...

AOW: This poem would never see the inside of a public school.

Mark Adams said...

Great quotes!
My own to Atheist: "I am not asking you to be christian, and I respect that, so respect that choose to be."

Anonymous said...

SilverFiddle,

Thank you for bringing Maya Angelou to our attention this Sunday morning. She is full of wisdom and good humor. I had almost forgotten about her. I never thought she was a particularly good poet -- not compared to Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Robert Browning, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Amy Lowell, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Frost and the like anyway -- but thanks to you, SilverFiddle, I just read through several pages of Maya Angelou quotations, and found much to respect and admire.


Here are a few of her aphorisms I thought particularly valuable:


"While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God's creation."


"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."


"I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights."


"Hate. It has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet"


"We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends and living our lives. "


“There's a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure truth."


~ Maya Angelou


Since I believe that God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, and Christ Jesus, His Son are One, and that God is All-in-All -- omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent -- I see also that every drop of kindness, wisdom, good humor, and all constructive endeavor, every act motivated by conscience and every desire to aid, encourage and give hope to others is essentially Christian in spirit -- even if it does not label itself as such.

God and Christ are honored and revered in every benevolent act of selflessness and courage in all cultures and among all peoples.

I believe Jesus, who is God-Made Flesh, appeared to show us how to recognize the Holy Spirit that dwells in all mankind, and never to be cowed or dominated by the insolence, arrogance, and despotic impulses we too often meet in others.

When He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life ..." I am morally certain He meant that working and praying always to act in accordance with the dictates of Love, Truth, Principle, Intelligence, Conscience, Integrity, Decency, Courage, Forgiveness, Generosity, etc. -- no matter how badly others treat us -- cannot help but make our individual lives more rewarding and also to improve the world at the same time.

Maya Angelou said that hatred has caused many problems, but has never solved any problems. I would agree, but I feel compelled to add the same is undoubtedly true of scorn, self-righteousness and any desire to claim exclusivity all of which stem from the sin of Pride.

Whenever we meet hatred, ignorance, contempt, misunderstanding or arrogance it is incumbent upon us as Christians never to respond in kind.

~ FreeThinke

Anonymous said...

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.


~ Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

To me this has vast implications and describes very well the essence of Christian Conscience, yet it is not specifically "religious" at all. Should "religion" be regarded as a special thing apart from other facets of life, or should it be an integral part of one's life? Do you believe that religion can only be found and expressed through the Scriptures? Do you believe that religion should be relegated exclusively to the confines of church and chapel and could have no proper place in public life? Do you believe that religion is mostly a matter of learning and following certain rules -- or is it more than that? Do you believe it is ever legitimate to tell other what they must believe, and punish them if they cannot accept what is offered?

So much to think about, if one looks beneath the surface, isn't there?

~ FreeThinke

Christopher - Conservative Perspective said...

I echo AOW's thoughts here Silver.

Angelo's words here are correct but not even close to profound and as such I have never understood why people place her on such a pedestal?

Anonymous said...

Christopher,

Could you cite a few words from authors you do regard as profound?

In dismissing Angelou's words as "correct, but nowhere near profound" were you referring to the poem SilverFiddle posted or her work in general? Have you closely examined a significant portion of her work?

~ FreeThinke

Silverfiddle said...

Christopher: I just like what she says, I'm not a literature critic.

She read a poem a Clinton's inauguration, and liberals quote her, but that doesn't sway me one way or the other. I take her at her words, and they are good ones.

FreeThinke: You've just delivered an excellent Sunday sermon.

To answer your question, No, I do not believe religion should be put in a special box and segregated. The scriptures guide us, but they do not contain the whole of religion.

Very well spoken.

Christopher - Conservative Perspective said...

@ Free Thinke,

I like Silver am no literature critic but to address your question(s) in the order you presented them;

-Any and all framers of our Constitution let alone the authors of the Federalist Papers is my interpretation of profound let alone correct.

-I was indeed referring to Angelou's work posted by Silver and it was not my intention to dismiss it being I agree with it (hence the word correct) but just making an observation.

Finally, no I have not "closely examined a significant portion of her work" due to the fact I have heard her in her own word's and found them not to be worth my time and effort as you suggest.

This, on my part is not to suggest her work is bad but I find them rather ordinary and not of the nature to prompt one to think further.

The authors words I find profound and point too are known the world over for just shy of 235 years and I highly doubt Angelou's work will have such longevity let alone meaning.

You might dismiss this as the authors I cite were not known as poets per se. But I beg to differ on that point in advance having read the documents produced by these men and it is pure poetry based in realism that actually, to this very day prompts people to think further.

Given your handle, Free Thinke, one might assume that you can appreciate my answers here?

Z said...

I've never been a fan of Angelou's but learned something recently, from two people who knew her quite well, that really did her in for me, sadly.
Anyway, having said that, this piece is very well said and I am so happy to read it. It's so true, and what non CHristians think of us is so often NOT true.
Thanks for this SF.

WomanHonorThyself said...

God bless u Silver. Have a beautiful rest of the weekend~!:)

Silverfiddle said...

Regardless of the woman, I love this poem because she says it so well.

Non-believers often look at us as self-righteous high and mighties, but most of us are not. If I thought I were all that, it would lead me to foolishly believe I didn't need God!

Z said...

I agree....her name makes red flags go up for me; but my remark should have gone unsaid. And yes, most non-believers do think that about Christians and, if you are a believer, you will never find yourself not needing God! well said, SF.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your kind thoughts, SilverFiddle.

Thank you too, Christopher, for taking time to clarify. I think we agree far more than we could disagree. I had narrowed my thinking down to poetry when I wrote, because our friend, SilverFiddle, had posted a poem and Maya Angelou is known primarily as a poet, but of course, great value and profundity comes from fiction and expository writing as well as poetry -- and possibly even more from great Music, Art, Architecture, Mathematics and Science.

And Z, while I have not been privileged to know Maya Angelou personally, or to know anyone who has ever been close to her, you touch upon a very important, age-old subject -- that of the need for separating a person's body of work from the way he has lived his personal life.

It remains one of the great paradoxes in all Creation to realize that works of sublime beauty that shed light on the human condition and give us deeper understanding of eternal truth can emanate from the mind and hands of vastly imperfect, sinful -- sometimes downright obnoxious -- human beings.

Perhaps this is God's way of letting us know there isn't one of us who is any better than anyone else? Thin veins of gold lie buried inside mountains of rock and precious nuggets lie in streams mixed with common dirt and gravel. The saints, the poets, the artists, writers and composers who have produced really significant stuff, and the scientists who have made discoveries that greatly advanced the quality of life on earth are no different from any of the rest of us, except for their apparently miraculous ability to get in touch from time to time with the "thread of gold" that permeates their otherwise-ordinary, imperfect, often sinful selves. That thread of gold is, of course, a metaphor for God -- the embodiment and perfect expression of Truth and Love and the source of all Beauty, Wisdom and Knowledge.

Thanks again, SilverFiddle, for your generosity in allowing us to speak our minds freely in an atmosphere that by its very nature discourages acrimony while promoting open heartedness. It takes real courage and a measure of magnanimity to entertain thoughts graciously that may not be in sympathy with one's own. You've given us a great gift, my friend.

~ FreeThinke

Shane Atwell said...

Why accept so much self-doubt and guilt? Be rational, be proud, deserve it.

Ducky's here said...

A lot of believers don't think much of Calvinists either, z.

You start using Christianity as a foundation for fairy tales like American exceptionalism and you're going to get quite a few walkouts.

Silverfiddle said...

Shane: I understand the atheist argument you espouse, but I just don't swing that way. I've seen too much in this life and I am as sure as I can be that God exists.

Ducky: You're reading too much in to it. It is what it is and nothing more.

Jersey McJones said...

You could replace every mention of "Christian" with "Atheist" and say basically the same things.

Every atheist I know agrees with Jesuit ethics. I know I do. The moral and ethical teachings of Jesus are an important foundation of Western society. They are correct and benificent.

The virulent exposition of belief in God, however, is problematic.

JMJ

Anonymous said...

Ducky,

In what ways is American exceptionalism a myth? In what ways are we not exceptional?

If you do not believe in American exceptionalism, what do you think of the idea of Jewish exceptionalism with regard to Jews being considered God's Chosen People historically, and that Israel has an indisputable right to exist, because Jews, as a notably singular people, deserve a country to call their very own?

Instead of lobbing grenades at motives you subjectively attribute to others, why not share your own positive views on the subjects you address?

I'm sure I'm not the only person who would like to know why people believe what they believe, and to learn concrete reasons for their holding certain views.

Thanks.

~ FreeThinke

Anonymous said...

"The virulent exposition of belief in God, however, is problematic."

Not if you understand who and what God really is, Jersey. If you believe in basic elements such as truth, love and principle, if you believe in the intangible virtues such as honesty, integrity, wisdom, empathy,compassion, if you believe in there is a difference between good and evil, you believe in God -- whether you want to recognize it or not.

Now, why would you use a powerfully pejorative adjective like "virulent" in reference to the assertion of a belief in God.

You may not believe in Him, but He certainly believes in you. He gave you your life. He is your father. He lives in your conscience and any desire you may have to see fairness, decency and honesty prevail in human relations.

God's existence doesn't depend on how many people believe in Him. He can do very well without us, but we would have nothing at all -- wouldn't even be here -- if it weren't for Him.

Even so, thanks to the exceptional nature of the American constitution, you are perfectly free to worship Him or not -- and in any manner you choose.

The question I have for all aggressive assertions of atheism is why are most you guys so hostile to our right to believe in God, love Him and do everything possible to promote the development of Christian Conscience in society?

If our beliefs are merely illusory, as you seem to want to believe, why would you be so passionately concerned about something you regard as unreal to refer to it as virulent?

~ FreeThinke

Bastiatarian said...

>The virulent exposition of belief in God, however, is problematic.

Except for the millions upon millions of us who have had actual, lived experience with God.

Christopher - Conservative Perspective said...

@ Free Thike,

I believe we are on the same page now and appreciate your word's.

jez said...

I think most people (even believers) believe that many believers are fixed upon a false god. Would it be fair to describe those false beliefs as virulent?

Anonymous said...

Jez,

Naturally, if anyone feels compelled to worship a "jealous" god who advocates anger, brutality, vengefulness, subjugation of women and wholesale murder -- as Allah and the God of the Old Testament too often appear to do -- I would regard his belief as false and his "God" as illegitimate.

Heaping scorn on those whose beliefs are not in accord with one's own is equally unacceptable. So is badgering, bullying and insulting them.

I think it would help a great deal if we were less judgmental and a lot more curious about one another's differences.

In an ideal world we would concentrate on improving ourselves according to our own lights and not be so concerned with the way others live their lives.

Aggression is intolerable. Intolerance is even more so.


~ FreeThinke

jez said...

I don't necessarily think that "virulent" is an intolerant, scornful or bullying term. Eg. I'd say that "capitalism" and "democracy" are virulent ideas too (as well as being good ones).

Anonymous said...

Jez,

Please look at these definitions of virulent from three different online dictionaries:


vir·u·lent

Extremely infectious, malignant, or poisonous. Used of a disease or toxin.

Capable of causing disease by breaking down protective mechanisms of the host. Used of a pathogen.

Bitterly hostile or antagonistic; hateful: virulent criticism.See Synonyms at poisonous.

Intensely irritating, obnoxious, or harsh.

vir·u·lent
1 - a : marked by a rapid, severe, and destructive course
b : able to overcome bodily defensive mechanisms :markedly pathogenic

2: extremely poisonous or venomous

3: full of malice : malignant

4: objectionably harsh or strong
— vir·u·lent·ly adverb

virulent - [L. virulentus, from virus, poison, that is, strength, from the same root as vir, vireo. See Venom.]


1. Extremely active in doing injury; very poisonous or venomous. No poison is more virulent than that of some species of serpents.

2. Very bitter in enmity; malignant; as a virulent invective.

Do you still see the word in the same light now?


~ FreeThinke

jez said...

Yes, I still don't see it that way. The etymology of the word goes has its roots from before we had a germ theory of infection, and the traditional dictionaries include definitions of the word as it would have been understood in the 17th century. However, I am unable to break the association with viral reproduction & infection as discovered by microbiology. I'd like to use it as a near-synonym for "very infectious".

However the dictionary is the last court of appeal in this matter, so your position is sufficiently defended. I accept I might be the eccentric here, and more importantly, I don't disagree with what you say about badgering, bullying, insulting etc.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jez.

Infectious can certainly be used in a positive sense -- i.e. "Her charming laughter was infectious, and lifted everyone's spirits" - OR - "The foreman's enthusiasm for the work proved infectious, and soon everyone at the job site was giving his all to get it done before nightfall."

Virulent, however, has always been used in a pejorative context -- i.e. "The KKK's virulent passion for anti-Semitism and racial intolerance made it a danger to the safety and integrity of our democratic society." - OR - "His aversion to obeying orders and cooperating with others became so virulent it rendered him anti-social and chronically delinquent."

In any event I can tell your heart's in the right place, but words either mean something in particular, or they mean nothing at all -- not that new meanings cannot evolve from old. They do, but often it comes from persistent misuse, and that only serves to add to the confusion with which we are already overburdened, I fear.

~ FreeThinke

MK said...

Nice poem.

Anonymous said...

This was not written by Maya Angelou, it was actually written by Carol Wimmer in 1988

http://carolwimmer.com/when-i-say-i-am-a-christian

It is a great piece but you should edit this and give the correct person the credit.