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We sat there–bellied up to the bar no less–debating about the Bible.
The modest pub was a sectioned-off box connected to a restaurant, and it was ours for the night. Different motives led us there. Mine was to ire the date who’d tried to stand me up, despite him being a good guy with a good reason. The two middle-aged Africans were new to the area and checking out the nightlife (or lack thereof), and Alan was working. Everyone else who entered took one look at the empty scene and left without a greeting.
My new friends and I were equally matched in passion, secondhand information, and a steady supply of rhetorical comebacks. The lot of us Bible experts–though none of us had read it.
“But if you look at the scientific proof of evolution…” It was how Brooke started all of his sentences. His voice was like honey. I was tempted more than once to ask him to sing a tribal ditty; but he’d dip into his bag of Darwin, whip out redundant theories and throw in big words no inebriated mind should hear, and I’d lose my train of thought.
He was an enigma to me. I wasn’t raised Christian–or any other religious affiliation for that matter–but I’d certainly never met a black atheist before. I probably would’ve marveled over him all night if not for Johan, the other South African.
Despite all I’d heard about apartheid, the heart of which was racial inequality, it had never occurred to me until then that a South African could be a tall, pale blonde who spoke in an almost Australian accent.
The new knowledge was distracting–and a bit of a blow to what I thought was my intelligent mind–but not so much that I couldn’t hold my own in our verbal scuffle.
“Don’t get me started about carbon dating,” I said. “Oh yeah? And where did that come from?…Okay, so where did that come from?…Say something new, Brooke, say something new.”
I rolled my eyes and took occasional swats at the smoke from Johan’s chain of cigarettes. We all ducked in and out of heated words and bouts of laughter, and they took turns buying drinks while I silenced my phone every time my no-show called.
Johan detoured from our contest of biased facts and popular verses. “Tell me what makes you so certain of your beliefs,” he said through a cloud. He pulled a stack of large bills from his pocket to buy the next round, moving as calm and slow as he talked. I sipped on my Apple Martini and thought hard for an answer.
I didn’t have one.
There was never a time I had not believed God existed. It was something I just always…knew. My faith in Christ, however, still in its infant stages, was sparked by something I couldn’t explain with the same logic that had run our conversation around the same track all night.
And though time had diminished the initial urgency I’d felt for Christ, I was all of a sudden very aware of it.
And very aware of Him.
I lowered my drink and shut my mouth while Johan looked on with a curious expression.
Alan broke the silence. “You don’t really believe in evolution do you? Look dude…” Whenever he said dude he pulled half his mouth up in an actor’s smile. “A house has a designer. Four walls and a roof, man. As basic as it gets, and it still has a designer. You mean to tell me you honestly believe that this whole workup we’ve got going here–galaxies, orbiting planets, gravity, seasons–all this order, and it just happened on its own?”
He wiped the clean spot in front of him with a rag, moved some glasses around, and kept talking. “I’m not gonna go so far as you,” his smile told me he was sorry for not committing to my camp, “and say there’s a god or anything.” He looked back at Brooke, “I just think if you look at it logically, dude, you have to accept that we have a designer out there somewhere.”
He’d said something pretty profound, but he still didn’t get it.
“If that ‘designer’ isn’t God,” I asked Alan after a moment, “then who is he?” He looked like I’d felt when I discovered black atheists and white South Africans.
My phone rang again. This time I answered it. I was no longer interested in a battle of wits and cunning debate. I didn’t know much after all, except that I had never fully committed to Whom I knew to be true.
“I have to go,” I said when I hung up. And so our religious debate ended without ceremony.
“You’ll come back next week?” Brooke stood. “Bring the lucky guy with you.”
I smiled without answering.
We parted with the lingering hugs of people who’ve known each other forever.
“You won’t be back will you?” Johan said in my ear when I embraced him last. “I have a feeling I’ll never see you again.”
And he never did.