Roadblock #5: The Prestige Factor
TYPICAL SAYING: “Faith is for weak people who need a crutch and can’t handle life on their own. Faith is for losers not winners.”
PROBLEM: Many have noticed that folks turn to religion or to God only when they get in trouble. This makes faith seem like a crutch to lean on when the going gets tough. Like the scared kid who runs behind Momma’s skirts when the big boys start pushing him around, they run to religion when life gets difficult. So religion appears to be ignoble and even sissified. They think those who turn to faith look pathetic; no one wants to look pathetic.
SOLUTION: Determining who are the winners and losers in life and who are the weak and the strong is both premature and rather arbitrary. People who appear to be weak may actually be stronger than those who appear to be strong. Those appearing to be strong may just be full of hot air and prove to be utter failures. Time and testing will tell, not present bloviating. Plus defining who is a winner or loser can’t be done arbitrarily. There has to be some standard for making that kind of a judgment and putting tallies on a scoreboard.
EXPLANATION: It is common to hear people assert that religion is only for old people and the weak, particularly a religion which urges prayer or calls upon a Deliverer. “Now I lay me down to sleep …” sounds childish to rugged individualists. Their thinking goes something like this … “If you are strong and tough, you just deal with life as it comes to you. You don’t fret and then ask a god for a favor. You don’t get on your knees to beg for mercy in the midst of life’s struggles; you stand up like a man.” They consider it more noble to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and make or break it by themselves. As they see it, a strong person does not need a god, karma, Buddhist mantras, prayer, or lucky stars. They only need themselves and their ingenuity.
This criticism seems to have some validity especially because many of the people who get radically converted to a religion do so in the midst of a tragedy. We have all seen someone hit a health crisis, lose a loved one, get fired at work, be dumped by a boyfriend, or flunk school – then, presto! They find religion. How convenient!. We call those “Foxhole Conversions.”
Does turning to religion, though, show weakness? What really is a loser or winner in life anyway, and who decides?
There are three considerations I hope will change your mind about the value and victory of faith for life. Those who come to the right faith surely must be put into the category of winner, not loser. Think of faith, not as a crutch, but as armor or equipment. One who wears it or uses it becomes strong – stronger than those who don’t. Pity the army who goes up against a better equipped army. They are bound to be slaughtered.
First, those who reject faith as an unfair advantage for the weak usually have to define weakness in selective ways. For if they spoke of their own ignorance, their own inability to love others, their own moral shortcomings, the failures in their marriage and family life, the unkindnesses they show to coworkers, their addictions, and their poor decisions, then they would have to admit what others have already admitted – they are also weak. At least the person pursuing help through faith passes the sniff test for honest self-evaluation. The proud man who hides his shortcomings is neither strong nor honest.
Second, if the faith and religion a person turns to makes that person a better person – better even than the person who ridiculed the faith – who is the true loser? The loser is the one who does not avail himself of the winning help. Or, put another way, if recruiting someone on your team makes you a better team, and you win the championship because you have this super great player on your team, when you stand in the winner circle and hold up the trophy with the star player, are you then considered a winner or loser? Most would say it was a savvy move on your team’s part to recruit him. You assembled a winning team. So it can be with the right faith. Faith is the power which moves the life to greater heights – greater even than the person who rejects faith. The loser is the one who rejects help because he thinks he will do better, but in the end does not.
Third, defining winning and losing is rather tricky. If the person not wanting to rely on faith outside of himself fails in life because the sum total of his life is displeasing to God, hasn’t he actually lost? In other words, if there is a God, won’t He determine the winners and losers? Isn’t He the final celestial umpire? If a person trusts in himself only, and then fails at life’s purpose, isn’t that losing? If the person who gains faith in God is rewarded greatly, wouldn’t we say the person having faith got the better outcome? That is usually a pretty good definition of winning – when it is all over, if you stand in the winner’s circle, you are the winner! By the way, no one should brag about winning at half-time (this present life). In the end the believer just may win out over those who think themselves self-sufficient.
To assume man is self-contained without need of help, not only can’t be proven, but ends up missing the value of the help God wants to give. Though believers are often the butt of jokes, the joke may be on those who do not avail themselves of what some greater power has made available for them. A hungry person who refuses food because he thinks others are weak for taking it, will find himself starving to death in his foolish pride. I don’t know about you, but I would rather be well-fed and strong!