Dr. Edwin Land, inventor of the Polaroid Camera, once gave a speech in which he claimed to be an addict. This is how he put it: "I am an addict. I am addicted to performing at least one good experiment a day ... When I cannot, the world goes out of focus, becomes unreal."
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In his speech he told of a student seminar he took part in at one of the great eastern universities. "We sat on the floor, and the boys and girls sat in a circle around me. The men, including the professor, wore magnificent long hair and, of course, the whole variety of handsome beards. It was rather hard for the women to compete with the colorfulness of the men ... As we all talked, I found myself describing the wonders of the scientific experience ... I remarked on the sense of awe that one could be the instrument of this process, as if input had flowed into one, and significant outputs emerged from one. I was pleased to note the comprehension on one of the bearded faces. He turned to the neighboring girl and said with firm conviction 'Why, it's just like heroin, isn't it?'"
It is my suggestion that we need more addicts, but addicts to right living, or perhaps, addicts to Christianity. It is strange that in the world of today it is not stylish to be addicted to Christianity, while at the same time. it is almost not stylish not to be addicted to alcohol or marijuana. In a scientific study reported recently on whether use of marijuana impaired abilities of its users in performing certain tasks, a study was made of users vs. nonusers. The nonuser was defined as a person who had not used marijuana more than ten times.
We've blurred our definitions. We've blurred our standards. We've blurred our aspirations.
A football coach, talking of one of his players, was quoted as saying: "Ray thought for a time of becoming a priest. He's thought better of it now, and is going to become a football coach."
When I started thinking about this subject I was going to call it, "We need more addicts and convicts." However, I couldn't find a single dictionary that would go along with my definition of a convict as a person with convictions. This, though, seems to be the heart of the matter: To be an addict to Christianity you have to have convictions.
We seem to be trying to do the most important business of the world, without any real convictions, without any zeal or enthusiasm.
There is a portion in the biblical book of Revelation about a church that was doing its job in a perfunctory manner, without any real enthusiasm, and what did the Spirit say to this church? "Because you are lukewarm, I will spew you out of my mouth." (Such a good translation, it is preserved in almost every version of the Bible. In other words, there's no real religion without enthusiasm.)
How are we going to go about getting more addicts and convicts? Well, it apparently depends on us. If we are not addicted to the way we are going, if we re not convicted that this is the way, then our chances of persuading others to do so will not be very great. There's something quite irresistible about someone who is completely convinced of a position he has taken.
Do you remember the story about H.M. Stanley looking for Dr. David Livingstone in Central Africa? Stanley found Livingstone, and spent some time with him there in Africa. Later, he commented: "If I had been with him any longer i would have been compelled to become a Christian and he never spoke to me about it at all." The sheer weight of the witness of the man's life was irresistibly persuasive.
But there is another quality that is very important in the communication of Christian convictions, and that is Christian love. You remember that, in I Corinthians, Paul was describing Christian love to the members of the Corinthian church. Interestingly, Paul doesn't say a thing about love being honest. He says, love is patient, love is kind. You know - not, "This is the 100th time you have burned the toast and I've had it." but "I don't know how many times you have burned the toast, and I'm getting to like it that way."
What we need is more enthusiastic, convinced and persuasive Christian addicts.
Bea Shepard is a Lay Speaker in the Douglas Community United Methodist Church.