“I don’t drive cars.” Oliver replies. “I stopped driving them years ago. I’m done with cars.”
John is shocked. “Why? What happened?”
“Well I couldn’t stand the three wheels, you see.” Oliver replies. “I used to drive one of them Reliant Robins. And the damn thing kept tipping over. Finally, I said, ‘That’s enough car-driving for me.’ And I’ve been taking the bus ever since.”
So Oliver has rejected cars based on his experience with the Reliant Robin, a three-wheeled economy car that was popular in 1970s Britain and which was famous for its fuel economy … and its penchant for tipping over in moderate cornering.
How do you think John should reply? Perhaps something like this. “Oliver, my good man. I understand that you had a bad experience with the Reliant Robin. But you should know that there are many cars with four wheels out there. Perhaps it is time for you to re-examine your rejection of automotive transportation.”
This story captures the essence of countless interactions I’ve had with deconverts from Christianity. Those conversations tend to go like this.
Me: “So you were a Christian?”
Deconvert: “Yeah, but I stopped being a Christian years ago. I’m done with Christianity.”
I’m shocked. “Why? What happened?”
“Well I couldn’t stand the _______, you see.” Deconvert replies. “I used to go to the ______ church. And I kept ______. Finally, I decided, ‘That’s enough for me.’ And I’ve been a non-Christian ever since.”
The three blanks can be filled in many ways. For example:
“Well I couldn’t stand the young earth creationism, you see.” Deconvert replies. “I used to go to the Baptist church. And I kept running into the fact of evolution. Finally, I decided, ‘That’s enough for me.’ And I’ve been a non-Christian ever since.
Some other common catalysts for rejecting Christianity include biblical inerrancy, Calvinism, hell as eternal conscious torment, anti-environmentalism, political conservatism, and so on.
In each case the rejection of Christianity based on the reason given is like rejecting cars based on the three-wheeled Reliant Robin.
So how should one respond?
I start in an obvious place. “Christianity isn’t defined by ___________. There are many forms of Christianity that reject ___________. So perhaps it is time for you to reconsider your reasons for deconversion.”
Interestingly, this rarely provides grounds for folks to reconsider their deconversion. Instead, I’ve often heard a quip like this in response: “Well there are 33,000 different Christianities.”
Note how that response is a complete non sequitur.
Imagine if, after John pointed out that many (indeed most) cars have more than three wheels, Oliver were to reply: “Well there are 33,000 different kinds of car.”
That may be (depending on how one counts). But it is completely irrelevant to John’s point. His point is that Oliver’s reasons for rejecting the Reliant Robin do not constitute reasons to reject cars generally. Likewise, reasons for rejecting young earth creationism or Calvinism (or…) are not reasons for rejecting Christianity.