Monday, July 25, 2005

Questions for Christians, Part Deux

Several members of my family claim to have a "personal relationship" with Jesus. Some claim that Jesus is their "buddy" that they talk to all day long. Although I claimed for the majority of my life to be a Christian and to know Jesus, I never made the claim that I had a "personal" relationship with him because to me, a personal relationship must be at least partly physical. But that's just me.

If you make the claim that you have a personal relationship with Jesus, I have some forthright questions for you:

Do you actually talk to Jesus? And by "talk" I mean actually form words with your mouth as you exhale and cause vibrations in the air that others could hear? Do you physically see him? Physically touch him? Since it is a relationship, I assume Jesus at least talks back. Is it a physical sound that you hear (that others would hear if they were there)? Does he physically appear and touch you? Okay, if it is not a physical conversation, what is it then? Do you have the conversation in your mind? Do you mentally ask actual question in your mind and hear the answers directly, either physically or mentally? Do you "carry on a conversation" in your head, where your words and Jesus’ words are distinctly different? Or is it more of a "feeling in your heart" where you pray or talk, then have inspired thoughts as a result? Or do you (as I have done in the past) ask a question, open the bible, drop your finger and assume it has been guided?

I never did, but many children have imaginary friends. I believe most child psychologists have said that they are a normal part of development. Yet, as parents, we recognize that they are only in the child’s imagination. We are told, however, not to squash the child’s belief, as it can be very real to them, and maybe even be harmful if we don’t let them run their "normal course" where the child eventually says goodbye and lets their imaginary friend go.

Is there a difference between a child with an imaginary friend and a Christian that claims Jesus is their buddy? Obviously, any Christian would say there’s a huge difference. In that case, it should be easy to explain, and I would appreciate your explanation of what that difference is.

BTW - Please don't answer with something to the effect that "since you're not a Christian, you could not understand" or somesuch. If you are inclined to say that, just admit to yourself that you don't understand it either. I'm looking for someone that is comfortable with their beliefs and is willing to explain them in secular terms. Who knows, maybe you can save someone!

2 comments:

Dave said...

I've added a link to a Family Circle article about imaginary friends. Reading this with the subject in mind, the similarities between the reasons for a child having an imaginary friend and an adult Christian are striking!

Dave said...

The Family CIrcle Article disappeared. The following is a very similar article from familyresource.com:

By: Armin Brott

Young children often have imaginary friends. Sometimes they’re human, other times they’re animals, like the life-size rabbit in the old Jimmy Stewart movie, “Harvey.” Sometimes the imaginary friend is an occasional visitor, stopping by only once every few days. But other times it may be a child’s constant companion. Children may talk to their imaginary friends, draw with them, or even read books to them. And plenty of parents have had to set an extra place at the dinner table for the “friend.” So are children’s imaginary playmates cause for concern? In most cases, the answer is No. Imaginary friends are a pretty normal part of growing up—especially during the toddler years—and they serve several important functions:

They can be wonderful companions for pretend play, which is an important way to stimulate creativity and imagination. Having an invisible friend can make those long trips to the moon or back in time a little less lonely.
They can act as a child's trusted confidant when there's no one else to tell their secrets to. Even small children have issues that are too private to tell us.
They can help kids figure out the difference between right and wrong. Kids sometimes have a tough time stopping themselves from doing things they know are wrong. Blaming the imaginary friend for eating cookies before dinner is often a sign that the child understands right vs. wrong distinctions but isn't quite ready to assume complete responsibility for her actions.
They can give you some valuable insights into your child's feelings. Listening to your child bravely comfort an invisible friend who's about to get a shot may be a clue that your child is more afraid than she's letting on.
While it's generally perfectly fine to humor your child and go along with her claims about the existence of an imaginary friend, there are a few ground rules:

Don't let the "friend" be your child's only companion. Kids need to socialize with others their own ages. If your child seems to have no other friends or has no interest in being with her peers, talk to your pediatrician.
Don't let your child shift responsibility for everything bad to the friend. Saying that the friend is the one responsible for a nighttime accident is okay. Blaming the friend for a string of bank robberies isn't.
Treat the friend with respect. This means remembering his name, greeting him when you meet, and apologizing when you sit on him.
Don't use the friend to manipulate your child. That means no comments like "Maggie finished her dinner, why don't you finish yours?"
Most kids lose their imaginary friends between their third and fifth birthdays. Sometimes the friends are forgotten, sometimes they're sent on a distant—and permanent—trip, and other times they "die" in a horrible accident.