What I Needed to Hear When I Was An Atheist (and How I Needed to Heart It)

by Matt Rawlings

There is an overlooked movie from the 1990′s entitled The Big Kahuna.  The film stars Kevin Spacey, Danny Devito and Peter Facinelli as salesmen at a convention attempting to score a productive meeting with an industrialist that they call “The Big Kahuna.”  Facinelli, a young Baptist, inadvertently scores a meeting with The Big Kahuna.  Spacey and Devito press Facinelli to set up a meeting to hear their pitch.  Facinelli shares the Gospel with the industrialist but fails to set the sales meeting.  Spacey becomes incensed but Facinelli insists that it would have cheapened his testimony to spin a Gospel presentation into a marketing presentation.  Devito then asks Facinelli what are the names of the Big Kahuna’s wife and children? He can’t answer.  Devito insists that Facinelli is also nothing but a salesman because he doesn’t really care about the industrialist as a person.

The movie reminds me of my time as an atheist.  When I was attending North Hollywood High in the fall of 1990, there was a kid in one of my classes who often followed me on my walk home to my apartment off of Magnolia Boulevard.  He did the Four Spiritual Laws and Roman Road presentation.  He spoke about he and his family’s faith in Jesus and wanted to know if I would come with them to church.  But he never asked a single question about me personally.  I always declined his invitations and eventually he moved on to someone else.

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I left Hollywood in 1991 and by 1992 I was knee-deep in national politics, (which is just Hollywood for ugly people). Because I worked in politics, I ran to the phone whenever it rang because you never knew when you were needed on the campaign trail.  But these were the dark days before caller ID, so I never knew who was calling.

One of the people who would often call me was a godly and very talkative elderly Alabama transplant from my father’s church who we called “Miss Francis.”  I was often disappointed when I heard her deep southern drawl say “Hello there, honey.” But even though I would rather have been talking to a congressional candidate, I never doubted how much this older Christian lady loved me and she always asked if I was going to be at church that next Sunday.

She wasn’t the only one who asked.  There was a retired police officer I had always called, “Mr. Shaffer.”  He would call and gruffly ask me if I would be at church as well.  He oversaw communion at the church and always wanted me to help but I also knew that he cared about me too.  He would sometimes bark in my ear, “What in the #$% are you doing with your life, anyway?”

So, even though I was an atheist, I would often attend church just to make these two elderly people (and my mother) happy.  These two godly people didn’t know apologetics but if they had I would have listened to them because I knew they cared about me as a person.

Relationships matter…

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What I Needed to Hear When I Was An Atheist (and How I Needed to Heart It) | Pastor Matt


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