In the eighties when I flew constantly over Brazil and a few countries of below the Southern Hemisphere, I used to notice how many “agnostics” and “atheists” all of a sudden would become “religious” during periods of heavy turbulence or any commotion during flight that posed a danger of a massive loss of life. I even got to the point of exposing a Bible that had my name engraved in golden letters “Rev. Milton Almeida” (although I despise the “Rev” title) only to find out how many people would procure a conversation with the “Rev.” carrying a Bible during a turbulent and uncomfortable flight. It was, pardon me my mean spiritedness, even amusing when people would approach me and ask me questions as to whether I really believed the Scripture and if I prayed for the flight and then confess to me as if I requested, that they were unbelievers.
I remember an occasion when I was flying from the Southern part of Brazil to the city where I used to live, São Paulo, when this, as reported to me later, important and well known psychiatrist was sitting next to me in an Airbus, the same model that had been found to be involved in several crashes during that time which resulted in massive loss of life. When he saw my Bible “accidentally” slipping off my briefcase be engaged in a conversation with me in a sort of challenging and mocking tone asking me if I believed the things written in the book, and then challenging me with issues of mental illness, homosexuality (remember this is in the 80’s!), and took the time to tell me “the ridiculous things that Scripture readers rejected” in a demonstration of his sheer ignorance of what Christians believe and how stereotypical even a man of his knowledge and education can be on issues of religion.
Then, the storm hit! That plane was swinging as a blender… Trust me, I was scared to death! But not scared of death! I always had a sentence in my mind during crisis in airplanes, of which I could write a book as they were many during the 15 years of flying as a management consultant for an international firm and later to a Brazilian firm: I am not scared of crashing… it is the sudden encounter to the ground that scares me”. So, I was attempting to draw smiles, and stay calm, but it was very difficult. The air movements were so intense amidst the Cumulonimbus clouds that the captain later told us that in one of the “drops” we actually went down 1,000 feet in a split second. Oh, I remember that one! He didn’t have to tell me! No… not because of the impact of the drop, but because the man sitting next to me, had a sudden conversion, not to Jesus, but to me… Out of the thin air, no pun intended, he was asking me if I would be praying for the flight so nothing serious would befall us and that soon we would land safely and survive. I simply told him that all he previously had said about Scripture believers was wrong and that now he was making another mistake which was to expect me to believe for him, in other words, vicariously have faith for him. I mentioned to him that I was a protestant and although I could pray for him I could not believe in his instead… that he would have to find a way to believe himself. Nervous and frightened as he was he actually babbled a small prayer, always that conditional “if you’re there God, do this and do that”. God must have heard him because we did land safely for mine and his joy!
I don’t want to stretch your permission to my “mean spiritedness” in telling you of the occasions when unbelievers called me crying out for prayer when their babies were seriously ill, another one, who owned a company where I worked, who asked me to pray for his dying mother, and another who mocked me every day he would see me calling me “padre” knowing the differences between what I was and a “padre”, a man who had been diagnosed with cancer and consulted me about praying for him, and if in my denomination we would pray for the sick. The point is, however, that unbelievers are not very convicted of their convictions. Well, they are, until they need something from the entity they despise and do not believe. This is good, not bad and not something that followers of Christ should mock, but it is just a real crack on the credibility of those who populate the Internet today to express their unbelief, mocking the Scripture and its followers. I do not see very many Scripture believing Christians resorting to pagan deities when they are in some kind of predicament, so it is fair for me to expect that, the self-proclaimed and publicly open unbelievers, more so yet, from those who make a point to mock believers in virtually everything they write, would have the same convictions; the latter should merely admit that their unbelief is temporary, until something threatens their comfort zone and attempt to refrain from mocking believers.
I am not defending ignorance and that Christians should shun intellectuality and take advantage of every moment of crisis in someone else’s life simply to act in a “I told you so…” kind of stance. Christians should be followers of Christ in whatever circumstance and find wisdom not to appear that they want others to do badly in order for them to be somehow, “attracted” to faith. Followers of Christ should never rejoice in anyone’s suffering, but suffer with them; we should bring Christ to them in their level and not take a lofty stance as if we are not subject to the same fears of suffering. The idea of taking advantage of situations where the other person is in some kind of predicament to “preach at” them and to defend the tenets of the Christian faith is not what I propose with this article. What I propose with this article and the examples herein is just to convey that most believers are fully convicted of their beliefs. Unbelievers, I doubt!