Existential Christianity

“Oh hi! Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas.”
“You don’t sound particularly enthusiastic.”
“I’m not. As you know, I lost what little faith I had this year.”
“Yes, I know. I’m sorry.”
“How come you never had that much faith?”
“Well, because I’m a scientist. We don’t care much for supernatural explanations of anything.”
“Of course.”
“In your world, you kind of have to.”
“Ha! Yes, it is kind of a job requirement. But you know, sometimes you say things that make me think you actually want a little faith.”
“Oh you have no idea how much, especially now.”
“But let me guess: you’d be violating your oath as a scientist if you allowed yourself to believe in God.”
“It would be like a betrayal.”
“Well that’s putting it a bit strongly, but yes, that’s right.”
“Yet at the same time you see people of faith using that faith to help them cope with losses like yours.”
“And some part of you wishes you could believe like they do.”
“Well I did. As a child.”
“As a child.”
“Why are you making that face? Did I say something wrong?”
“No, you said something wonderful. Do you have a minute?”
“Let’s talk. But not here.”

“Why’d you bring me here?”
“Well, I’m always visiting you at your office, so I wanted you to come visit mine. Is it making you uncomfortable?”
“No, no, I spent a lot of time in church as a kid. Remember, my parents were both Catholic.”
“I remember you told me that. So this is home to you.”
“Well it was.”
“Yes, I remember that too. I’m so sorry.”
“Hey, what can you do.”
“Anyway, I have an idea to run by you.”
“It’s an existential challenge.”
“What? I thought existentialists were atheists.”
“Sartre was. But Kierkegaard, Marcel, and Buber were most definitely not. I think.”
“Ha! Yes.”
“Anyway, the challenge goes like this. Do you enjoy movies?”
“Of course.”
“Now in order to do that, you have to take en existential risk.”
“How so?”
“Well, we don’t often talk about it like this, but suspending disbelief is an existential risk. To leave the world you know and not just enter into another one, but to let yourself believe it enough for it to move you. Perhaps even change you.”
“So: are you the kind of person that can suspend disbelief enough to enjoy a movie? Or are you the kind that sits outside the theater with arms crossed, refusing to go in, saying, ‘this is all bullshit, those are just images on a silver screen.’”
“Ha! Of course not. Who does?”
“Oh I don’t know. Some scientists I know.”
“Very funny. But I still don’t see where you’re going with this.”
“What’s your favorite one?”
“Star Wars, probably. Saw it when I was 10.”
“Me too. Amazing movie, changed my life.”
“Really? Me too. Well, we’re about the same age. Love that story.”
“I bet you do. Now could the movie had any effect on you at all, if you weren’t capable of not just believing in, but fully inhabiting, for two short hours, a world in many ways the reciprocal of your scientific one? A world where there was an Empire chasing a Rebellion, with Jedi and Sith?”
“Here’s my challenge. You ready?”

“Can you let yourself believe in — let’s call it a Force — powerful enough to take on human form?”
“And die for my sins? No thanks.”
“Hey you’re getting way ahead of me.”
“Ha ha. Ok.”
“First, a kid has to be born. A very, very special kid.”
“With all sorts of Force powers.”
“But not enough to save him. He gets betrayed and then killed in the worst possible way.”
“By some of those closest to him.”
“So the Force turns out to be a big fat joke.”
“But is that really how the story ends?”
“Right. What happens to the Cosmic Kid after he gets killed — or allows himself to be killed — by his own protégé?”
“He goes on to fight in another dimension.”
“Let’s just say he beats the Sith at their own game. They tried to defeat death, you see.”
“Yes, through the power of hate.”
“And he does it, this kid—“
“This Cosmic Kid.”
“Does the same thing, but through the power of love.”
“Pretty amazing story, huh?”
“I only wish it were even remotely possible.”

“But is it plausible?”
“Of course.”
“Then can you take a chance? Put your scientific world view on the table for a moment, and let yourself get into the story, as you were just now? Just for two hours? Maybe just enough to let it change you a little, like the original Star Wars did?”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
“Think about it. What would it be like to live in a world where such things were possible?”
“It would be the end of my scientific career.”
“Or maybe just the beginning. Think of the very special birth of a very special child as a new beginning.”
“Ha. Ok. I’ll think about it.”
“Great. That’s all I ask.”
“Thank you. This has been interesting.”
“My pleasure.”
“Merry Christmas, Reverend.”
“Merry Christmas, Cathie.”
“Merry Christmas, Frank.”