I recently lost my cousin, or perhaps I should say my big brother. While this man was as close to me as any human could possibly be, I mourn his loss not so much because he died, but because I fear he didn't go with God. And to me, that's the greatest of all tragedies.
Doug came to live with my parents and me during my formative years and he was my idol. We were both into aviation through the model airplane phase well into the real thing. He preceded me into the Army Air Corps during World War II as a flight instructor before I entered as an aviation cadet.
While both of us were raised Catholics, he fell away from the Church and, over time, from Christianity as well. He went on a worldwide search for the "truth." He was a voracious reader, and while he lived to be 84, he never found contentment, only more questions.
Although we remained close, in our later years we spent even more time arguing about religion. He wasn't an atheist. He acknowledged a supreme being, or force, but sought his "truth" in Buddhism and other Asian cultist ideas of self-abnegation. And he believed in reincarnation.
He never could understand that I had never lost nor questioned my faith in Jesus Christ. He knew that I was a weak Catholic for some period of time and like all sinners, especially younger ones, I tried to ignore Jesus during my hurricane years.
But my conscience never allowed me to question my faith. I just didn't want to think about it, to face the music any sooner than I had to. I was playing Satan's roulette and having fun. I was lucky I didn't die during that period.
In all of those years, I could never get Doug to study scripture. I said to him, "If you're going to read books, then read ALL of the books." But his mind was closed. He was afraid the Bible would undermine his comfort zone.
Doug considered Holy Scripture to be little more than legend. He ignored the fact that today there is proof, both historically and archaeologically, that New Testament scripture is authentic. Now, to you skeptics out there who haven't already left me and who may have open minds, I have a challenge for you.
Give yourselves a great gift and buy the books, "The Case For Christ" and "The Case For Faith." These books were written by an atheist, Lee Strobel, who is a journalist and a lawyer, and who was for many years the legal reporter for the Chicago Tribune.
He became obsessed with the idea of disproving Christianity so he took the classic prosecutor's approach to a courtroom trial in his interviews with famous, accredited historians and archeologists. He was relentless and brutal. He gave no quarter.
The result? Concluding two years of intensive research, he himself became a Christian. He found that Darwinism and other such theories explaining creation are discredited and the scientific community is mostly, reluctantly, accepting the "Intelligent Designer" as the answer to creation.
Now, I've been politely ridiculed for wasting my time going to church, praying and reading Scripture. Some are offended because I'm so positive about Christianity. Political correctness dictates that we resent those who are positive or judgmental about anything. This is the time when all of us are supposed to be full of self doubts.
After all, we must keep the psychologists and psychiatrists busy, paying them handsomely while we hope for the one thing they can't give us -- absolution. We can only get absolution, or forgiveness, from Jesus Christ. And it's really easy to get for anyone willing to visit a Christian minister or priest. The price is right, too.
Anyway, here is what I say to my agnostic and atheist acquaintances: suppose you are right and I am wrong, and there is no God. No judgment. No afterlife. No eternity in a place called "hell" for those who refuse to embrace Jesus Christ as their savior.
And I've been wasting my time in church, praying and trying to atone for my sins according to Christian teaching. And when I die, I'm going to eternal sleep just like you non-believers. I've gained nothing through my efforts.
But on the other hand, let us suppose that I'm right and you are wrong, and there is a God. And His Son is Jesus Christ who was sent here to suffer and die for the redemption of our sins because Old Testament Hebrew animal sacrifices were no longer acceptable to God.
And those of us who embrace Jesus as our Savior, and who genuinely try to improve our lives in accordance with New Testament teaching, have the chance to spend eternity in paradise with Him. And we who deny Jesus will be forever cast out no matter how humanistic our lives are here.
Can any of us really afford to take that chance just for the sake of our egos and a little inconvenience? I can't! Think about it. I wish you a Holy Christmas and the inner peace that goes with it.