Monday, September 26, 2005

Influences-IV

Some time ago, I met a man in an Alpha course at our church, and we became friends.

This man was an obviously successful businessman: silver hair, well-dressed, and with the hard look of somebody who made decisions for a living. He was attending Alpha at the behest of his wife, an obviously kind-hearted soul who clearly loved her husband, for 30+ years running. This man was appropriately skeptical of the course he was taking, and asked hard questions throughout. His questions were not of the kind that some nonbelievers ask, i.e., the kind of questions that are asked as a disguise for one's prejudices, but were instead "thinker's" questions about the role of faith. His intellectual honesty was evident, and appreciated by everybody taking the course.

I was one of the "leaders" of this Alpha course, and because of the temperaments and personalities of the others involved, and the fact that he and I shared a genuine respect for one another's views, it usually fell to me to respond to his questions. For instance, I specifically recall his skepticism about the recovery of my father-in-law, and his query as to why God would intervene then and there, but not for the victims of mudslides, or terrorism, etc. I responded by asserting that it was asking too much of God to have to cure everybody in order to be credited with having cured anybody. I recall that he seemed fairly underwhelmed by this response.

We had some good debates but I was never sure what effect, if any, the course had on him.

His funeral was last Friday. He died of cancer. He was 58.

My wife and I went to the funeral, and, during the course of the pastor's homily, he mentioned that my friend had found faith rather late in life, largely because of his having attended the Alpha course. As a believing Christian this is supposed to make me feel better, and it does, however slightly, but his death was and is still a blow.

I am glad to have known and been influenced by this man.