It’s been a while since I did that. In fact, it’s been so long, I’m doing two.
Kids will be heading off to school again soon and Billy Graham is offering up his brand of “useful” advice for when whey they get there, be it grade school or grad school. First letter:
I’ll probably be in college when you get this, and to be honest I’m scared to death. I’m not worried about the classwork because I’ve always been a fairly good student. But I’m shy and have a hard time making friends, which worries me. How can I get over this? — S.L.
Before I get to Graham, I’ll give S.L the advice my grade 12 class was given by the daughter of our physics teacher who’d just finished her first year of university. In every class, just go ahead and introduce yourself to the people sitting around you. It’s the easiest way to make friends. And you get the added bonus of having people to get notes from if you have to miss that class for any reason someday. Of course this plot fails on the days when all of you ditch the class in exchange for a coffee fix, but no plan is perfect.
If it’s a residence you’ll be living in, there will be roommates or people in your dorm that you’ll take a shine to easier than you might expect and make more that way. There’s also the option of checking out clubs and organizations on campus if you can add any into your schedule. If you wind up having to work somewhere while you study, you’ll make friends easy enough there, too, once you feel relaxed enough to open up around them.
I used to think I was shy and friend-deprived, too, but I’ve since realized that all I really need are a couple good ones and I’m good to go. Maybe you’re a little like me.
Does Graham provide any advice that useful? His response to this letter is titled: “At college, seek out other Christians on campus” and here’s what he writes in addition to that:
You’ve probably discovered that people can be quite different from one another — and one of the ways they’re different is in their personality. Some are bold and outgoing; others (like you) are shy and retiring (and most of us are somewhere in between). Don’t, therefore, go through life wishing you were someone else.
Does this mean you shouldn’t try to break out of your shell and become more outgoing? No, of course not. Not only would you miss out on many of life’s good experiences, but you’d also miss the opportunity to be a friend to people who need your help and encouragement.
And with God’s help you can change. That’s why the most important step you can take is to commit your life to Jesus Christ. Turn your fears over to him, and ask him to help you overcome the negative side of your shyness.
Seek out other Christians on your campus. Not only will their fellowship help you spiritually, but their friendship will also help you socially.
Here’s the thing. The advice S.L. is given doesn’t encourage him or her to get to know people who are actually different beyond mere personality. Unless S.L. is stuck at a Christian college, there’s no sensible reason to limit one’s potential circle of friends to one particular group of people. By doing that S.L. would definitely miss out on many of life’s good experiences. New foods. New music. Hobbies and games. Cultural differences. College should be the ultimate eye-opening experience, not “everything just as it’s always been.” The whole point of going is to learn new things, isn’t it? What new can you learn if you don’t risk exposure to different thought processes and ways of life?
Shake the tree of life on which you hung every assumption and see what falls away. Doing so will make room for something better to grow there, I guarantee it. Befriend a Buddhist. Pal around with pagans. Meet some Muslims. Approach a known atheist. Hell, seek out the satanists if you care to or match wits with the witches. They could be a fun bunch for all you know.
But not if you go by Billy Graham, of course. Sucks to be so limiting.
Letter two speaks of limitations of a different kind, our inability to contact deceased loved ones:
My aunt raised me, and when she died last year I felt like a part of me had died with her. Now, a friend of mine says she knows someone who can put me in contact with her spirit. I guess I’ve always been suspicious of such things, but why shouldn’t I give it a try?
Because it’s pure hokum and psychics exist to sell you a lie you’ll believe can make you feel better. Honestly, it’s really no different from Graham and his ilk repackaging the concept of heaven every week and selling it to you, yet again, for the great low price of your tithe or donation. Does thinking about it every day make it more real, or does the constant craving for a heavenly future just reflect the desperation people feel in their daily lives when there seems to be no relief on the visible horizon?
Why do I urge you to stay away from this person? The reason is because at best you’ll be throwing your money away, since her supposed powers may well be fraudulent. But at worst, you could find yourself becoming involved with occult spiritual powers that are opposed to God and can only deceive you and hurt you. The Bible is clear: “no one be found among you … who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead” (Deuteronomy 18:10,11).
He was doing well at the start. I think the majority of Christians get around the “consulting the dead” thing simply by pretending Jesus isn’t. Like so:
Most of all, however, my prayer is that you will open your heart and life to Jesus Christ. He came to give us peace — peace with God, peace with each other, and peace within our hearts. Discover his peace by giving your life to Him today.
In order to do that, he’d have to be around in some way to receive it. Is he really, or is this just a pleasant fiction believers buy into to make themselves feel better? Aren’t those who pray to Mary or the Saints also guilty of “spiritist” activity? It’s defined as “The belief that the dead communicate with the living” so anyone who thinks a biblical figure, martyr, or relative is capable of guiding them from heaven must be guilty of it, too. Therefore, anyone who thinks Jesus is, is also guilty.
Funny how that one gets a diplomatic pass when it comes time to warn people about the dangers of being deceived, though, eh?