Max Lucado: Turning to religion during bad times
Max Lucado is a pastor in San Antonio, TX, and author of 'Traveling Light.' He joined the CNN.com chat room from New York.
CNN: Good morning and welcome to CNN.com, Pastor Max Lucado.
MAX LUCADO: I really appreciate this opportunity, and look forward to these minutes we have together.
CNN: What role does religion play in times of crisis such as what has just been experienced?
LUCADO: I think religion plays an essential role right now. Everybody in the world has been reminded of how frail life is, and how brief life is. Consequently, those who are people of faith have an opportunity to present what we understand scripture to reveal about the purpose of life, and where we'll all eventually end up with our souls, in a spiritual level. I think in addition, this is an essential time for those of faith to be bringing words of comfort and encouragement to people.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: G'day Max :) How can people find diversion, when the news is everywhere?
LUCADO: I believe one option is to find diversion in the presence of God. Turn off the television and the news, and spend a few minutes reading scriptures and being quiet in the presence of God. I believe it's important at this time to be honest in our dialogue with God. If you're feeling pain, express that to the Lord. If you're feeling worried, express those worries. One passage that gives me comfort is in Psalms, Chapter 11, verse 3, it reads, "When all that is good falls apart, what can good people do?" That's really the question of the day. The answer is in verse 4: "The Lord is in His holy temple. The Lord sits on His throne in heaven." David asked the same question we're asking, but the answer is that God has not moved, and we can find comfort in spending time in His presence.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Pastor, would you find comfort from Falwell and Robertson and Dr. Laura or go directly to God?
LUCADO: [laughing] Perhaps the question behind the question is, should we be faulting specific social groups for this action? I realize that there have been those who have pointed fingers at certain subcultures and said that it's because of them we're experiencing God's anger. I tend to disagree. According to the Bible, each of us has made enough mistakes to incur God's anger. I'm not convinced God is singling out any particular people. Romans 11 says in verse 33 that "No one can explain the things God decides, or understand His ways." I would side with God in His great mystery, having some purpose in this, and I'd go to Him before going to anybody who is quick to interpret events.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Max, my children love your "You are Special" book. I find it so heartening that so many have turned to God in times of crisis. Do you think we may see a trend back toward spirituality as a result of the horrific attacks?
LUCADO: I believe that the impact of this event is going to be profound and long-term. I was in Manhattan, actually, I'm here now, but I was here a week ago today, and heard a taxi driver say that the collapse of the towers has caused him to lose his bearing geographically. He was accustomed to looking up at the towers to get his bearings. That's a parable for what has happened to all of us. We have to find our bearings again. The good side of this is that I believe many people will recalibrate their bearings, spiritually.
CNN: Are religious leaders concerned that many turning to religion now may not have a long-term commitment? Does it matter?
LUCADO: That's a valid concern, but it's beyond our control. The church where I minister was overflowing the first Sunday after the attacks. The next Sunday was down a bit, and yesterday down a bit more. I don't know how to control that, but just be thankful that there's more interest now than in the past.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Don't you think organized religion has now been proven dangerous?
LUCADO: I think organized religion has always been pictured that way. I believe a personal relationship with God is healthy, but organized religion has potential for danger, in whatever faith.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Rev. Max, how could a God allow something like this to happen?
LUCADO: According to the Bible, God has given humanity free will, and the fruit of free will is pain. What we saw on a worldwide level happens every day on a personal level. If I choose to disregard God, and do what I want, somebody is going to be hurt. That person may be my wife or my children, and one of the fruits of free will is pain. What we saw on September 11 is the ugly manifestation of disregard for a loving God. Innocent people were caught in the middle of that. For the Christian, we find comfort in our understanding of Jesus, who allowed Himself to be caught in the same pain. When dying on the cross, He received the fruit of our free will. So, I believe for God not to allow pain to happen in the world is for Him to extract free will from the world.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Max, do you think this is the start of the end of the world, as predicted in the bible?
LUCADO: That's a good question. Certainly, we are seeing evidence in our day as that described in scripture. But, we need to remember that Jesus said, "No one knows when the end will come," and that's in Matthew 24:36. Only the Father knows, Jesus said.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: I cannot disagree with your turning to the Bible. I say also turn to your family, especially your children.
LUCADO: That's a great word. The reminder that personally I took away from September 11 came in the form of a question. A friend asked me if I had been on one of the airplanes, and had one cell phone call to make to my loved ones, what would I say? And then as I was thinking about the answer, he said, "Say it!" And I took that to heart, because none of us has a guarantee of tomorrow. So, I'm trying to do better about saying how much I love my family to them, while I can.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Are religion and spirituality the same thing? And is it religion or hope and faith that we cling to?
LUCADO: Religion is intended to facilitate hope and faith. Much like a path is intended to facilitate a journey. There are times, however, that we focus more on the path than we do the destination, and that is when religion can be a hindrance instead of a help. As long as religion continually brings us to God, it is healthy. We must all be careful about focusing more on the "religion" than we do the Heavenly Father we're seeking.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Are the representatives of all religions taking any common steps to decrease hatred?
LUCADO: Again, a wonderful question. On September 13, 27 religious leaders met at the White House to pray with the president. Representatives from all major faiths were present. There were representatives of the Muslim faith, the Mormon faith, the Buddhist faith. There were representatives from the Greek Orthodox church, the Roman Catholic church, and several of us represented the Protestant faith. We all signed a document decrying the violence and declaring our determination to pray for the president. We presented this document to President Bush. Truly remarkable, when you think about it, that that group could all sign one document, but disasters can do what discussions cannot. I believe that was encouraging for the president.
CNN: Do you have any final thoughts to share with us today?
LUCADO: My prayers continue for the president and for the vice president, and he asked specifically that we pray for his wife and daughters. And I urge everyone to do so.
CNN: Thank you for joining us today, Max Lucado.
LUCADO: Thank you! You guys are great!
Max Lucado joined the CNN.com chat room by telephone and CNN provided a typist. This is an edited transcript of the interview which took place on Monday, October 1, 2001.
The teaching ministry of Max Lucado
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