In the depths of my soul, I struggle mightily when I hear folks talk about how inane or arcane Christianity is. Some people just have a way of attacking the walls of my faith in a way that stirs up clouds of conflict within me. Their words of ridicule can make me appreciate how silly and convoluted some of the stories in the Bible appear. They find easy marks in the very public and widespread failings of some of the most powerful people in the church. They stir up feelings of fear, suspicion, and distress in people with regard to the church; they make it seem like we are doing more harm than good. How can I defend my own beliefs in such a harsh light not only to others, but also to myself. I have touched on this topic before (see Voodoo Religion II from several years ago). In the past, my best defense against such salvos was to bury my head in the sand, to avoid even hearing their words, to run away from the disturbing thoughts. However, lately I have been trying to tackle these conflicts more directly. If I can't defend my beliefs, if they don't stand up to questions or probing, then they are not genuine.
Related to this issue, I have always struggled with talking to non-Christians about my faith. I am troubled by my failing in this area because one of Jesus' last instructions to his faithful was for us to go out and teach the world what we have learned. This is often called "The Great Commission". This instruction, this command, from Jesus is not for us to spread his message among other believers, but to non-believers. However, it is one thing to talk to others who are receptive and listen with an open mind, but it is another thing entirely to deal with those who are hostile to my beliefs. In the past, I would run from such conflict and hide away. Lately, however, I have learned to take solace from the advice in scripture, Proverbs 9:8, which tells me don't waste your time on a scoffer; all you'll get for your pains is abuse.