I’ve never had someone cry after my atheist role-play. Until now.
In September, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of parents from Village Academy Christian School in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Earlier in the day, I taught the junior and senior high students at chapel and spoke to three different twelfth grade classes. I role played an atheist with the seniors to give them a glimpse of the intellectual challenges awaiting them at college, and decided to give the parents, who had come out for an evening lecture, a glimpse in the same way.
There was no surprise factor. The parents knew who I was and the Christian organization I represented. Indeed, I told the audience what I was about to do, turned my back on them for just a moment, and then turned round again in full atheist character. I jumped into my role and they jumped into theirs, attempting to defend the faith against atheist professor “Dr. Kunkle.” Sadly, they were ill-equipped to handle my challenges. I was glad to see their fighting spirit, but their responses were only vigorous in style, not substance. After half an hour, many parents were exasperated and I ended the role-play.
“How was that for you?” I asked. “Extremely frustrating,” was the immediate parental consensus.
“Why was it so frustrating?” I pressed. One mom blurted out, “Because I didn’t have any good answers.” As soon as the words left her mouth, tears began streaming down her cheeks. It was a painful recognition of her own inadequacy and she knew what was at stake. As I glanced around the room, other parents were nodding in agreement, eyes moist with their own tears.
Caught off guard, I began to tear up, too. I felt such compassion for these good-hearted yet unequipped parents. Quickly gathering my emotions, I looked that mom in the eyes and gently replied, “I know exactly how you feel. I felt that way, too, when Dr. David Lane was dismantling my Christianity in front of my peers, in my college philosophy class.” I told the parents my story and encouraged them to prepare themselves so, in turn, they can prepare their own kids.
Afterward, parent after parent thanked me. They expressed their deep appreciation for the wake-up call, despite the accompanying painful realizations. And the mom who burst into tears? She walked up and gave me a big hug. Then she shared how her 21-year-old son, a student at Duke University, had turned his back on Christ while at college. She was convicted to begin a dialogue with him, as well as with her second son, a junior at Village Academy. I encouraged her, shared some resources, and gave her my email address with an open invitation to contact me anytime.
Oftentimes, we don’t take the necessary steps toward growth until we’re made to feel uncomfortable. That night, parents at Village Academy Christian School felt very uncomfortable and they were motivated to make changes. And you’re the reason I was in North Carolina with those parents.