Several years ago I wrote a column on faith and families to be distributed to secular newspapers. I was urged to write in a way that people with no religious upbringing or interest could understand, but I was given the freedom to write about issues of faith.
I tiptoed into this endeavor with great fear. It seemed like a wonderful opportunity to talk about those issues people say never make it in to secular newspapers. I also knew it would be challenging to write about the unseen in concrete, secular language.
I was totally unprepared for the response. I received precious letters from people who weren't religious but had been moved to think more about God. I heard from folks who decided to go back to church. And I heard from Christians. A few were gentle in their rebukes. Many were scathing because I hadn't preached strongly, condemned heartily, or used the opportunity to promote a conservative agenda.
I have learned to deal with some of the harsh words, but I am still saddened by the Christians who send me such caustic letters. My colleagues who are not believers often talk about the particularly nasty letters coming from religious people. Those letters simply harden their hearts and strengthen their positions.
While individuals should respond to articles they disagree with, I try to remind them that a person is opening that letter. Try to condemn the position, not the person. Don't assume the worst. And if you invoke God's name, try to do it in a godly way.
Dale Hanson Bourke is a syndicated columnist for Religion News Service and Universal Press Syndicate.