Atheist Media Commentator Becomes a Christian

Kirsten Powers has long walked in the circles of America’s political and journalistic elite. Having begun her career with the Clinton administration, she’s now a columnist for The Daily Beast and Newsweek, and serves as a contributor to both USA Today and Fox News.

As it turns out, she’s also an evangelical Christian. Recently, she detailed the story of her conversion in an article for Christianity Today. For any Christian who wants to be both encouraged and instructed by the grace of God, her account is a great read.

A few points to think about in light of Powers’ story:

1. God’s grace (thankfully) confounds expectations.

Powers describes herself as someone wavering between atheism and agnosticism, surrounded by atheist friends, and who was generally very content with her life. She was also dismissive of Christians and their faith. Not exactly the kind of person most of us would say was primed for conversion. Thankfully, God’s grace is not limited by our tepid or even cynical expectations. (See the story of Paul in Acts 8-9).

2. Personal invitations—and credibility—matter.

How do many people find their way into contact with the gospel? Through the influence and invitation of someone close to them. In Powers’ case, it was her boyfriend at the time who proved to be the impetus. Despite the fact that she “derided Christians as anti-intellectual bigots who were too weak to face the reality that there is no rhyme or reason to the world,” she viewed him as “smart, educated, and intellectually curious.” When he asked if she could keep an open mind about Jesus, she eventually visited his church (seemingly in spite of herself).

3. Effectively communicating the gospel will often involve intellectual substance and cultural literacy.

The church Powers attended happened to be Redeemer Presbyterian in New York, where Tim Keller serves as the head pastor. Like many others, she found Keller’s sermon to be “intellectually rigorous, weaving in art and history and philosophy.” She began “tolerating” the ties he made to Jesus to hear what she initially thought of as “an interesting lecture.” Eventually, however, she began to see the “intellectual weaknesses of a purely secular worldview” and “concluded the weight of the evidence was on the side of Christianity.”

4. Loving our neighbors means meeting them in the midst of preconceptions and unfamiliarity.

In addition to some of the ideas that Powers had about Christians already mentioned above, she also notes that her contact with Christians was once limited to the news cycle. “And inevitably, they were saying something about gay people or feminists.” Moreover, when she attended Redeemer for the first time she was unfamiliar with, even repelled by, its style of worship. Lovingly engaging people outside the faith should involve a sensitivity toward the ways in which they currently “see” the Christian faith and its practice. Asking questions and, more importantly, listening to the answers (without becoming defensive), is a step in the right direction. 

5. Think process rather than event.

Powers’ story is typical in that her coming to faith wasn’t the product of a solitary event. Instead, it was a process that took time and involved several experiences and relationships along the way.

6. Relationships matter throughout the process.

As I mentioned above, it was a relationship that initially spurred Powers to consider Christianity. But the importance of relationships in her story didn’t end there. At one point, she became seriously disoriented and unsettled as she grappled with what she describes as an unusual experience of Jesus. Talking with a friend, and later joining a Bible study, helped her not only to navigate her experience but also deal with her “horror of the prospect of being a devout Christian.”

All in all, Powers’ story is a wonderful testament to God’s enduring grace. I’ll finish by quoting Power’s own conclusion to her article:

I spent the next few months doing my best to wrestle away from God. It was pointless. Everywhere I turned, there he was. Slowly, there was less fear and more joy. The Hound of Heaven had pursued me and caught me—whether I liked it or not. 

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