An aggressive secular orthodoxy has created a cartoon version of the Christian faith said the keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast here June 4.
Bestselling author Eric Metaxas said most Americans "have only seen the phony variety" of Christianity and heard a barrage of negative stories about the faith.
"When I saw the real thing, I had a passion to share it," said the author of 30 children's books, many Veggie Tales episodes, as well as the bestselling biographies William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Metaxas said he had absorbed the secular orthodoxy before God turned his life around during a painful time in his life when he was 25.
Son of a German immigrant mother and Greek immigrant father, he grew up Greek Orthodox and experienced a warm, cultural community, but he did not learn the Christian faith even though he participated as an altar boy.
"Be the time I got to college I was unprepared for the tidal wave of aggressive secularism that came against me," he said.
Soon after arriving at Yale University, he had "drunk the Kool-Aid" of secularism and saw believing in Jesus as Lord as "fine for people in Iowa" but disproven by science.
Sophisticated people did not take the Christian faith seriously, he said. What he had grown up with he now saw as "ridiculous."
But he also found people were not asking the big questions such as 'What is the meaning of life?' either.
"There are no good answers for them if you believe you evolved by accident from the primordial soup," he said. Life has no meaning if one accepts the idea we got here by accident.
According to secularism, your love for your family is a "chemical quirk to perpetuate the species," and "everything else is a miserable construct to protect you from your miserable, purposeless life," he said.
After graduation, he found himself floating around wanting to be a writer, but ending up moving back in with his parents. "My parents forced me to get a job," he said. "All I could do with a Yale English degree was find a job for $11 an hour as a proofreader for Union Carbide."
Metaxas described his experience at Union Carbide as "Gehenna," a name for hell, as an "incredibly boring job" in a "fluorescent room a quarter mile from the nearest window."
But God in his mercy provided a friend in a bright graphics designer who knew the Bible backwards and forwards, he recalled. Though he had been "trained at Yale" to avoid "insane born-again Christians" this friend was an Episcopalian, so he thought he would be safe engaging in the conversation, since he joked Episcopalians don't really believe in all that.
He kept on having conversations with his new friend. "Tell me more," he said. "I was astounded and shocked by what I didn't know."
He was in pain during this period of his life and he at times let out a heartfelt cry to the God he didn't know. God answered his prayer in a dream. "This dream was not something I chose," he said.
God spoke to him in the dream in "a way no one else could have spoken to me" and the next morning, "I woke up a changed person," he said. Before the dream he had come to think that the Christian faith "might be true but no intelligent person can possibly know for sure."
"I woke up and I knew. Now I was one of those boobs I had always made fun of," he said.
He offered his life to God, and since then has had a "strange career" working for Veggie Tales, and writing children's books and biographies.
The summer he came to faith 25 years ago, someone offered him a copy of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship. He had never heard of Bonhoeffer's courageous stand against Hitler and his martyrdom in a Nazi concentration camp.
"I was kind of scandalized," he said. "I realized stories like this were hidden from us."
"I grew up in a culture where you don't hear about these positive stories of faith," he said.
Metaxas urged the more than 800 people in attendance to stand up for religious freedom and push against the "imposed state religion" of secular orthodoxy. On issues like abortion and sexuality, that orthodoxy says "shut up and move along" and the "debate is settled."
"Do not accept a cartoon, negative version" of the Christian faith, he said. "Real faith, we call it the Good News. It's meant to be Good News. It's not meant to be oppressive."