Pam Glass, one of our editors, sat down with Ryan Dobson to discuss his latest book 2 Die 4.
CBP: How did this book come about? What led you to think about doing a book like this?
Ryan: Well, it was kind of a second part to Be Intolerant. That, for me, introduced people into rekindling the rebellious nature a little bit; saying, “You know what? There are some things that aren’t right. I’m going to stand up against something that’s not right, stand up for what I believe, and I’m tired of being a second-class citizen in America,” which Christians are. You can make fun of Christians, but you can’t make fun of other groups. When you have a movie like Saved that comes out and mocks Christianity, it really does give a clear indication of what pop-culture thinks we are.
But nobody does anything. We don’t vote, we don’t protest, they don’t get boycotted, they don’t lose money over it. We’re second-class citizens. And so after that, when you say, “You know, I’m going to stand up for what I believe,” then To Die For comes in to play. Are there things in life worth dying for? Is there something out there that I would die for? And the whole death-to-self process -- how do you conclusively die to self? What does that process look like? What benefits does it have as a Christian? You know, you look at September 11th; before that, and certainly since then, the number one Halloween costume is fireman and policeman. Why is that? Why do we idolize them? Why do we hero-worship them? Because those people, looking at certain death, go back into that building because “If I can save one person, I’ve done what I’ve been called to in life.” People look at that and say, “Wow, I wish I could have that too.” And in Christianity, not only do you have something worth dying for, it ultimately gives you true life. And that’s where this book came into play.
CBP: Have you seen anything on the market that talks about some of these same issues, and if so, how is your book different? Or do you look around and say there’s just nothing else out there dealing with these same issues?
Ryan: Oh, no! One of my favorite Christian authors is John Eldridge. He really did change my life just by his books. I read Wild At Heart and just about fell over. And then Waking the Dead came out recently. It talks about the war over in Iraq, and the people over there, the soldiers, aren’t standing around going, “Oh, I can’t believe it! Why are people shooting at me? I mean, this is just so terrible! I can’t believe there are bombs going off! Why are you people being so mean? This is just so weird!” Those guys have flak jackets on, they’ve got their chemical suits on, they’ve got their weapons loaded; they’re ready to go. They’re at war, they’re in a battle, they know why they’re there. And we Christians walk around going, “Why am I so depressed? Why do I feel so bad? Why are bad things happening? I can’t believe everyone is so mean! This is just so terrible!” And I’m like, “Oh my goodness! We’re at war! We’re in a battle with things unseen every day. And it just turned by brain around. I wake up thinking, “You know, I’m in a battle!”
People ask, “How much credit do you give to everything that goes wrong – is that all spiritual?” I don’t know! But it has certainly changed my attitude. I was sick the other day, I got the flu, and as bad as it was, I thought, “You know, sometimes we get sick – whatever!” And for some reason I said, “You know, Lord, I’m bummed I’m sick, but I still love You.” And it didn’t make me better, I didn’t miraculously get healed, but you know what? We get sick sometimes! I think if you want Satan over a barrel, be in dire suffering and poverty and destitute and say, “You know what? I love the Lord.”
Read Job! Job loses all of his kids, all of his possessions, all of his wealth, and his health on top of it with sores that were so bad he’s picking up broken pieces of clay pottery to scrape them off – that’s disgusting! And he said, “Naked I came into the world, naked I will leave; the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” You’re talking about someone who’s got nerves of steel. That’s an amazing concept, and that’s really what this is all about: How can I experience God on a real basis, on an everyday basis, more and more and more? I have a pastor that talks about the first time you experienced God as a Christian; what was it like the first time you experienced God? What did it feel like?
This was a discussion group, and some guy talked about the first time he tripped on acid and he saw this cross and the Lord spoke to him. And then we talked about whether you can experience God on an acid trip. It was a very odd discussion. But we all thought about that and said, “Why is it that we don’t feel that way all the time?” Well if we did, we wouldn’t need faith! Who wouldn’t want to be a Christian if we’re all walking around euphoric twenty-four hours a day? There would be no choice in the matter. Everybody would want to be a Christian! But I thought, “Is there a way to elongate that feeling? Is there a way to create a lifestyle that lends itself to experiencing God regularly, that lends itself to relying so fully on God that I experience Him in a real way?” That’s the death-to-self process. That’s saying that, even when I’m with my girlfriend I’m not going to act improperly.
When someone cuts me off in traffic, it’s natural to want to yell at them, to pull up and shake my fist in their face. It’s not natural to hack off a piece of my body, to hack off a limb, to really hack off a piece of me that says “I want to do those things.” When I’m on an airplane, and someone says, “What do you do?” the voice in my head says, “Tell him you’re a plumber. Don’t tell him you speak for a living; they’re going to ask what you talk about and you’re going to have to say ‘God’.” “You’re an author? What have you written?” How do I nicely say I wrote a book called Be Intolerant Because Some Things Are Just Stupid? That person’s going to pick up the in-flight magazine and pretend I don’t exist. But you know, it’s hacking off a piece of my body and saying, “The Lord’s called me to preach.” “What do you do for a living?” “I speak.” “Oh, who do you speak to?” “I speak to youth all across America.” “What do you talk about?” “ I talk about my faith in God.” I’m going to be on that plane from Orange County to Atlanta for four and a half hours! I don’t want to talk to anybody for four and a half hours! And yet God calls me to do that. God says, “Rely totally on me, and you’re going to feel a rush of adrenalin that’s exhilarating.” I got to jump out of an airplane once; I was scared. The thing going through my head was not, “Wow, this is really cool!” but “You’re an idiot! This is ridiculous!”
CBP: But when you’re faithful to the Lord, you don’t always have that “rush of adrenalin.”
Ryan: I think we have it more often than not because it lends itself to adventure. Christ wasn’t a boring guy. You know, if you want to have a boring life, just go with the flow. Go to church on Sundays, be a kind of a regular person, do the average. You want to have a life full of adventure? Tell the Lord, “I’ll do whatever you want me to do. I’ll lose prosperity, popularity, friends, comfort, I’m willing to do whatever. Go to Africa? Great! Go to the inner city? Whatever! That’s where the adventure comes into play where you can’t do anything but rely on God, and it’s exhilaration almost all the time.
CBP: Can I read you a couple of quotes and get your feedback on them?
CBP: Oswald Chambers says this: “There is no thrill in walking . . .when we are in an unhealthy state physically or emotionally we always want thrills. . . in the spiritual domain, if we insist on getting thrills, it will end in the destruction of spirituality. . . Drudgery is the touchstone of character. The great hindrance to spiritual life is that we will look for the big thing to do. . .it is easier to die than to lay down the life day in and day out. We are not made for brilliant moments.”
Ryan: Absolutely. You know, I think we’re talking about two different things. You know, it says that the sign of an immature man is wanting to die for a cause. The sign of a mature man is living for that cause. If someone walked up to me right now and said, “I’m going to kill you unless you deny Christ.” It’s a no-brainer for me. It’s far harder to die daily to self. That in itself is exhilaration for me. That’s adrenalin , that’s a struggle, that’s a battle inside me. It’s not something that I want, but that’s a battle and a struggle, and coming out of it is where I grow and I mature. It’s not illusions of grandeur, it’s not looking for the bright, shining star. It’s saying, “Lord, I’ve got nothing to do but rely on You.” And that is terrifying! And that terror, for me, is excitement.
CBP: Maybe I’m just old, and maybe I’m getting hung up on terminology, but when I read things like, “adrenalin-filled journey full of excitement and adventure,” “perpetual, purified panic with your adrenalin pumping,” “out of your mind,” “insane,” “exhilarating;” is this really how Jesus’ hearers understood Him when He talked about “life abundant” and dying to self?
Ryan: I think so. I totally think so. Think about the disciples. These guys had careers, stability, prosperity, family and comfort, and they gave up every single thing that they had. These guys were fisherman, they’ve got jobs, they’re mending their nets, and Christ says, “Drop your nets and follow Me.” “All right, I’m going to do it.” That’s terrifying! That’s adrenalin. Now there were days when they were sleeping on the ground going, “Man, I can’t believe I’m sleeping on the ground. We used to have fish every day, we had a place to sleep, a nice ocean view, a fire by the ocean, and now I’m walking around with guys who want to behead me, kill me, I’ve got soldiers surrounding me.” I think that’s the price of following Christ.
CBP: But those are two extremes. Where is the daily steadfastness of “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. To whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life” come in? It’s a settled-ness.
Ryan: I think it’s both.
CBP: It seems so hyper.
Ryan: I think it is at times. It’s not all the time. It’s those times that it’s the choice; it’s “I choose to follow You even if it means doing things I don’t want to do.” I speak a lot on suffering. There are two types of people: those who are suffering and those who will be suffering.
CBP: I guess I’m afraid of the tendency to present Christianity as “Come to Jesus and every day is adrenalin, every day is a rush.” And it’s not. And people need to be taught that.
Ryan: Right. It’s a different rush. And that’s what this process is, it’s the teaching to allow your life to lend itself toward that experience.