Atheist Sixties radicals drifted apart, God surprised them both

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By Charles Gardner —

Sy Garte



Two young friends raised as atheist communists in 1960s America went their separate ways, only to rediscover each other decades later through social media.

Retired research scientist Sy Garte grew up in New York, describing himself as a “child of the revolution”. All his grandparents were communists, one of whom led a delegation of American workers to visit the Soviet Union in 1932, and his great-uncle fought in the Russian Revolution of 1917. His parents were also diehard Stalinists.

Though ethnically Jewish, Sy had little idea what it meant and never set foot in a house of worship. Amidst the increasingly violent drug-infused culture of the sixties and early seventies, a friend he calls ‘Joe’ showed up at his apartment one day asking for a loan so he could get to California before the police caught up with him. “That was in 1973 and I never saw him again,” he said, as reported by premierchristianity.com

Author of The Works of His Hands: A scientist’s journey from atheism to faith (Kregel), Sy subsequently dropped his political radicalism to become a research biochemist and professor.

“My scientific training led me to question my assumptions of rationalist materialism as the only path to truth, and I became curious about this thing called spirituality.

“Thus, I began a long journey from the strictest atheism to agnosticism. And then onto a sort of hopeful theism. It took decades but I finally crossed the threshold (or was dragged over it by the Holy Spirit) and was baptised a Christian in my sixties. A couple of years later I retired, and devoted my life to spreading the good news of Christ.”

Unbeknown to him, meanwhile, his old friend Joe was fighting his addictions – until he met a woman who turned him around. He married her, got a steady job, and settled down.

“Fast forward a few decades, and he found me on Facebook. We caught up, shared something of our lives in the 45 years since we last met, then he dropped the bombshell: ‘You’ll never believe this,’ he wrote, ‘I am a Christian’.

And I doubt he expected my reply: ‘You won’t believe it either. Me too!’

“Since then, I have heard about – and met – many people all over the world who have come to Christ despite having no knowledge of Jesus or faith background.

“Perhaps, as this next generation matures, we will see a ‘great awakening’ of people like Joe and myself, those walking in darkness who have seen a great light (see Isaiah 9:2).
“I would like to think that perhaps Jesus, looking down on us poor sinners, might have seen that social media exchange between two old friends and smiled.”