This man expresses many of my reservations. I think that this kind of thinking- sometimes called “easy believism”, I think- comes from cherry picking the most convenient parts of th Bible, without trying to understand it as a whole.
My answer to him would be- the idea that belief in Jesus is the end rather than the beginning is a Protestant idea, which has origin in to some part legitimate rebellion against Catholic ideas. But even those who believed salvation came only from belief, whether this came from a personal choice or grace, believed it caused a deep and permanent change in the person. A person who claimed belief but habitually or seriously sinned would not be a true believer, as this lady explains. The idea that belief in Jesus must necessarily result in difficult in serious and likely painful change isn’t happy enough for a lot of people, like this preacher who unapologetically uses the same metaphor.
“Easy believism” is popular with criminals and people who like criminals, which is why it is the religion of the black friends and relatives of Watkins. With blacks it’s usually easy believism for blacks, hellfire for whites, as with Jeremiah Wright and Joseph Lowery. With liberation theology Catholics it’s easy believism for poor people, or even no need to believe at all, and hellfire for middle-class people and above.
The trouble comes in when you question this. People who ascribe to this, especially former criminals and the people who love them, get very angry and upset when you suggest there is more to it. They condemn you as un-Christian and unforgiving, and the criminal becomes the sainted victim, and the victim becomes the evil one. Skepticism about Christianity is usually thought to be intellectual or based on a desire to commit sexual sin, but I think Watkins’ position- the kind of conclusion people don’t share, because liberal Christianity is such a strong part of our culture- is more common than generally supposed.