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Two Arguing Christians and an Atheist

I had a rather interesting experience the other day while riding a shuttle to Phoenix, AZ. I was sharing the 11-seat van with one other passenger, a 50-something woman who sat in the front seat next to the 50-something driver while I sat in the middle, two rows behind. They chatted with eachother immediately and about an hour into their conversations things turned towards religion when the driver asked where the woman attended services. She replied that she didn't regularly attend services and had only gone twice last year. She was still quite religious, she said though she believed that God hadn't intended her to take "that path" and go to church. The driver seemed interested by this and made an attempt to tell her something along the lines that she was risking her eternal salvation by not giving her entire life over to Christ in all ways. The conversation's tone turned tense, in that way that conversations do when people are trying to disagree politely about incredibly personal things. The man's tone never changed during the entire trip, a sort of detached and disengaged monotone that made him seem somewhat aloof. The woman repeatedly remarked that this was just a point where they departed on the subject and seemed content not to argue about it, but the man seemed to take it very seriously and disagreed that the conversation was turning into something other than respectful.

A few moments later the woman began talking about how her land-lord (who was evicting her for reasons neither of them could control) had decided not to sell the valuables in her home and that she considered this a "small miracle". The driver agreed. The woman then continued to say that this was the reason she did not enter into "unequal yokes"* with non-believers. I was stunned for a moment, sitting in the back (almost forgotten by the two passionate theists) trying to figure out what she had meant. Apparently she was remarking that the land-lord who miraculously didn't sell her belongings was "touched by the holy spirit" and that she was glad for it. Apparently her policy was that she would not do business or enter into any contracts with people who she called non-believers. The driver thought this was a poor choice, specifically because by doing so one loses the opportunity to proselytize to the "un-saved". Which was why he enjoyed his driving job so much. He stated that as a believer it was her responsibility to "spread the word" to anyone who will listen. This got her particularly flustered. The woman began to sputter a little and simply said that she did not agree with him and said she would "leave all that to God and His will" and that it wasn't her job to try to make people agree with her. They argued for a good 20 minutes about whether or not the conversation was a spiritual or human one, the man seemed to think they were having a "spiritual conversation" in that there was some sort of effect upon their souls by imparting the Word of God to each-other. Finally, the woman had had enough. She stated simply and matter-of-factly that she did not wish to continue what she thought "was not a loving conversation" and that he should respect her by dropping the topic. After that they talked a little about jobs and whatnot but every once in a while the conversation steered again towards religion where the woman would try to say something along the lines of "that's what I was trying to say before" before realizing that saying so only opened the opportunity for the driver to say again his beliefs leaving the woman frustrated and the man, same as ever, strangely calm and almost smug.

Oh, how I was enthralled by the exchange. I had never before in my life seen two religious people (specifically two Christian people of different denominations) having a conversation about their specific beliefs about what God says. Now I know why! Get two people who have views that could both be supported by the same Bible and having them talk about it is a recipe for trouble, especially of one of them has a particularly uncompromising view about How Things Should Be. Fascinating. I was upset by the woman, who seemed to so easily say that non-believers where somehow unworthy of her trust (imagine if she had said "Jews" or "Black people"!) and I was equally upset by the man who seemed to feel that his way was so True with a capital "T" that it was perfectly fine for him to push the woman beyond her comfort zone and proclaim that anyone who didn't do the same was endangering their mortal soul. Wow. How I wish I could have piped up but truly, it was not my conversation it was theirs. I was content to sit and watch them and somewhat afraid that piping up and saying "Well here's what I believe..." would offend them and perhaps make me the new subject of scrutiny. Last thing I want is to be trapped on a bus with two religious folk who have it in their mind that A) anyone who isn't Christian needs to be "educated" and "saved" and B) Non-believers aren't worth trusting or working with.

Still, a fascinating if somewhat disappointing experience

*I just did some research and was surprised to discover that "The Unequal Yoke" is actually a religious term. Interesting, I had never known it before. I guess it's not the sort of thing people go around mentioning but still, a surprising thing to learn.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 31st, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC)
Ooops I meant Theists. Typo, I swear it!

*Fixed :)

Edited at 2008-07-31 09:30 pm (UTC)
Aug. 1st, 2008 04:28 pm (UTC)
now if you'd fix the typo in the title! :)

Aug. 1st, 2008 06:03 pm (UTC)
lol thanks. :)
Aug. 2nd, 2008 03:48 pm (UTC)
That's intriguing. I wonder if their conversation could have been different if they'd been informed by the latest developments in the theological sciences* rather than simply stating opinions.

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )