Yesterday was a bit of a suck day. In the early morning, while I was doing the milking, Dave was down in the back pasture with a back-hoe guy helping him dig Georgia’s grave.
Right after that, Dave went to pick up a new little piglet.
Isn’t her tail cute?
Piglets are sort of adorable. Like baby calves.
Here she is, exploring her new digs, with “dig” being a very appropriate word. We leave a lot of weedy growth in the pig pen for a new pig. They soon root it all away and they enjoy the hell out of doing so.
But notice the open places at the back of her little hut? You can just barely see that there is woven wire fencing behind there. The area beyond there is our big pasture.
She explored. And she explored. And she found those open places, and she pushed right through and under the fencing and Dave came out and found her having a fine time in the pasture.
It was hot yesterday and sunny and humid. Just the ideal time to be running around a pasture trying to drive an errant pig back into her pen.
By the time we’d finished playing Capture the Pig, we were both in a fine humor.
You can see her, barely, lying in the little hut. She was exhausted after her wild adventure. So were we. And you can see where Dave nauglered up the little house.
So all was well and I went to the house to prepare some dinner.
And then we had the visit.
A man came by to pick up a farm implement that we were selling. He’d called ahead and we knew he was coming, but Dave finally had to go meet him and bring him to the house. This is nice, actually, because even people with GPS systems have trouble finding our place, but it still meant that Dave had to go meet the guy.
He brought his wife and small daughter with him.
I came out to the barn because I thought maybe they’d need as many hands as possible to get this heavy piece of equipment onto his trailer. I can’t lift much, but I can do a little.
We all introduced ourselves and it was all fine. I took the woman and her little girl around to look at the baby calves in their pens and the baby pig thankfully in her pen, and as the little girl petted them, the woman and I chatted.
She kept asking questions. She’d known me about ten minutes and she was asking a whole lot of questions about where we’d lived, and what we did and stuff like that. Stuff that nobody would really be very interested in.
In the process, she mentioned that she had been widowed and that her first husband was a pastor. She then said that the only thing her current husband and the pastor would have had in common was their “love for the Lord.”
It was what I’d been waiting for.
I grew up in this shit. I know the signals.
The woman was doing something all evangelical/fundamentalist Christians feel compelled to do.
She was figuring out what box to place me in. Where did we fit? She couldn’t continue without knowing which script to use.
This is what she was dealing with. Supposedly, the person speaking there is Jesus. And when Jesus gives you an order, what the hell are you supposed to do except follow it to the letter?
But see, they don’t have to “preach the gospel” to people who already believe it, so they have developed a method of figuring it all out.
They create boxes.
The main two boxes are “Saved” and “Lost.”
The Saved box has a lot of little boxes inside it labeled “Backslidden” and “Iffy” and “Methodist” and “Episcopalian, But Claims Salvation” and the like. The Lost box is also subdivided into “Liberal Christian” and “Catholic” and “Mormon” and “Jehovah’s Witness” and (gasp!) “Atheist.”
Each box requires a different script because each type of person supposedly needs a different message. With a liberal Christian, they can talk about the things they believe in common (Jesus was a nice guy, faith is a good thing, where do you go to church) and go from there. With a Mormon, it’s a little more complicated, but rest assured, there’s a script.
There is also a script for atheists but I almost never meet anyone who can remember what it is. They rarely use it because most of them have never met anyone who says right out, “I’m an atheist.”
At any rate, they put out feelers. If the other person is in the Saved box already, that person will recognize and respond to the feelers. For instance, when she said that her two husbands had little in common except their “love for the Lord,” my response should have been something like “Well, that’s what is important.”
Bingo. I would have gone in the “Might Be Saved” box.
So that left in my situation fraught with concern. No box means she doesn’t know what script to use. This creates massive discomfort in these people.
The men managed to get the implement loaded without female help (amazing, I know, but true) and money exchanged hands, and then he started in.
“I don’t know where you go to church, or if you’re saved. . .”
Oh, gee whiz.
Dave responded, “We don’t do church.”
Plop. We moved into the “Definitely Lost” box.
Definitely Lost is a PITA box to be in. It means that they are compelled by Jesus to preach the gospel to us. They can’t leave until they do. I know it. I get it.
I also tend be pretty frank.
So when I saw their obvious discomfort (people, even these idiot Christians, really don’t enjoy “soul-winning” – no sane person does), I just cut to the core of the matter.
“I am an atheist,” I said.
And plop. We found ourselves squarely in the Atheist box and then they were in real trouble. Where do they start with an atheist?
“What happens when you die?” he asked.
In the other scripts, nearly all of them, the question is “Where will you spend eternity?” That is the lead-in question and is followed up by something about how we’ve all “sinned.”
That doesn’t work in the atheist script because we aren’t going to spend eternity anywhere and we have never sinned. (Sin is defined as “coming short of the glory of God.” No God, no sin.)
He was trying to find solid ground and struggling a bit.
And then he thought he got there. He began to tell us about a road trip they took to a scenic area and how God made everything. I demurred. He responded with “Who made the world?”
This drives me nuts.
He doesn’t know any more about how the world got here than I do. Stephen Hawking probably knows as much as anyone, but this guy wasn’t a theoretical physicist, so I decided to stop it right there. I was hot and tired. I was sure that Dave was hotter and tireder and we weren’t in the mood.
I replied, “Look, I was a Christian fundamentalist until I was in my mid-forties. Our son attended a Christian school all his life except for the period when we homeschooled him and his senior year which was in public school. I can quote lots of Bible. Wanna hear it?”
And then I started with John 1:1 (In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God), smiled and kept going.
They got the point, I think.
But then he did something I despise. Just despise.
He explained how we have freedom of religion and how anyone can believe anything they like and how it’s all fine and dandy, but (always a but) he never severs ties with a non-believer because if he’s just nice to them, he might be able to say that one word that will help them.
Can anyone spell condescending?
I replied, “And there’s the problem. You say you enter into a friendship, a relationship, with a person with the sole intention of changing them.”
He nodded. He knew what I meant.
Some denominations and sects take this further than others do. One of my pastors used to actually say that no Christian should ever have a friendship with a non-believer for any reason other than to convert them.
In late October of 2004, Dave and I flew from our home in Alaska to North Carolina to visit relatives, including Nathan. We had voted absentee before leaving.
We had made arrangements, when we knew we were going to be there, to spend all day that Sunday before the election in Raleigh doing some canvassing work for MoveOn.
They gave us a list of the names and addresses of registered Democrats in a particular area and a map. Our task was to go to each of those houses/apartments, talk with the person, and find out if they knew where to vote, if they’d made plans to get there, and if they needed transportation.
We were explicitly told that we were not to ask anyone how they planned to vote. We were to tell them that we’d gotten their name from the voter registration list and verify that they were registered as Democrats. If they said, “No, there’s been a mistake. I am a Republican” or anything like that, we were to apologize, keep the conversation to senseless chatting and exit as rapidly as possible and go to the next name.
The whole point was to get out the Democratic vote.
We were not there to change anyone’s mind about anything. We just wanted to help Democrats vote, to remind them to vote.
There’s a correlation here.
What we did was honest. We weren’t lying to anyone. We weren’t trying to intrude in any way. We just verified if our information was correct, asked if they needed transportation and then moved on (!).
The people who announced that they were in the Republican box were not badgered about why they would be so stupid. We were nice, polite, apologetic, and got the hell out of there. We didn’t try to establish some phony-baloney relationship with the sole goal of turning them into Democrats.
This is me with Dave having dinner while on our cruise. We met a whole lot of really nice people, but one couple stood out. We spent a lot of time with them. He is something or other with the Episcopal church and she is a retired priest.
The atheists palled all around Europe and across the Atlantic with the professional Episcopalians.
It is quite possible to have a lovely friendship with people who are very religious when you aren’t. Really, it is. We’ve remained in contact with that couple and would cruise again with them in a heartbeat.
But you see, neither couple cared what boxes the other folks were in. We discussed religion, of course. It’s an integral part of their lives. Atheism is an integral part of ours. We had some lively dinner discussions that went on far longer than they should have and that was part of the subject matter.
But there was no judgement made, on either side. We don’t care if they are religious. They don’t care if we’re not. We had fun together. We enjoyed each others’ company.
It’s not necessary to make a sale before you can establish a friendship.