Monday, May 26, 2008

Open Letter to the Baptists I met on Ebay

I smiled and welcomed you into my house when you arrived 70 minutes late for our meeting, ruining any chance of me making it to the goodbye dinner Dena and Brendan cooked for me. Lost a few miles from my house, you called to ask me for directions, and then talked over my responses, while I repeatedly tried to ascertain exactly what your location was so that I could google it for you.

I answered you honestly and candidly when you, a guest in my house, asked me, a complete stranger, what my relationship with God was. I told you that I consider myself a very spiritual person, and a very religious-less person. When I started to explain what that meant to me, you interrupted to tell me that you considered yourself the same thing. You told me that your Baptist Church had it's own sort of charter, and was considered a bit "renegade" by Baptists standards. Perhaps you thought I would be drawn to the rebel aspect, since I play the synthesizer.

When you asked me if I believed the Bible was true, I told you that the question did not make sense to me. Were you asking me if the stories inside were factual? Were you asking if the authors were real people? Were you asking if the parables inside were relevant to my life? Were you asking if the actual paper it was printed on would withstand abuse?

"Ok, ok, do you believe it is the word of God?" you asked, wanting to hurry through this question so that you could tell me that it was indeed the word of God.

"Are you asking me if I believe God literally put pen to page? No, I don't. I believe it was written by men. Do I believe they were inspired? Yes. I believe they were great thinkers, great philosophers, " I answered.

"Well, we believe it is the one true word of God," you volleyed.
"Cool," I offered.

I answered you honestly and candidly when you asked me what my relationship with Jesus Christ is. I listened when you interrupted my answer to explain how important it is, in regards to my salvation, that I recognize him as my personal savior (as opposed to maybe a more general, masses-serving savior?). I listened when you explained how important it is to recognize him as one of the Trinity, but a God unto himself, as opposed to the Mormon belief that he is one of the Trinity but the son of a God, with somewhat Godlike powers. You also wanted me to know how important it is that he is the ONLY son of God, instead of the Mormon belief that he is one of many children of God.

When I asked you if recognizing him as a God instead of the son of a God makes you behave any differently, you balked.

When I asked you why anyone would spend time debating such a thing, when it was Christ's behavior and philosophy we are interested in emulating and not his stature, you answered, with your eyes cast down to my floor (where perhaps you expected to find my spiritual intellect) and an all-knowing smirk played out on your loveless-lips, in a falsely-sympathetic and well-rehearsed tone that Christ would never use,

"It's like love: you couldn't really understand what it's like to have a loving relationship with Jesus Christ until you actually have one... as we do."

You used "we" as an exclusive term, instead of an inclusive one. You used it to give your argument weight.

Seeing the conditions I was living in (or actually, moving out of), you assumed I was single and so strongly suggested that I drive to Londonberry, NH on Sunday morning to find a wife amongst your "eighteen or nineteen really really cute girls." You assured me that many people have found their matches in your congregation. When I suggested it was a bit far to drive to flirt with some girls, you assured me that they were very physically attractive and also kind girls.

I answered you honestly and candidly when you asked me if I'd ever read the bible. I told you, "Never in its entirety. When I was a teen we were forced to read it every morning at 6am before school, and that kind of education does not promote an open mind in a teenager." You challenged me to read it in full.

It is strange and presumptuous to challenge someone you don't know to spend many many many hours reading a book that they've expressed no interest in reading. I thought that perhaps I should challenge you to get really good at the bass guitar.

Despite me having just told you that I was not well versed in regards to the Bible, you proceeded to quote scripture often throughout the remainder of our conversation, like this:
"Well, you know in Matthew it says... "
and
"Well, of course Joshua said..."
You did this so that I would feel uneducated and so that you would feel authoritative. You seemed unable to offer any of your own perspectives on things, only those of men circa 600 BCE. The conversation went like this:
1) I tell you how I feel
2) you tell me how Isaiah feels.

It did not occur to you that if I did not recognize the Bible as the end-all be-all of information then these assertions you were making hold little water with me. This paradox seemed to have escaped you, since you continued to reiterate scripture for over an hour. It is strange for one who is in charge of a congregation to be so unaware of his/her audience.

Jesus listened, that's why people loved him. And his actions were louder than any words you or anyone else want to put in his mouth. Despite your repeated readings and citations of the One-Book-in-your-life, you have learned neither of these things about your savior, and that's why I want you to know you are soiling his name. Next time, take the keyboard, give me the cash, and leave your proselytizing at home.

3 comments:

Meagan said...

I applaud your patience in entertaining the discussion with them, at least.

Patient Renter said...

And you're telling Harrison Ford that you want some minutes back? At least he entertained you!

Anyways, that was a pretty interesting and insightful story.

Lorna said...

hmmmm...this makes me think about my experience as a missionary. I wonder how close I came to behaving like that sometimes. I didn't realize until the end of this post that they were only supposed to be getting a keyboard-they have some nerve, huh.
PS. your new posts have not been showing up on my yahoo feed-odd huh.