I really try my utmost to be polite, or at least start off polite, with most people. I usually even manage to get it right with telemarketers. I cannot say the same for my recent Post Office excursion. I was rude to someone. Very rude.
Late yesterday afternoon I had to go pick up a parcel from the Post Office and there was an uncharacteristically long queue. Believers of all sorts might say that God/Allah/FSM/the universe predestined it that way. For me it was merely annoying. I walked into the Post Office mere yards before another lady and she also promptly joined me in the queue. She was scarcely stationary before she asked me if I knew Jesus. I was totally bowled over! I mean, really?
Trying to be polite at first, I answered that I know of him and faced forward again. In hindsight, I should have said yes, mumbled a few confirmatory inanities with her and be left in peace. My answer was exactly what she needed to fuel her fervour.
She started witnessing of everything God has done for her, which was all fine and well, because that at least is real. For her, if no-one else. And I for one will never take that away from anyone. Your experiences (no matter how deluded I may think they are) are real to you. Here I went into screen saver mode and nodded every now and then with the odd uh-huh thrown in for good measure.
But then she started preaching. On how I need Jesus in my life, on how I will be a better person, etc. That was when I interrupted her and asked her to step-wise explain the exact procedure on I should invite Jesus into my life and if she could guarantee results. I asked her if she had any evidence, outside of her own experience or the Bible of God’s existence. Evidence that I will be able to measure and analyse. I got the expected verbal tap dancing of someone in a corner. When she started quoting Scripture was when I told her what she could do with her religion. To my shame, I must admit that I used the “religion is like a willy” argument.
Afterwards, I realised that I could have handled that better. Not by lying about my lack of faith, but I simply could have handled the situation better. I also pondered on the type of personality that one should need in order to do what this woman did. I live in South Africa, which means that I know plenty of Christians, but this is the first time something of this has ever happened to me.
To merely chalk it up as a Christian thing would be a somewhat unwarranted extrapolation and also unfair, given my experience with Christians. Her religion was merely the tool which she used to intrude on my life. She would have done it regardless. If she was more passionate about Tupperware or her kids, that’s what I would have been harassed with. I shudder to think what would have happened if she was a Muslim.Christians, please take note: If you have a burning desire to share or witness your faith with a random stranger, please ask them if you may before simply jumping in. Not only is it good manners, but it may just make an unbeliever slightly more tolerant of your religion.