dan sent this link
it immediately made me think of an incident that took place in the burger king parking lot one freezing night in december.
it was finals week, and i'd gone for some food around two in the morning (this was pre-veggie, so i likely ordered a whopper jr with french fries and a coke). a man stood at the drive-thru entrance, and waved at me as i approached. despite the cold, i had the window down (for smoke redirection purposes).
so i was a little nervous (mom instilled in me a fear of strangers in deserted dark parking lots) but i prepared to give him some change. turns out he wasn't asking for money -- he just wanted a hamburger and they wouldn't let anyone order via the drive-thru on foot. he tucked a crumpled wad of ones in my hand and asked me to get him a #7 with a sprite, which i happily did.
thing is, as i gave him his change and the bag of food, he thanked me profusely and said "you know, i can tell you're a christian."
i hesitated for a second, and then nodded and smiled, probably told him to stay warm, etc.
and for the first time in the infancy of my agnosticism i didn't resent it when someone used "god bless!" as a farewell.
see, what he meant when he used those words was not what they'd come to mean to me. what they meant to the christian groups on campus, what they meant to my family.
i didn't know it at the time, but he was right. (i had a good few years of bitterness to work through before i could properly respect what jesus had to say). when he said i was a christian, he was not suggesting that i was "saved by the blood of the lamb", that i was heaven-bound, etc. he wasn't talking about a state of being... rather it had something to do with doing.
it's an understanding of the concept that i don't see in play too much. (in my experience, congregations are seldom encouraged to give unless there's a new fellowship hall to build or they're being guilt-tripped into tithing).
i'm talking of a christianity that i respect. the kind that my dad does (all of his work raising money for "missions" makes more sense right now as i think of it. or his volunteering to take mentally ill people to church every week (think children's bus ministry, but it's a ton of crazy adults packed into dad's minivan)... you know, or him taking homeless people into his home even though they tended to steal from him.)
i guess the distinction between christian and... well, not christian
really isn't important for me*. it's more about the kind of person someone is -- the way they live out the life that's been mysteriously given to them. i privilege compassion, love, charity, ethics, honesty (both with the self and with others), faith, chance-taking, communication, forgiveness, sincerity... if someone can live these ideals, it matters not which sky-king they believe in.
one of the reasons brandon is my favorite person is that he exhibits an incredible gentleness towards the world and himself. even as people deal out pain, he responds in love.
apparently that burger king parking lot is a hotbed of religious conversation.
my freshman year a friend and i went on a post-party taco bell/burger king run (him being the most sober of our group and needing a friend to accompany him). somehow the topic of whether or not we would ever "date" (i'm not sure what the couplings that tended to occur in college should be called) came up. i remember telling him quite simply that that wasn't an option, since he was an atheist. and he responded similarly, saying that my christianity was definitely problematic.
his response confused me. i wish i'd asked about it at the time. i'd been conditioned to consider no unchristian suitors (the verse about being "unequally yoked" was given as evidence) -- but why would he respond as such? did he worry that said girlfriend would proselytize and make his life hell? did he fear being pressured into attending a boring sunday service in an over-air conditioned sanctuary? was he
bitter and avoiding all things xian as i was soon to be?
it's strange, because a good few years later, he seriously dated a woman named cathy. (i remember waking up after a night of crazy partying at the ftp, eyes squinting at the bright light while i sat on the porch swing and lit the day's first cigarette. she breezed through the front door, across the porch and front lawn to her car in a blue dress.)
(hungover confusion)where are you going?
(a pause and a smile)to church!
*i actually think this distinction serves little purpose... it implies a binary of "those with faith and those with none". it's one of the reasons i stopped using the word atheist to refer to myself. it allows for a too narrow interpretation of myself (and plays right into the hands of others' easy binary-based understanding of faith and life (e.g. "christian vs not") -- where i fall into the "not" category, forcing me to describe myself in relation to them. to their faith.)
one of the highlights of the emergent convention is my discovery of some language that better describes what i believe. it's one of the gifts that caputo has given me through his writings and lectures.
i'm finding that more and more there are aspects of my life that are difficult to label or describe in one conversation. my faith. my tattoo. my relationships.
i think that's a good thing. i'd rather be dealing with the tough, complex things. i'd rather live the indescribable.