I don’t want to rant on interminably about this, but the recent Jehovah’s Witnesses visit reminded me of something that happened a couple of years back, and the same sort of thing has happened often enough that I wish there were some sort of social rule against it. So far as I am aware, there are only two religions in the world that mandate changing the rest of the world’s beliefs to match theirs: Christianity and Islam. Clearly these two factions are destined to be at one another’s throats forever, but they shouldn’t involve the rest of us in that. There should be a rule that they can only convert from the opposing faith, and leave the rest of us alone.
As a non-Christian living in a primarily Christian society, I’ve always had problems avoiding the holy water. I generally do not enter a conversation about religion unless I’m convinced the person to whom I’m speaking is very open-minded. If someone in my workplace sidles up to me, as happened one day a few years ago at McD, and asks me if I’ve heard about Jesus, I reply, Yeah, sure, I’m from the Deep South, how could I not have heard about Jesus? and I go about my work. If the ploy is effective the attacker will think I agree with them and leave me in peace, and that’s all I want, to be left in peace to practice my own religion. I live on the sly except when conditions demand otherwise, and the advice of the old masters of my belief system was to do that. Don’t preach religion to people. Teach by example, and indirectly, and if someone has a serious question, answer it. Otherwise, just shut up and do your thing.
I don’t find a lot of Christians following that precept so I generally don’t hang out with them intentionally. It still happens by accident on occasion, as was the case a couple of years back when I was washing windows at McD and a nice lady dressed all in black walked past and then stopped as though halted by some invisible force and asked me who I was. Amazing! it’s as though there’s some circuit hardwired into them that detects the proximity of heathens, flashes a tiny red light and makes them turn. Within ten seconds she had discovered I’m a writer and inside of 30 seconds had me agreeing to her edit her book. Huh. I wondered what that was all about and kept the appointment a few days later.
Turned out her book was a manual for Christians on how to deal with demonic influence in their lives, and she’d even written and produced screenplays about this topic. Yikes, for me this was the worst situation ever, but I did agree to help her with her book and suggested that I might have some interesting and unexpected viewpoints to share, since I’m Buddhist. Slowly, she turned, eyes glinting. I realized I was in for trouble.
Several weeks of awkward interactions followed during which it became clear that her project was to convert me to Christianity and she did not need my help with her book, even already had hired an editor to do what she’d asked me to do, help smooth out the rough spots. I helped where I could, but I had basic problems with the material and the conclusions. For instance, why would the apparition of someone draped in white light be any more positive than the apparition of someone draped in red light? It’s light. Light is a color, kind of like paint. Shouldn’t people be cautious of these things and wonder perhaps if a white light entity’s request that you dedicate your life to destroying an indigenous culture and incidentally causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people through disease, economic disruption and war, might not be an actual holy cause? My objections sailed completely past the lady’s head, sadly enough. Her attentions turned away from the book and towards fixing me, something I really hate when it happens. There’s nothing wrong with me.
I finally could not stands no more, just like Popeye. In the middle of her last effort to set me straight I stood up, inclined my head politely even though I was clearly seething, and said I’d be glad to help her with her book but I know enough about Christianity already, and I’m Buddhist. I walked away and haven’t seen her since, but there were later attempts to convert me through email. It approached the point where I could have hired a lawyer and made a case for stalking and harassment. In our last correspondence she asked me to understand that her religion requires her to do this to people like me. I told her, your obligation is fulfilled! You’ve done your bit! You’ve invited me to church socials, church, church picnics and Bible study. I’ve declined. You’ve tried to probe into my childhood, my family life, my personal history, and I’ve done none of that to you. It’s just rude.
I’m part Native American, and I’m Buddhist, and that’s a heady mix to live with. Mostly it’s fun though. I love the concept behind the Christian epic Left Behind, and I wish it would happen although if it did I would hope that it took a lot more Christians off the planet. Two percent isn’t enough. When all the good Christians ascended, the rest of us could cut down the fences and let the buffalo loose and get back to living the way we want, Buddhist or not.