Conversation with an Evangelist

  • tautomer

    Posts: 1010

    Nov 09, 2011 6:46 AM GMT
    I had an interesting experience today, and I wanted to share my story. I garnered some rather interesting insight, and felt like at the very least, I may have made a difference in the future. It's a bit long, but please read to the end. The short of it is, I met an evangelist, and had a very reasonable conversation with him, even after he learned I am not on his side.

    At my university (Oregon State), I was walking to the library to hold my office hours for my students, when I noticed a group of people standing in front of the library holding up signs. Among which the signs said "God died for your sins", "homosexuals, drugs, you are damned", you get the idea. Several of the men from this group were holding bibles, shouting at people, calling individuals sinners as they walked by, etc. After I finished my office hour with my students, I went back outside and I mixed in with the crowd. I wasn't entirely sure why I did, but I did,.

    I did notice something very curious early on. If I didn't know the opinions of the people, or the things they were saying, you could not tell the difference between the evangelists, or the dissenters. They were acting the same. Arguing with each other, tempers flaring while still holding back. Each side instigating the other to anger them, and only anger them (the dissenters were worse with this). This simply confirmed something I have always felt about protests; such behavior doesn't make anything better, or make anything change.

    After listening to a man and woman argue about what does it mean to be a christan, I interjected to try and put some peace between them. The girl (a dissenter) began to cry lightly when she said she was trying to get the man to understand that his ways are driving people from christianity, because he focuses on the negative. Eventually the split, and I eventually began to speak to the man. I wanted to truly understand what was going on in his mind (I have never interacted with an evangelist like this before).

    Over the course of our discussion for a half hour out in the drizzle, I learned a few things. First, he, nor anyone else he was with wants to harm anyone, cause anyone pain, or be hated. That is not what they want at all. I saw genuineness in his eyes when he said this, and I do believe him. He said he was out there, traveling the west to spread the word and help those who need to be helped. It's his "duty" as a christian. This whole idea of duty and "god told me to" seems open ended, how do they really feel that, if at all. That's where I get to the interesting pieces, at least from my perspective.

    He told me that in his earlier years, he slept around with all sorts of women, drank all the time, and did as many drugs as he could, and then "heard the word" and changed his life. I asked him if he "felt god", and he said feeling has nothing to do with it. I have always believed that the strongest purpose and good that comes out of christianity comes from an emotional connection with god and jesus. You literally feel that bond. He proclaimed to me that he does not have that, nor should others. The bible, to him, is what is important. It is his rule book. He follows it's word because he simply knows it's the word of god. It's all intellectual and mental to him. His feelings and urges, to him, are dishonest. This piece of information showed me something that is seemingly a core to certain types of evangelicalism that many of the population sees: a seeming lack of care for others, and lack of empathy.

    Where does this come from? There seems to be a fundemental disconnect between those who are some forms of evangalists and the true emotional nature and purpose of religion and faith. Without the feel and emotion within the faith, one can not have true compassion, connection, and understanding with others. This translates over to a seemingly hollow form of belief that can at times be condeming of others and their way of life. He lacked an emotional relationship with god... and empathy with god, and becuase of that, he can not use true empathy with others to get them to see his faith. When he spoke, there was always this sense of logic, reason, this "the book says this, and the book is right, it must be true". Lack of emotion, empathy, and compassion seems to be the root of many problems throughout the world, and I believe I see why individuals like this get locked into this belief. It's tricking one into thinking they have empathy, because that is what the bible discusses and talks about.

    Nearing the end of the conversation with this man, I slowly revealed some facts to him. I am infact, a non believer, in his eyes, a total sinner, and a homosexual. When speaking to others, he quickly condenmed them, and either called them a liar, or a sinner. He would ignore them, and act in a very deflective disregarding manner. Yet, when I dropped my bombs on him, he didn't react. He simply saw me, who I am, and who I was. He did not try to convert me, meerly ask me if I was aware of where I stood in his eyes (which I am). He thought I was on his side when he first met me, when I infact I am not. I told him I don't like what he does, but he has a right to do it, and I do think it's unfair of others to attack him.

    I explained to him, rationally, and compassionately what I believe in terms of spirituality. He listened, and while I did not see gears turning in his mind, I saw him truly listening, and taking to heart what I said. I know that I will not soon be forgotten in his mind, for many years to come. Someone like me, who was not on his side, was not attacking him, and infact was acting in such a manner that he thought I was a true christian in his eyes. After I had to leave, he said that he really enjoyed talking to me, to get to know me, and that he would pray for me. He was thankful that a dissenter would even rationally talk to him.

    What this has all shown me, is that these people, as horrible as they may seem, are not evil, at all. They genuinely want to help people, and they are driven by something the feel is right. It's a logic you can not penetrate by attacking, and it's a logic that can only be reached unless you get them on your side first. I later spoke to a fellow dissenter, and explained what I did. All he did was spout off that these people are horrible, and that he can't talk to someone who calls him a sinner. In my mind, this fellow dissenter, is no better then the reactions these evangelists give at attacks.

    In the end, it takes compassion, and true understanding, and it needs to be pervasive to your entire life. Only through that will you have harmony and actually be able to get others to understand where you come from, and lead to common ground.

    I understand that this is a heated topic, and I have a feeling this topic will dissolve into some sort of flame war over time. I don't care. Why? Because all I care about is that you read this. If you did, then it's purpose was fulfilled.
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    Nov 09, 2011 6:58 AM GMT
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    Nov 09, 2011 11:44 AM GMT
    tautomer4314 said

    In the end, it takes compassion, and true understanding, and it needs to be pervasive to your entire life. Only through that will you have harmony and actually be able to get others to understand where you come from, and lead to common ground.

    Just as important, IMHO, is that personal interaction often differs greatly from interacting with people as a member of a group.

    Also, confrontation is often a terrible way of getting people to listen to you.

    Go Beavers!