Sep 9, 2010

Are You a Christian?

Var and I had just parked the car in Kirkland and gotten the terriers out for a walk, when a frail old lady approached me and asked:
“Sir, are you a Christian?”
Which raised all my defensive shields. What the hell business was it of hers? And besides, I was in no mood to talk about my “faith”, being particularly grumpy today. Sometimes I do get up on the wrong side of the bed. I curtly told her “no, I’m not”.

She gave me the most complicated look I’ve gotten in a long time... her hopeful face crumpled into disappointment, sadness, as if I’d said the wrong thing, and she didn’t say anything more or launch into a sermon, so I gratefully let the dogs pull me away from her and toward the park.

She’s been haunting me all day. I even went back around the block to look for her, but by then she was gone. I suspect that what was really going on was that she needed some kind of assistance and this was her old-fashioned way of getting around to asking for it. Boy, did she ever ask the wrong guy at the wrong time in the wrong way. I should have just asked her back: “Why do you want to know?” But ego-defensive shields rarely ask questions.

However, it IS an excellent question: “Am I a Christian?” Because the proper question back is “What do you mean by ‘Christian’?” And I’d get a different answer every time, and every time someone would be trying to pre-qualify me for some category or another. On certain levels I can say “Yes, I am a Christian”, if we’re talking about the experience of ego-death and Jesus Christ being an avatar of that experience. But that’s not how 99 out of 100 Christians would describe their religion, and I’ve finally decided that I’m not a Christian to them, so to bluntly and correctly answer the question as they mean to ask it, I have begun to say “No, I am not a Christian”.

But my answer didn’t help that little old lady, who maybe needed a ride to get her meds or God knows what, and I’d have gladly given her the ride or whatever, because it’s just the right thing to do to help out little old ladies.

However, it is a good reminder to me about how to ask for help. I’m reminded of the parable of the Good Samaritan, where some Jew is robbed, beaten and left for dead on the side of the road and no one would help him but finally a Samaritan passed by and offered assistance. If that old lady had been the Jew in the ditch requiring assistance, she would have first asked the passerby if he was a Jew, and then after pre-qualifying his proper sense of Jewish guilt, would then ask for aid. The Samaritan would have been automatically disqualified.

I could have been that old lady’s ‘Good Samaritan’, but apparently she thought that only a Christian would do. And in the case of myself, a reminder that aid comes from unexpected and perhaps unwelcome quarters.

NOTES: I was wearing a black mock turtleneck today, and I wonder if she perhaps unconsciously connected the outfit to priests or ministers? Or else she mistook me for Steve Jobs. 


Alan Abbadessa, now Alan Green said...

Wonderful post.
When I first met Melissa she lived in a small town in Virginia. I was bombarded with that same question over and over. "Are you a Christian?"
I also got my defenses up, but answered honestly that I thought the Christian teachings were beautiful and many of them overlapped with beliefs I held, however I did not subscribe to any particular dogma. This was always returned with a snide "Oh, then you're not really a Christian."
I usually resisted the temptation to point out that I didn't think they were "real Christians" as long as they disregarded the most basic tenet of "thou shall not kill" in their support of the War on Terra.
I've come to accept that none of us are infallible beings and we're all trying to find as many answers that work for us as possible. I still get my back up sometimes, but try not to be judgmental back. To me it just creates an endless loop of negativity and judgement. I think there's even a passage in the bible about that somewhere. :)

Alan Abbadessa, now Alan Green said...

PS: This goes hand-in-hand with your google posts

Dennis said...

WTF,out of the blue being asked that question. You should of told her that you had an affinity for the light bringer. Perhaps that would of sufficed. The Dogma of xtians is just inane. The ethics of the ten commandments is admirable. All the salvation doublespeak is imho dangerous to the psyche, presenting an impossible dichotomy. I will be saved if I say a prayer to the bloody plastic crucifix. Come on dear Xtians grow the hell up. Nice post and dilemna Michael. What fun! Dennis

Anonymous said...

I would've reacted the same as you--but it probably wouldn't have occurred to me that she was asking for help. but that makes sense. Still, you shouldn't feel guilty. If that was her intent, she's only showing her own prejudice by assuming that only a Christian could help her. Which is sad.

Anyway, next time try "Why do you ask?" and see what happens. I think I'll do the same.

Christopher Knowles said...

Very interesting and reflective piece. The real anti-Christs are the politicizers, who are constantly putting up little chicken wire fences around everybody. Maybe a hundred years ago- with everything being equal- you would have answered "yes" without hesitation.

Michael said...

Thanks for all the comments, folks. I do think the little old lady was acting as a "light bringer" or reflection, giving me a chance to reflect on my own "little old lady" tendencies. ;-)

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