A compact and frail little lady in a McDonald’s uniform was hovering near the coffee table tonight as I joined Emily. Emily was crunching on grades, I decided to join her. I sat down with my drink and turned to my laptop.
Said little old lady hesitated, then moved close, clutching a large KJV Bible tightly to her chest like a talisman, or maybe a shield. She got to the edge of table, and I turned, waiting for the question I knew was coming next.
“Are you Saved?” she asked in a very tiny voice.
“No ma’am, sorry, I’m an atheist, I’m fairly comfortable and happy with it. Thanks.”
After a small and uncomfortable silence, she looked at the ground. “I hope you come to HIM soon.”
And then she left the coffee shop.
After she left Emily mentioned she’d been waiting outside the coffee shop summoning up the courage to go in.
“I feel bad for her,” I said. “It’s really hard to do that. When I used to go around banging on doors for the Church of Christ it was always weird, but you have to kind of charge into the subject and hang on.”
Of course, I was the last thing she needed to encounter, a stout and friendly, comfortable, total non-believer. They’re never really all that good a prospect. What you’re really looking for is someone already going to a church or a person who’s ‘spiritual’ but not attending. Someone who’s already made the step that believing in something makes sense. The wedge is already there. All you have to do then is hammer the differences and you can get them to at least offer to go to your church.
I had been fully ready to buy her a cuppa and flip through the bible with her, in a nice and gentle manner, to explain what in the bible left me a non-believer after I read it cover to cover, but she would know that even the devil can quote scripture. For someone carrying a bible to her chest, asking strangers in a coffee shop if they were saved, when you encounter the raw devil in the flesh (which isn’t very common here in bible-land, and is what I represent to some here), a hasty retreat when you were hard pressed just to walk into the shop, that makes a certain sense.
Maybe one day she learns how to have open discussions with strangers about her deeply held beliefs. Sadly, many like her are taught that this is what witnessing to other people means: accosting strangers in places like that to try and draw them into a ‘scales from the eyes’ argument where they use the bible like a verbal weapon to try and force someone into being saved. Fortunately she was a fairly meek rear guard holy warrior, more apt to annoy other Christians like my wife, who was just here for some coffee and space to get her grading done.
And so life goes on in rural Ohio.
11 thoughts on “I’m Not Saved, So Sorry!”
I never got bothered that much back in Indiana – but then, everybody went to church, nobody needed saving. Surprisingly, I get more of it here in Japan. Of course, they’re often either Mormons or some strange ‘Buddhist’ sect that tells me they can heal wounds (and even chill the beer can in my hand) merely by prayer. My ankle still hurt, and the beer didn’t get any colder.
We always used to get these strange ones knocking on my apartment door. If we pretended not to be home, they’d immediately leave, without trying anyone else. My roommate’s theory is that one of the staff at her english company (a very large one) was a holy roller and would get home addresses and they’d roll out to save us.
I was never religious, but I went to church a lot. It was social time, and the church was very open. I’m very grateful for the upbringing I had, but I can’t bring myself to continue doing something I don’t believe in.
Marching, marching to shibboleth, with the eagle and the sword (the eagle and the sword!)
Wow, it’s been a long time since some one has tried that on me. Although I did get a political questionaire from that freaked out group in Cincinnati that wants a government just small enough to fit in our bedrooms. I tossed it out.
Chilling the beer would be a good skill. Only good British ale doesn’t need chilling. Still.
What we get ’round here are folks who, when we mention that my wife is from Mainland China, have been there and want to talk about it. Of course, they’ve been there as missionaries…
I feel sorry for the poor woman and people like her. Her religion compels her into these very uncomfortable conversations, and sometimes confrontations, with strangers. She can never be comfortable meeting someone new without asking if they are saved, and probably more often than not, the question closes the door to further discussions.
Atheist is not as far from Christian as you think. I think a firm atheist is actually *more* likely to convert than an agnostic who just doesn’t care. Atheists are people who think things through and make a commitment. They are likely to be interested, listen, and engage. At the very least it would be a good conversation. Apathy is the real devil. Apathy and despair.
Speaking of Rural Ohio, I thought you had a Bass ProShop billcap on when I saw you in the hall at Context and I was going to really tease you about going “native”. 🙂
Back to the topic at hand.
When people like that start up with me I just tell them I’m Catholic and I’d be happy to tell them about the One True Church if they are ready to leave whatever cult they are currently supporting.
I’m always pleasant and I smile.
Not that I’m a very good Catholic, or think the RC has everything right, but I go to church enough I feel I can toss around the 2000 + year weight of unbroken tradition with some authority.
My husband pretends he’s def and can’t understand what they are saying, or else he tells people he’s a practicing Druid.
I remember when my aunt moved from one house to another in Ohio, her new neighbor came up and greeted her and asked, “What church do you go to?” Not even, “Do you go to church?” It’s a whole different culture there than what I’m used to in SoCal.
In this part of Ohio, we get the Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on the door. You’re a better person than me. I find it offensive, to be honest. Spirituality is your own business, and for god’s sake (oopsy), no one has the right to tell you what to believe.
I’ll believe whatever I believe, and please get off my front porch and take your $#@# papers with you. And do NOT leave them under my mat or in my front door, thank you very much.
Wow, I had this impression of an Ohio that was a bit more cosmopolitan than Indiana, since most of the people I met from Ohio in college would complain about how rural Indy is. Glad to see y’all are stuck in the same hell (so to speak) that I was in. Misery loves company.
At comment #4, I’d have to disagree. If you’re atheist and came to it from a rational perspective, you’re not likely to convert. But if you’re an atheist because it’s cool, then it’s likely you could be converted to Christianity because you never thought atheism through in the first place. Many agnostics are atheists that think the word ‘atheist’ sounds too mean.
But yes, apathy about many things is certainly bad. Back home, we called them Chreasters, because those two days were the only ones you’d see them in church.
I just look at anyone trying to preach at me and tell them I’m a practicing Catholic (which is true).
They go away.
Works on Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Baptists alike.
Hmm. Since I’ve been scratching the yearly blessing on the lintel, we’ve not had *any* religious visitors here. Hmm.
And if they want to argue, well, before I was Catholic, I spent a couple of years in a Disciples of Christ undergrad school, studied Hebrew as well as Old Testament and New Testament–I can hold my own pretty well.
But just telling them I’m Catholic seems to work pretty well. Must have horns and hooves about me or something that I can’t see.
Which reminds me of a story from my jewelry-making days. I was selling jewelry at a senior center’s fall bazaar, and I had several necklaces with detachable crucifixes on them. One tight-lipped lady with her hair twirled up in a bun wandered over and started poking around my stuff. I had one crucifix that was fairly discreet–from afar, it looked like a simple cross. She looked closer at it, and her lips tightened even more.
She jabbed at the cross. “That’s Catlick.”
“Yes, it is. I’m Catholic.”
Deeper frown. “I’m Babtist. That’s not right.” Then she turned and marched away.
(and yes, she *did* say “Catlick,” with a scornful twist of her lips, and she *did* say “Babtist.”)
I think how often you have to deal with this has to do more with neighborhood than state or even city. I live in Norwood, a small city completely surrounded by Cincinnati. When I lived in the next neighborhood over we had JWs all the time but I don’t think I’ve had more than half a dozen door to door religions people stop by in the eight years I’ve lived in Norwood. I’ve wondered if they have some sort of law against it. The local big box church sends out MTV wannabe DVD’s of their “non denominational evangelical” services from time to time, but I see that more as marketing than preaching.
I don’t think we ever had door to door religion salesmen, when I was growing up, but 99% of the people in the area were Catholic, in name at least, so maybe they just saw the West Side as a lost cause.
We lived in Chillicothe, Ohio from late 1979 until early 1982. Leslie was born while we lived there. Several total strangers made the point of asking me “Have you had her baptized yet?” to which my answer was usually something uncreative like “None of your business.”
Jim always said I should have said “We’re raising her to be a Druid.”
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