Where I live I am often confronted by someone hoping to save me from myself by taking me to church. It can be annoying, even if I understand why they do that. Generally I simply decline the invitation and go on my merry way. But, sometimes one has to explain matters in terms that cannot be misunderstood.
A few months ago I was out walking the dog, as I am a few times every day, when I am greeted by a man coming down the street from the other direction. It goes something like this:
Good morning. That sure is a big dog. Is he friendly?
Not really. ( he is but I am getting a bad vibe and do not want to encourage the guy to engage in conversation; it doesn’t work)
Maybe if I just let him sniff my hand we can be buddies. How about it big boy, want to be buddies.
Don’t put your hand out. He might bite you. I really have to get home now.
My church is holding a revival this week and I would like to invite you. The speaker is an awesome man. He has saved many souls.
No thank you. (pulling the dog along) Have a nice day.
Don’t you go to church? (he has changed direction and is walking along too close for my comfort).
No I don’t. (keeping it short and trying to move away)
What about your soul? Aren’t you afraid of hell?
Look, I am not interested in your church and I an not interested in talking to you about it.
I am just concerned about where you will spend eternity. I just want you to know god loves you, but you will burn in hell if you don’t accept Jesus as your savior.
Well, now I am pissed, uncomfortable and a little afraid. So I turn to face him, holding tightly to the leash because the dog senses fear and has begun to growl and lay his ears back. So, I shout “Get the hell away from me, you hear!! If you get any closer I am letting this dog have you and I am calling the police!”
He stops, stands very still as I begin to move away. His parting words are “I hope you find Jesus.”
There are many things I could have said, but why bother? If the man believes what he was saying then he will not change his mind and I am not interested in discussing anything with him. If, as I suspect, he is just a creep trying to annoy me, or worse, then getting as far away from him as possible is my best option. I pulled out my cell phone and called the local police and asked if an office could drive by my street because a strange man is following me and I am very uncomfortable. A squad car appeared shortly coming toward me and the officer rolled down his window and asked me if I am okay. I told him a short version of what had happened and thanked him for coming. He said he would talk to the man, who was out of sight by now, if he found him and that would probably be enough to get rid of him. I thanked him again and proceed the short distance to my home.
I am not a religious person and that is fairly uncommon where I live. Most of the people in my small town profess to be some variety of Christian and many attend church at least some of the time. Most folks around here are good people who make an effort to be kind and do not meddle in the affairs of others. I like those people. There are however zealots who are determined to make everyone do as they think they should and those people make me crazy.
You see, I understand why they do that because I grew up in church. I remember dressing up in a starched dress with lace on the collar, a sash tied into a big bow on the back, black paten leather shoes, and white cotton gloves with a dime tucked inside for the collection and going off to Sunday School and church with the family almost every Sunday. We sang “Jesus Loves the Little Children” and “Amazing Grace”.
There is a photo of my small self in the family album where I am kneeling by my bed saying my nightly prayers. “Jesus tender shepherd hear me, bless this little child tonight. Through the darkness be thou near me, keep me safe ’til morning light . . . ” with a long list of people to bless at the end. I believed with all my heart that God loved me.
Then I grew up. Took my children to church, taught bible school, volunteered for children’s church, the whole nine yards. And I studied; read the bible and prayed. But I also read a lot and lived a little and traveled some. I met people different from me and learned of other cultures and learned of other people of different faiths and no faith at all and I came to believe that I had been misled. Not on purpose, just parents, teachers and neighbors passing along what they had been taught without ever questioning any of it. I question everything now and learn and grow doing that.
So I became the happy heathen I am today and I like it! I can’t rely on a god to fix everything so I have to take care of it myself as best as I can. I don’t know what happens after death and neither do you. Time will tell. Until then I will just live each day the best I can and I hope everyone else does too, but I won’t try to make anyone do anything. We all have to make our own choices.