Every now and then I end up in a conversation with someone who not only has radically different views than I hold ,but who clings to them with a zealous determination and can’t seem to understand why I don’t share them. TO be fair, I find their belief in their point almost as mind boggeling. This can be a trivial disagreement about which pizza is better or a more serious one such as whether religion should dictate public policy. Many times we agree to disagree…. And most of the time I don’t push it.
I have a lot of reasons for not pushing it, for simply nodding and changing the subject. Sometimes I am afraid for my job (although not recently), afraid for my relationship with this person, concerned about coming off as pushy, etc. All valid reasons to be sure. But sometimes my reasons to stay quiet include the errant thought that “It won’t matter what I say, his mind is already made up. People like him don’t change their minds.”
I was reminded yesterday how very silly that sort of thinking is.
Background info: I have a family member who has very different religious and political views than I do. Which is fine. We talk regularly and we tend to simply ignore those subjects… or if they get brought up, I usually back down and change the subject. Until two nights ago that is….
We were on the phone talking about earthquakes an the subject of Haiti came up. We began to talk about where we were sending aid. She referenced that she had donated or was going to donate to Pat Robertson.
Because I was aware of the above clip, my response to such a declaration was shock. “But… wait…” I said, aware that I was beginning to tread on very dangerous ground, “You might want to rethink that donation. He said some pretty severe things today.”
Her response was, in essence, was that he wouldn’t have said it if it wasn’t true. That it was/is true. That the people in the country, none of them Christian, deserve it…. That when a country turns its back on God, this is what happens.
Dismayed (and trembling a bit, VERY aware of the dangerous ground I was barreling into) I debated her. Gently. It was hard to stay gentle, I wanted to talk in big loud sentences, to force her to see things my way… but I didn’t. Even I know better than that.
What resulted was a very long drawn out and draining conversation that half of Santa Cruz got to listen in to as I took a bus, walked to CVS, bought chips and dip, walked home, etc. We talked about the history of Haiti, about God: about the existence, the temperament, the fairness of God. We talked about death. We talked about the Bible as authority (or not).
Eventually we had to agree to disagree. I knew I was breaking her heart. My honesty in what I believe had never, up until this point, been stated so clearly, so obviously, so inequitably. We agreed that we loved each other. We agreed that harsh hurtful statements such as the ones Mr. Robertson made can sometimes do more harm than good to the Christian cause. Again we agreed that we loved each other and that is what really matters. It was awkward.
We got off the phone… she off to Bible study, me off to a book club meeting.
Again I wondered if I had done the right thing in actually discussing. I was worried that I had hurt our relationship by my honesty.
There was a follow up phone call.
She called me the next day to say that she had given it more thought. That she had realized that she had been judging the people of Haiti. That the country didn’t deserve what had happened to them. That natural disasters are simply natural disasters and not God’s punishment. That there are Christians living in Haiti. That Mr. Robertson was mistaken.
I was blown away, filled with love, filled with hope, and just… overcome. I am not sure, had the roles had been reversed, if I could have had the guts to call up and apologize.
We had a lovely talk… we talked about the issue at hand but then we chatted about a variety of other topics as well. This time when it was time to click off, there was no weirdness, no fear that that would be the last conversation.
I got off the phone and had to share… I love her for so many reasons… she continues to be a positive part of my life. She wasn’t the only one who learned something this week.
Again, many times it might not be worth it to push back, to point out the fallacy, to question, to jeopardize the relationship.
But sometimes it is.
You don’t know unless you try.