A Missed Opportunity

My Conversation with an Evangelist Christian…

Several weeks ago, I published an article about crafting the message in a political conversation and why things that make complete sense are not received well, or at all, by people that we know that either think the same way or are logical. In that article, I asserted that it comes down to knowing who your audience is and adjusting your message towards them. Despite this,  many people find it difficult or impossible to keep themselves from injecting a religious message or judgment into the conversation.

This is why it can be so difficult to have a conversation with Christians, especially those of an Evangelistic bent. I don’t say all, as I have a lot of friends who have the same outlook. However, there is a large enough contingent that, through their constant evangelizing, alienate many people and end up just ‘preaching to the choir’, so to speak. It is a Shame, because it discourages conversation on other social and political topics.

A good friend of mine has gone through some rough times after a separation and subsequent divorce. He posted a heartfelt status on Social media recently, and that sparked a conversation with an Evangelist friend of his. The progression is as follows.

He posted:

I ask a question when interviewing different artists, “What do you want to be remembered for?”
As I ponder tonight, the events of my life, the twists and turns, the joys and pains, the successes and failures, it hit me. As a fallible man, full of mistakes made and challenges overcome, I would want to be remembered simply as a man that loved beyond reason. I will never be perfect, I am sure that I will disappoint those I love at some point yet again. I do know my heart, love without fail and Faith in something bigger than circumstances rule, at least from my perspective. Come what may, I am resolved to love, and no one can change that.”

The first comment on the posting was by the evangelist friend of his. I found it a bit judgmental and a little didactic in that it kind of passed judgment on the woman my friend had married and proceeded to tell him what he ‘needed’. It was hardly creative in its ‘support’ of my friend and relied heavily on quoting of verse and scripture as opposed to real world comfort or support.

She Posted the Following:

Because Your Heart is ”FULL ” of God Almighty and the Word of God ( Bible )…tells us…” God IS Love…You ARE A Wonderful Man…a Good Father and ”Yes” a ”Good ” Husband….What You Need IS a ”Good” Wife,that is Full of the LORD that ”wants” FIRST To PLEASE Her Lord and Then You as Her Husband and Her Family…Proverb 31 Woman…Lord You Made Her…now I ask You send ”that one ” YOU CHOOSE for J*** in Jesus Name…in the meantime J*** needs YOU Lord…Love Him..put Your Arms of Love around Him and Keep Him Safe in Jesus Name I Pray…amen…Ephesians 3:20..Philippians 1:6…Jude 24…Revelations 12:11…Hebrews 4:16…Psalm 46:1…Psalm 121…Love You.

That response irked me, so I commented as well. I will admit, to the close reader, one might find an underlying dialogue of criticism of the original commenter in the course of my words of support for my friend, but it was the best I could do.

I Posted:

So often we find ourselves lost and discontented for all the wrong reasons. We live full of expectation as opposed to seeing the world will deliver what it will and we take it from there- as far as we can go with it. We see ourselves through the lens of ‘other’ as opposed to our self, and from that we take so many things to heart, in a personal way that just aren’t our issue. We buy in to others telling us what we NEED and what we should be… 

To be able to drop all of that, to be able to realize that we need only be accountable to ourselves in what we do, and that to know that we have done our level best while we strive to improve, always, is the beginning of finding peace with the terrible things that others are capable of doing, and the unjust judgments they pass upon us in their pain and inability to cope with their own rough journey. 

That We know we have done everything that is within our power to the best of our ability may not rid us of the pain, but it can help us shoulder the burden with a straighter back and a better outlook on life.

To my utter surprise, I received a private message from the original commenter. It was as devoid of imagination and real world reference as her comment on my friend’s status.

It read as follows:

Enjoy ”your” comment on **** *******’s status….want to encourage YOU….All that you said was ”awesome”….would like to add MAIN ingredient…Jeremiah 33:3…Psalms 46:1…Ephesians 3:20…Jude 24….Without the ” Lord Jesus”…it doen’t make ANY Difference what others think or say ( myself included )…but it make a MAJOR DIFFERENCE what HE THINKS and SPEAKS…..amen?..js.

Okay, well, she seemed to be attempting to engage in a conversation. I chose to believe that rather than just assume  she was preaching at me, as I have come to expect from people such as herself. I try to give the benefit of the doubt, though, so I responded. My response was clear and descriptive with regards to my position on her choice of conversation material. I informed her that as an (well educated in the concept, chapter and verse) non-Christian that my support was in that vein and that I thought that our friend was appreciative of the support.

Inherent in my reply, to the close reader, is again the expression of concepts that question the logic and intelligence of her own chosen, epically rigid view of life. I also provide the implication that I did not appreciate being preached at. I had already undergone plenty of that and had simply chosen a different path. I expected that choice to be respected, as I stated that I respected her choice to follow her own path.

My response to her follows:

Good Morning, C****!

Thank you so much for your kind words this morning. J*** is a good man and a good friend and he’s going through a lot lately. We all do what we can as friends to help him through!

I have a deep admiration for your faith, your knowledge of Bible verses and your dedication to your faith and your friend, but I should tell you that I am not a Christian. And I am not a Christian not because I haven’t tried it on, but because I have. 

While I am a great admirer of Jesus Christ, his ministry, and his teachings, I fall more toward the Valentinian version of his life and message (though not in a religious way, so to speak), I am not a fan of the Paulinian version of events or teachings. 

In my studies and my pursuits, so much more has been opened up to me that I ever could have thought was possible. Through study, I have found myself in wonder at the unfolding of historic and religious events throughout the ages, and I am always in awe when I find that I know so little in comparison to what is out there.

I understand your reference to ‘the main ingredient’, And for me it is quite apt that you refer to Jeremiah 33:3. The inherent wisdom is inescapable.

While it is undeniable that the Paulinian version of Jesus and subsequently the New Testament has resulted in the world we have today with undeniable and miraculous events and progress, I find myself in conflict with the hard drawn lines too many draw around themselves as a result of that version which, at its heart, can be in conflict with Jeremiah. So for me, ‘Amen’ is difficult. I can support the immediate intention, but shy away from the greater result.

Again, thank you for reaching out. You earnestness and dedication is to be admired. With friends of such caliber, J** will, in the end, pull himself through such a trial and emerge on the other side more than he was, a better man for it and a better idea of what he has in this life.

J***, in the end, I believe, will be the arbiter of what his needs are. Through prayer and faith, J***, with his exceptional attitude and his dogged perseverance, will win through. 

All the Best C****! I hope you have a wonderful weekend and a more wonderful Spring.

All in all, I think that was pretty clear. As I am very well educated in the concept, I conveyed the message that I was not interested in Christianity; that I had tried it on and discarded it as a viable system for my life. I would expect that a reasonable person would extrapolate from that and realize that I don’t appreciate being preached to, and that I see being preached to as being talked down to, especially when I have stated that it something that I have already experienced.

This did not discourage our brave trooper, however. Rather than toning it down and having an actual conversation with me, she doubled down and responded with all of the deep thinking and imagination she already shown herself to be capable of.

Her response was this:

Blessings to You and Thank You…just ”let” me Share one more ”TRUTH” from my Heart…You Know and I Know by the Spirit of the Lord YOU KNOW….please don’t give validity to anything…facts or otherwise…to any other message other than Jesus Christ and Him Crucified…Message of the Cross and Power in His Blood…don’t lean to your ”own ” understanding…or the understanding of others NOT FILLED with HOLY SPIRIT…Spiritual things are Spiritually Discerned…Carnal Man cannot understand the Truths of God without HIS SPIRIT…1Corithians 1:18….v.27-31…Much Love in Him to you…Into His Care…I commit you. Philippians 1:6….Revelations 12:11..Jude 24.

That was it. I had handed to her, on a silver platter, an opportunity to explore in a rational and thoughtful manner, the thought process of a non-Christian; to learn and maybe, in her zeal, to help herself find better ways to bring people around to her way of thinking.

It was not going to work with me, but I had defined her audience for her, I had set the parameters describing who she was speaking to, and she ignored that like it had never happened. I did not shy away, I was not abusive, combative or accusatory in my language. I was rational and open to discussion. Still, she continued like a mindless robot with her mindless, zeal-ridden rhetoric.

I gave up. There was nothing else to do. I have attempted conversations with such folks in my past and it always turns out the same. I end up being preached at for the duration of the dialogue and then I have to walk away. I don’t judge her.  I can’t blame her- maybe it’s all she knows? Maybe that’s the limit of her ability to comfort someone and her limit of ability to converse.

I answered one last time…

::Sigh:: Ah well… I can only thank you for the prayer and good thoughts. It is often difficult to facilitate a normal conversation between those who see the world so differently, or with those who insist on one single ‘way’. But all the same, May you find joy, comfort and blessing in your chosen tao. Wishes for a wonderful Spring and Easter season to you and your loved ones.

If you are an evangelist Christian reading this, I don’t say that you are like this; I am just saying that it is a pattern I often see. I ask you to analyze yourself and see if you’ve ever caught yourself falling into this type of pattern? Are you recognizing who you are speaking with- who your audience is?

Some of you might honestly ask, why is it the other person’s responsibility to read me as their audience and adjust themselves? What absolves me from doing the same?

The answer is simple. I am not trying to convert. I am not trying to convince, I am not trying to bring the other around to my way of thinking. She was imposing her own view on what I had said, which was not biblically based. She injected her religion into my words of comfort. Any reasonable person would take offense to that. Instead, I provided an opportunity for discussion.

When it comes to political conversations, it is an extremely common pattern I see. Evangelists tend to overlay everything they say in a political conversation with religious overtones (and many conservatives are evangelistic in their faith); then they wonder why no one listens to them, even if the gist of what they are saying is completely logical and inarguable.

No matter your chosen way of life or where you are in life, when you engage in a dialogue and you are trying to bring another person around to seeing and understanding your way of thinking, then you really need to read your audience. You need to be aware to whom you are speaking and what they respond well to.

Or, you can go on asking why it is that no one ever wants to engage with you and then ignore anyone who tries to answer.

It’s your call.

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2 thoughts on “A Missed Opportunity

  1. Learning to listen is hard. Individuals who are speaking from a kind of pre-arranged script (evangelicals, telephone salespersons, politicians etc.) actually AVOID listening. It diverts from the “message” they believe must be delivered. I avoid these kinds of interchanges, unless I have an extraordinary amount of time to contemplate before responding. Experience has taught me the chances for mutual understanding are too slim to make the effort worthwhile.

    1. I must agree with you. And you’re right, avoiding listening diverts them from the message they feel must be delivered. Perhaps it is a fault of my own that I expect that others would want to learn about those with whom they might disagree in order that they might get a better handle on how to fashion points that would be more readily received. But that’s not easy, either, I suppose, and the most direct way is to stick one fingers in their ears and stick to the script. I find that fascinating because that tactic would be ineffective with any rational, thinking person. But then, it seems that so few people actually are rational and thinking these days.

      Still, I feel I must try- I’ve had some success. Any progress I make is rewarding, and there are rational people of faith out there. I don’t necessarily seek to convert, but only to converse, perhaps engage without being preached at. I believe that wisdom comes from places a person might never expect, so I continue to peek into those corners. People can surprise you sometimes.

      Thank you very much for your input! I truly appreciate it. Have a great weekend!

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