11/30/09 Earl and "Jim" about 22, 16
Out on an errand, I stopped at a Starbucks looking for a conversation and went to talk to the first people by the door, two black guys who sat working on their laptops, and I asked if I could ask them some informal survey questions about their beliefs. The older guy, Earl, said that he doesn't talk about his beliefs but the younger, whom I'll call "Jim" (I never found out his name) said he would answer them. "Jim" attends a Catholic high school on an athletic scholarship and I asked about his religion classes, his church background, and his current beliefs. My survey questions usually transition into more of a two-way conversation, but "Jim" really didn't have many beliefs or questions of his own. So my questions, which follow a logical thought process leading from law to grace, started to sound manipulative to Earl. Suddenly Earl jumped in, asking the purpose of my "survey". I admitted that I use it to start conversations as a means of sharing my Christian faith. Earl told me this is deceptive and goes against what I claim to believe. (I pretty much agree, and would like to find a more honest and straightforward way to begin conversations.) He went on to say I had interrupted their tutoring session and that I had no right to force my opinions on a teenager who "should be thinking about girls and sports and having fun in high school." I apologized because I didn't realize I was interrupting their tutoring session, but I told Earl he should allow his student to speak and think for himself. Because eternity is at stake and tomorrow is not guaranteed, it IS important to think about one's beliefs early in life. I asked Earl if he had religious beliefs, which he said he does. "Do you think it is important to tell others what you believe?" He wouldn't say. As for me, I think a religion not worth sharing is a religion not worth having.