Several days ago, i was walking out of a Walmart when i saw a guy standing behind some tables right beyond the door. Somehow, i hadn’t seen him going in, but i noticed him immediately as i walked out. He was, after all, hard to miss with his many political signs.
“Life in prison for all child molesters!”
“Stop destroying human life in Iraq!”
People like that intrigue me. I have some pretty strong beliefs about issues like that too, but i’ve never been outside walmart displaying my beliefs on a sign.
So, i walked up to the man to have a conversation. I was curious. I didn’t really know what he was trying to say with his signs. I wasn’t even sure whether i would agree or disagree with him. I simply wanted to talk and try to understand his perspective on these issues. Maybe, and i know this is a long shot, he would say something that would help me think about these concerns that i hadn’t considered before. I just wanted a conversation.
“You wanna sign my petition?” He asked.
“No. Not yet anyway. I was just hoping you could tell me a little bit about your perspective on these issues.”
“Well,” he replied, “if you sign this one you will be helping us get rid of all the tax that is in the cost of gasoline in the State of Washington.”
Ok. I don’t like the price of fuel, but i wasn’t really there to sign anything. I simply wanted to talk.
“What about this whole child molester thing? What is your perspective about that issue?”
He pointed to a one sentence paragraph on the top of another petition. “Just read it. It’s right there.”
The sentence said something to the effect of raising the maximum penalty for first-time child sex-predators to life in prison. But, really, i had already got that from the sign. I was looking for a little discussion on the ramifications of that and why he thought that this might be the best solution.
So getting a little frustrated, I replied, “Ok, but what is YOUR perspective on this? How would this work?”
“Look,” he said. “Your not voting for it right now. Your just signing so it gets on the ballot and we can let people vote on it later. Why don’t you sign this one over here, it’s about bringing home the troops from Iraq.”
“Well, i’m not really sure i want to sign anything right now,” I re-stated. Was he even hearing me or just repeating what he had been trained to say. “I just wanna tal-.”
“Aright, are you planning on signing anything or am i just wasting my time?” he blurted out, cutting me off and getting annoyed.
“Well, no, i don’t think i’m gonna sign anything.”
No sooner had i said those words than he turned his back to me, started setting up another part of his display and completely ignored me.
So much for conversation.
Seems like it is hard to have a real conversation with people anymore, doesn’t it? Rather than sit down and discuss complex problems such as child-molesters, fuel costs, and war and their equally complex solutions, we would often rather reduce our personal beliefs to a simple sentence and see how many people will sign off with their approval. If you don’t agree, or in my case aren’t sure, well then we just don’t have time for you.
It is no wonder we live in such a divided nation.
I suppose my interaction that day got me thinking about my own response to people around me when they aren’t in agreement with my personal beliefs or haven’t come to a solid conclusion yet. It got me thinking about church and the way we as a group deal with people who don’t see life our way, or have yet to really decide one way or the other.
Maybe I have been as guilty as this petition-guy, at not getting involved in the humble and messy endeavor of “conversation” or “dialogue” and been too quick to dismiss people. Maybe the church that i love has been too eager to do the same.
That is why a new movie that is just coming out has been so powerful to me. Now, i’m not normally in the business of promoting movies, but in this case the movie itself carries a message that i think we all need to hear.
The movie: “Lord Save us from Your Followers.” www.lordsaveusthemovie.com
We recently screened this movie at our church, with the director of the movie, Dan Merchant, there to help explain and discuss what we had seen. Though I was a little nervous about the response, the packed auditorium of people gave it a standing ovation at the conclusion.
The movie is a beautiful breath of fresh air about the need for us to lose ourselves in the lives of others. To look first to the sin inside of us rather than pointing out the sin of others. And most importantly, to exercise humility, compassion and respect in having dialogue with many different people who don’t necessarily agree with any one of our own personal or religious convictions.
It was Dan’s own words this weekend that touched me most. In response to a criticism at the end he responded by saying, ” You are right, the truth does divide. But, lets just make sure it is the truth doing the dividing and not us.”
This is a great movie with a greater message. There is no way i could recommend this movie any higher. It is truly amazing and needed.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, you can screen it at the website: www.lordsaveusthemovie.com. If you have seen it and enjoyed it, there are several other resources i would recommend very highly to you along the same vein.
1) “The Myth of a Christian Nation” by Greg Boyd
2) “Jesus for President” by Shane Claiborne
These are two great books that compliment well and continue the discussion.
May we never respond to people the way the petition guy responded to me. And may we always be willing to love and respect others above ourselves.