Thursday, March 1, 2007

encountering the trinity

Last night I had an interesting encounter with three people: a Muslim store clerk, a fundamentalist Christian woman, and my homeless friend. This was truly an interesting trinity if there ever was one.

I was on my way to do laundry, when my homeless friend said hello. I only had the money on me for laundry, so when he asked for money I had to turn him down. It was an awkward moment since I could see that he was disappointed. Determined not to rationalize my motives, I keep it on the level with him and explained that I truly only had enough for laundry. That was the truth. And as I went off to do laundry I was musing how that truth just didn't seem to satisfy. Truth as I had defined it was relative. In other words, even if I tried not to rationalize, I did. He deserved better than that. Indeed, more than the money he deserved more dignity than I afforded him. I don't think I quite grasped that and instead gave him my left over quarters. It was far from generosity and instead was more about assuaging my guilt.

I ran into my friend Erin who needed to head to the corner store. As we entered, a woman and the clerk were in a heated debate about Christ as Messiah. I was drawn like a moth to a flame. Erin wanted nothing to do with it and wisely went about her business. I was content to be merely an onlooker, but the woman would have none of that. She asked me if I was Christian, though she was doubtful. I said I was Catholic. She then thought I would take her side against the Muslim. She was attempting to tell him that in the Hebrew scriptures they explicitly mentioned Jesus as the messiah. When asked, I had to tell her what I perceived to be the truth -- they did not mention Jesus as the messiah in the Hebrew scriptures but by our faith as Christians we believe he is the messiah.

Fundamentalist Woman: No, it says the messiah in the Old Testament. And he is telling me that it is not in there.

Me: That's because it's not. It never says Jesus was the Messiah in the Old Testament. We learn that from our faith.

Fundamentalist Woman: {condescendingly} Honey, have you read the Bible?

Me: YES, I've read the Bible but your issue is one of interpretation. You are interpreting.

Fundamentalist Woman: I'm not interpreting. It's right there! Tell me, do you think theologians that interpret are unholy people?

Me: Quite the contrary! I think because they look at the scripture critically and take into account its historical context, they are quite holy.

Muslim: See she agrees with me.

Fundamentalist Woman: Well, she isn't a believer and is not going to be saved with her college educated hoo-

Erin: F*** you.

Muslim: If you look at the Hebrew scriptures and the Koran, they are more similar than Cristianity. Prophet Jesus got rid of all of the things sacred to a Jew. He got rid of circumcision--

Me: That was Paul.

Muslim: He got rid of kosher --

Me: That was Paul.

Muslim: Said it didn't matter who followed.

Me: Again, Paul.

Erin: Why are you trying to convert the crazies? I'm out of here.

So Erin left and I tried to leave unsuccessfully. I was a little puzzled and shaken. Here were two people passionate about there faiths and yet it seemed so far from what I knew of God. Of course, I was also condemned. And as I was walking outside, Erin was talking to my homeless friend. As we said hello and good-bye he said with deep sincerity, "God bless you." I finally go it -- he was far closer to God than the fundamentalist woman, the Muslim or myself. It was the singularly ironic moment of this man blessing me and affording me dignity that I could finally see the face and force Christ.


simplequirk said...

Hullo! Interesting read. LOL I've had some experience wiht crazies myself, in the form of a friend. very zealous about her faith, but a tad misled, i feel. and so i stop arguing with her and let her babbble on, because it's too annoying and useless, she can only hear herself anyway. hah... :P

simplequirk said...

OOH and what order are you preparing to join??

clistecole said...

Hi simplequirk,

I preparing to join the Secular Franciscan Order. And yes, probably the best way of handling such zeal is to just listen. I am reminded of the book Life of Pi where the main character comments that people defend God as if God needed defending...