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I Witnessed To A Christian

R. S. Martin

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He’s the kind of sugar-coated creature with the honeyed voice that you just know has a monster-face on the side turned away from you for when he’s not having to make a good impression. I've seen him on the bus occasionally over the years and he’s the last person I’d want to share a seat with. But there’s also the social contract thing I have to keep in mind for those days when my back is killing me and I really need a polite young man or woman to give up a seat for me. I can’t afford to be the kind of person who is picky with whom I share a seat.


The bus stopped for a large pickup at the university and he was the last to get on. The bus was not going to be packed to standing capacity but it was at the point where people were doubling up with strangers. It was filling up from back to front. I was near the front. I knew without looking that unless he chose to stand (like some able-bodied people do) the empty spot beside me would be the next in line to be taken. And he was the only person still needing a seat. He hesitated for a moment as he sized up the situation regarding where he should sit and then sat down beside me. It was all very normal and routine.


Like I had seen him do with others with whom he had shared seats, he started greeting me and striking up a conversation. I asked him what he is studying. He explained that he works at the bookstore. He thought he had seen me but he wasn’t quite sure at which school. We have two universities on University Avenue. I guess they decided to really go for it since they had a University Avenue—whatever, we have two universities about a fifteen minute walk from each other and they are both on University Avenue and there is much sharing and competition between the two schools.


I explained that I had spent some time at each. And then, since I could not think of a single thing to ask a person who works at a bookstore and there are all kinds of things you can ask a student, he started asking me things like what I am studying. Normal procedure for a person who wants to talk with strangers. Most people just don’t—except for “bus talk” such as the outside seat partner asking “Are you getting off here?” I told him “Theology.” He seemed really glad. Told me he’s a Christian, too. He seemed really happy that we have this in common. I said, “I don’t necessarily identify as a Christian, but I am studying theology.”


Oh, okay, he seemed okay with that. But he couldn’t exactly leave it alone. Jesus really means a lot to him. That was fine with me. And no, I didn’t study much about the other religions in our city except for what one naturally picks up from rubbing shoulders with the people and reading discussion forums and just from being awake and curious and I did take a few courses but no, I didn’t really know too much about Islam or Judaism or Hinduism, etc. (In thinking back, I wonder if asking about this was perhaps his way of finding out if I belonged to some other "legitimate" religion--humanism is probably not legitimate and we don't call it a religion but it is a social organization based on life philosophy. I didn't tell him this about myself but he probably guessed as much.)


At one point he got really earnest and told me he thinks humans need the peace of Christ, that this is something humans really need. He was not pretending; I could tell he seriously believed this. I explained that I think Jesus exemplified the really good way to be human but that there are many religions and life philosophies that teach the same thing. I acknowledged that Christianity does this for some people but that for some people Christianity does not do that. I added, “I am one of these people.” That was the end of that conversation but it was not the end of his friendliness.


I have no idea how he sized up the situation. When I mentioned having to get off soon he got all jumpy (literally) and apologetic as though he were holding me up from following my duties of the day. He seems like an uncomfortable person no matter which way you look at it and I am not comfortable around such people no matter what life philosophy they adhere to. It feels pretty good, though, knowing I was able to "stop the mouth" of a rabid Christian.


One thing I gotta give him is that he was respectful. He did not challenge my personhood or intelligence and he gave me all the time I needed to respond to the things he said. He did not pressure me with questions that required answers. He truly thought he could give me something really good, and when he realized that there was not a chance that I would accept he let it go. For that I respect him.

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Good for you for holding your ground on your beliefs (without feeling the need to spill your guts to a stranger) and being pleasant about the whole thing.


Wonder if he will try to engage you again, once he has assimilated what you said.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Me wonders, too.

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