There was a crucifix on a deck of cards. While the two did not seem to go together, I thought nothing of it. I was too focused on a picture frame for my writing exercise. Everyone else was busying themselves with the same preparation, except for her. She pounced onto that deck of cards like a wild panther set loose in a meat locker.
I cannot tell you how the rant began. All I know is that I was about to start writing when it all began. It was out of place, out of line, and completely unstoppable. I was not in charge. I was just there to write. At this point though, all I could do was listen.
“The Baptists,” she said, “The Baptists are trying to take over this country! The Baptists and the Christian Right will ruin us!” And so on and so forth the tirade rambled. Christians and Republicans, lumped together on the same team, are conspiring to get rid of abortion, gay marriage, and throw the poor out in the cold. I thought about mentioning that I’ve attended Baptist churches since I was 12. I thought about mentioning that my family is full of Republicans. But no, this would only fuel her overheating temper that was quickly becoming an inferno.
When she finally ceased spewing venomous political propaganda, we got down to writing. After 10 minutes you can only guess what she had to say. Her whole piece, though well-written, was just a continuation of her ranting and raving about the unwanted invasion of religion into public life. Religion is just for the weak, a drug to keep them happy. Religion is just a collection of myths that mean nothing. I felt awkward.
Fighting off judgment and angry thoughts, I tried to reverse roles in my mind. Have I or someone I know ever spoke about atheists, the religious left, or the political left in a similar manner? I probably have. Have I ever attacked a group of people and criticized them while completely unaware that members of this group were present? You bet I have. I just cannot tell you who or when. And that’s the point.
We never really know where people are coming from until we spend some time together. Until we have crossed the invisible, but perceptible threshold of familiarity, we must proceed with broaching delicate and controversial topics.
This rabid, ranting woman was essentially evangelizing all of us. Whether or not we were with her, she presented her position so forcefully that no one felt able to fruitfully discuss alternatives to her views. It was not kosher to suggest that some Christians are in the political middle, and some on the left. No. She had defined the terms and the categories of the discussion. Unless you were with her, seeing things her way, she felt obligated to steer you in her direction.
While I have never assaulted any topic or argument with this woman’s bravado and tenacity, I am sure that I have offended people by stumbling onto sensitive topics or pushing a sensitive topic too hard. Having gone through such a lambasting of Christians, Baptists, and Republicans, I have been forced to face the way I treat others. That made listening to her well worth my time.