On my flight Saturday to Denver, I was ... solicited by a Christian man. I don't even know what to call it, but the person next to me spent the better part of a two hour flight talking to me about how the US needs to take back the Lord's will in our work as a country.
Even before we got to the awkward preachy part, "Frank" was a bit much. I thought I had it made with a seat at a window in the very front of the plane, perfect for a 6am flight that would be great for, say, sleep. Frank, though, felt the need to inform me that since there were no seats in front of us I'd probably be told to put my bag in the overhead compartment. I wasn't. We managed to take off in silence, but that was about as far as it went. Frank wanted to know all about me and my job, if I lived in Dallas (no, just connecting ), and then with zero prompting gave me all the deets about the Alaska mission trip he was headed on.
Now, make no mistake , I was giving ZERO indication that I wanted to talk. I had a magazine out that I was staring at and TURNING PAGES while Frank continued to talk. When drinks came around, Frank said very matter-of-factly. "Janis, when you are done with drinks could I please talk to you about something? " Janis seemed a little startled but came back when she was able. Bless her heart. At this point I had no idea what was going on until I heard Frank say very boldly "Janis, I have a question to ask you. My wife tells me that I put my foot in my mouth a lot, but I have to ask anyway. (Janis is nodding somewhat impatiently) Janis, do you ever pray for our country?"
Ugh. Here we go.
Lucky Janis DID pray for our country daily, according to her, but that didn't stop Frank from giving her a bible and three business cards with different bible verses, that, according to him, could be used in nearly any situation AND personalized to the person or situation for which you were praying for. Frank did not hesitate to follow Janis into the galley, talking all the while, so he could get his entire speech out.
Then he came back and sat down and apologized for leaving in the middle of our conversation. And said to me "I had something very important that I needed to discuss with Janis. Speaking of, Lindsay, I'd like to talk to you about something important as well." He reached for another little bible from the pocked of his fisherman's vest. In keeping with current trends, Frank had on a lot of layers. And also he was headed to Alaska.
I sighed and said "Is this where you ask me if I pray for our country?"
Frank was undeterred. In fact, he seemed impressed that I had been able to hear his loud speech to Janis. Without missing a beat, he launched into the exact same monologue, nearly word for word.
I listened to about ⅓ of it, and for the rest of the time I stared directly ahead with zero expression on my face, thinking about what to do next. Social cues aren't Franks strong point. Finally there was some kind of break and I felt like I should talk, so I meekly said "and the point here is that if we do things in a more godly way according to your God's plan the country will get better? "
I was meek. I wanted to shout and tell him to do his mission trip but leave me the hell alone and MOTHER EFFING SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE AND AIRPLANE RIDES JESUS CHRIST SHUT UP.
But I didn't. My question silenced him for a second and he started to ramble. Something about prisoners needing prayers and my patients needing prayers (maybe. But also they need more money and better services and supportive families and access to health care and therapy, but whatever) and him having no power over ISIS but work could be done at home....it's got confusing, and then he finished with "did that answer your question?"
Oh yes, Frank, it answered that you have one monologue and you give out little bibles and verses on cards and have no real answers for anything. You nailed it.
Frank also asked if I go to church. I lied, I just didn't have the energy. I told him I was raised Methodist (true) and loved it (100% true) but now I work on Sunday and don't go to church. Maybe someday.
Lie. I don't work on Sundays. But I think it prevented Frank from trying to convert me to whatever his church was.
I wanted BADLY to ask Frank what his purpose was. What he hoped to accomplish by spreading his beliefs to others without being asked. I'm sure there would have been a bible verse for that one too, but I just couldn't bring myself to torment him, much as I wanted to challenge him.
Here's the thing. I think that charity work, whether associated with a mission or not, is wonderful. I think religion is wonderful, until religion is used for control and fear and bashing of certain minority groups "in the name of the Lord." But regular go-on-Sundays, raise-your-babies-right, that stuff is wonderful. Religions around the world provide immense comfort and happiness for millions of people, and I LOVE THAT.
I really don't, however, understand this type of person and church. To be SO bold in your faith that you assume everyone else is just dying to hear about it for hours on end while trapped in a small flying box. Really? REALLY? I don't go around asking strangers if they believe in gay rights or if they pray for women to have equal pay. People that know me, sure, but strangers? What would that even ACCOMPLISH? But for certain religious sects it is just part for the course. The mission is to grow numbers rather than focus on the followers already in existence, and while I know there are many verses in the bible interpreted as "get more numbers, it's what Jesus wants," I'm just not sure this is how Jesus would have gone about it.
I hope Frank is doing great work in Alaska and using his passion to help people that really need it. I hope that he keeps up his work with addicts in SC. What I don't understand is why we can't just do good things, full stop. It seems like if we aren't going on trips in the NAME OF THE LORD and attempting conversions along the way we aren't doing it right, and so people who might want to participate in said works don't due to lack of religiosity, and potential recipients of service have services and goods withheld until they participate in faith-based activities. Seriously. And then we have people like me who get completely disenchanted by religion because of The Few, The Proud, The Silly.
Does this happen more in the South than in other places? It isn't even surprising to me that Frank was who Frank was - I've known people like him my whole life. For the record, I eventually asked why his wife thought "he put his foot in his mouth," and he said she wasn't into talking to strangers. So, it's not just me. I didn't take the bible, even though Frank showed me a nifty little page right in front that had and index of where in the book I could find answers to any life question I was facing. Much like, say, this new thing we have called Google.