As I walked through town today after depositing my pitiful wage into the bank, I stopped to look at an art installation somebody had put up in the space usually occupied by a funfair. It wasn't much - a load of white signs promoting peace, justice, brotherhood and other things that Tories appear to be against. But I stopped to look anyway. In fact, I was so distracted by reading all the signs that I didn't look exactly where I was going.
Otherwise known as "Mistake Number One."
"Jesus loves you," chirped a young man appearing out of nowhere, "and died for your sins!"
I stepped back instinctively.
"I... I know," I stammered, speaking for the first time in over an hour.
"Oh, you're a Christian?" he beamed.
"Yes," I said, truthfully.
This is what usually puts evangelists off talking to me. The fact that I don't need to be converted is often both enough, and confusing. I don't actually agree with evangelism, ethically, but I wasn't going to tell him that.
This guy, however, was militant. He lobbied me with questions, as to which church I belong, whether or not I was baptised, and if I read the Bible - all of which I seemed to pass. It was only when he asked if I believed the whole Bible that I paused.
No, I don't. But I wasn't going to say that either. I don't even think that he does - Deuteronomy 22:23-24 condones stoning to death a woman for not being a virgin, and Numbers 15 says it's okay to stone someone who works on the Sabbath. (That's Saturday, since this is the Old Testament. Today's Saturday. I wasn't going to stone this guy for working on the Sabbath, but I tend to desist from violence.) I don't think that he believes that stuff.
"I'm not sure I believe every word of the Bible," I said carefully, "but I think that all of it carries a message, even if I don't think it can be taken word for word."
"So what do you believe?" he challenged, making me feel less and less comfortable for having engaged him in conversation after all.
"Uh... well, mostly the Gospels, and most of the New Testament makes sense," I mumbled, "apart from Revelation." Only I added that last bit under my breath.
"Oh, good, so you don't agree with gay marriage?"
"No! No, of course I agree with gay marriage!"
"Do you know any gay people?"
"Yes! I know lots of people of any and all sexual orientation! I'm in a long-term relationship with a queer bisexual woman myself and it's the best relationship I've ever had!"
"But God says..."
"God says a lot of stuff!" I protested. "Listen to Jesus! Why do you look at the mote in your brother's eye while ignoring the log in your own? (Matthew 7:3) Judge not, lest ye be judged!" (Matthew 7:1)
"Paul says, in Romans, that homosexuality is a sin."
"Paul also says in Romans that you shouldn't be so judgemental! You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse!" (Romans 2:1)
"But it says in the Bible..."
"I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan!" I shouted. "Very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women! 2 Samuel: 1-26!"
For that one, he didn't have an answer.
"You don't need to convert me, and I'm never going to agree with you," I said, "but I'm already a Christian. If you're handing out tracts, I'll take one."
And I took one.
"I'll pray for you," he said as I walked away.
"I'll pray for you too," I responded.
And on I went.