One night not that long ago, I happened to find myself involved in a familiar and uncomfortable conversation about religion and spirituality. Now, I don't usually delve into these conversations with perfect strangers due to the sensitive nature of the subjects. However, that night proved to be an exception. Funny, enough, the conversation did not begin in this vein. It was actually about childbirth, at first. See, I love to talk about birth and women's bodies and the political dynamics of both. I don't know how this conversation which was initially centered on the anatomy and physiology of the birth process ended up "in God's hands" literally and figuratively (mostly figuratively).
Before I continue, I feel I should clarify a few things about myself for anyone who is reading this. 1. I do believe in a power that is above and beyond my intellectual reach and physical understanding. 2. I do not generally identify with any particular religion even though I try to live my life according to values that some might argue are inherently Christian (though I've also been called a heathen and I'm totally fine with that). 3. I try my best to respect the views and beliefs of others, even when it's so much easier to write someone off as a fanatic.
So, back to the strange and uncomfortable conversation. The woman with whom I was talking had very stong opinions and wasn't afraid to share them with me. Several times during the course of the evening, she made references to "healings", "revivals", and "casting out evil spirits". This didn't bother me. I understood that she was Christian as were the 6 or 7 other women in the room. I continued my lecture on the stages of labor and birth. After my lecture had ended, she sought me out to talk and I was open at that point to discussion. I thought the discussion would remain in the realm of birth. Silly me. I should have anticipated otherwise. The conversation was fine until I was told that Catholicism, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Buddhism, etc. all contained elements of paganism and satan in their workings. This is when I started to get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Seeing as how I'm neither Catholic, Buddhist, or a follower of Traditional Chinese Medicine, I fought to understand why I was feeling offended by her comments. Then it hit me. I don't like hypocrisy. I don't like when people stand behind the shield of Christianity (or any other religion that espouses love as a beacon to live by) and hurl rocks of judgement and condemnation at anyone who doesn't share their brand of faith. While I admire those who posses an unflappable faith in whatever it is that they believe, I admire humility and honesty more. I'd much rather discuss religion and spirituality with someone who says "This is what I believe with all my heart and I pray that it pleases God.", as opposed to someone who says, "This is what I believe with all my heart and I know that I'm absolutely right and anyone who doesn't believe as I do is wrong." Now, don't get me wrong. This woman seemed quite nice and I'm sure she never meant to offend me. She was simply stating her beliefs as she has a right to do and I didn't argue with her. After all, I was there in a purely professional capacity. However, I got the distinct feeling that even if I had chosen to share my view, at best, she would not have been open to hearing them. At worst, I might have been marked as a harbinger of evil, possibly satan's concubine, and condemned to the depths of hell. Oh, well. Maybe next time.