getting punched in the facade

On this last concert tour with blue sky nine, I was talking to a guy and a girl after a show. The guy was one of the student leaders of the ministry on campus that brought us in, and he was fairly straight-laced. The girl was a bit alternative-looking and had hung around after the show to talk. During the conversation, he asked her a question or two about her spiritual interests.

“I’m agnostic”, she said, with a certain finality. And at that point, the guy visibly shut down and dropped the topic.  When she said the word “agnostic”, it was like a switch went off and he quit asking questions.  

Hmmmm.  

So, I asked her – “Do you mind if I ask you a clarifying question or two about being agnostic?”
“Sure”, she said – without any real pushback or hesitation.

“When you say you’re ‘agnostic’, do you mean the “You know, I’ve given this a lot of thought and I just can’t get there on the whole ‘God’ thing…” sort of agnostic, or do you mean the “I just don’t want to think about it” sort of agnostic?

Then, she was much less definite. “You know,” she said, “that’s a good question. I think there might be a ‘God’, but not the sort of ‘God’ that you think of. I think there’s definitely a ‘higher power’, you know, but not really a ‘God’ like you’re talking about…”   And it just got fuzzier from there. 

What was apparent was that she hadn’t really thought about it much – and she had learned that saying she was ‘agnostic’ was a way to get people to drop it. But as soon as she sensed that I wasn’t attacking her, she was very receptive and engaged.  She went on for a bit about religious people being judgmental, and some other stuff.

“Fair enough,” I told her when she finished. “But, you know, I think you might enjoy talking with these guys on campus more than you think. When you hear the word ‘Christian’, it can sort of paint people into a corner with regard to what our society thinks that means.  These guys aren’t trying to come across like they have all the answers – in reality, they have a lot of the same questions you do, and they’re a good bunch of people to talk about this stuff with.”

“You know, I might do that”, she said, fairly openly and honestly. 

Now really, I don’t know if she will. She might, and I hope she does, but that’s not my point.  My point is that sometimes, people say things like ‘agnostic’ about their spirituality the same way we learn to say things like ‘fine’ when people ask about how we’re doing.  We’ve learned the phrases that shut people up rather than dealing with what’s really going on inside, because we’re not sure we should trust them. 

Again… fair enough.  

I don’t really have a bigger point to make other than to say this.  If you care about someone, ask some questions.  And if you really care, keep asking. You might be surprised at how easy it is to knock down the facade and get to what’s really back there.

4 thoughts on “getting punched in the facade

  • Excellent Scott! You planted the seed–now it’s up to the Holy Spirit to do the convicting.

    BTW..Blue Sky Nine is officially in the prayers of the study group Linda and I belong to.

  • Scott –
    Great story with a great point. It resonates with some of the relationships I have right now.

    I’m working on my PhD in counseling psychology and get all sorts of questions about how I integrate my faith with my clients who aren’t christian. Some of the other professionals suggest that we should put our own beliefs in the back of our mind and simply facilitate whatever the client thinks is best. Others have said that they will lead a client to whatever God they hold dear. This is where I start calling the waiter for the check. It’s interesting to see the assumptions behind their questions. As you have pointed out, there is a cultural belief that christians are pushy and irrationally confident.

    To piggy back on your story, some of the professionals are surprised to find that I rarely need to have a theological discussion with my clients to help them. In fact, much of my experience has been that if I love them well and hold onto my presuppositions like Jesus is life and people have value and that it is our own desires warring within up that often make us the most unhappy, etc., then my clients end up taking a step towards God whether they fully believe in Him or not. To be sure some do take greater strides toward Him especially if they already have a relationship with Him. But that’s a topic for another day!

    I just want to say, “Way to go!” on opening the heart of a student that was otherwise shut down. It sounds like you made a pretty big impact on the girl, too! Keep on writing man. We are out here reading!

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