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.
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.