Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Cliche Conversation on the Bus

Where in our daily lives can we act on our values and employ our reasoning skills? The bus seems to be the go-to hypothetical conversation venue.

Guess what? Thursday I was riding a bus (for San Diegans, the UCSD shuttle to Hillcrest) when I encountered an obviously excitable but still pleasant young guy talking loudly to two young women, bookmarked Bible in hand, obviously On Fire For The Lord. At first I debated whether I should invite myself into the discussion, and of course there's always the social discomfort of talking to someone you know disagrees with you fundamentally on a core value. But he was loud enough that I wasn't the only passenger who was part of his conversation.

So I politely invited myself in, and it turned out he was happy to have me join. He had been talking about how humans are all hell-bound and only through the sacrifice of Jesus which we know about in the Bible can we be saved. So I asked him (as non-confrontationally as possible) about the passages in Leviticus about being gay and wearing two types of clothing fibers at once. He didn't know those and I can't give the chapter-verse citation, so I went on to the New Testament: "Jesus and the apostles clearly discuss slavery in a way that shows they accept its existence. You seem like a moral person, so I would think you don't think slavery should exist, right?" And of course he didn't. (There were other people around us; I don't know if they cared but I was mindful that at dinner that night they might mention the exchange to their families, and I wanted to be the good guy. I also didn't want to ruin anyone's bus ride.) At this point he seemed a little less certain and said he would have to read more closely. He seems like a sincere and conscientious guy, and I hope he does.

Most importantly - when we got to where we were going, I made a point to introduce myself. After we shook hands and he asked me if I was a Christian, I told him I was an atheist and he seemed shocked, but not in a "I can't believe I just talked to you and now I have cooties" kind of way, but in a way that suggested he hadn't had a positive exchange with a self-identified atheist before. It turns out he rides that same bus every Thursday, and so will I this quarter, so we'll meet again. I'm genuinely happy about this. Now I have someone to talk to on my bus ride. See you on Thursday S--! (Name redacted in case his family and friends think he has cooties now.)

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