The other day I was in a gas station purchasing a lottery ticket for the 19 billion dollar draw. During the conversation I said it was up to God if I won as I wasted my dollar. I was over heard by a patron who said 'God has nothing to do with it!' I said I believed if He wanted my to win I would, if He didn't I wouldn't (trying to sound like a good Calvinist). No big deal.
The gal insisted that God had nothing to do with it and in a louder voice said that 'God has nothing to do with vices.' Not knowing better (maybe I should have!) I said I think he has a lot to do with vices, like forgiving them and growing us in His image.
After trying to understand her point of view I politely smiled and said "Well we will have to disagree."
When she pushed further asking me about why I believed what I did I said I am a Christian and further I was a priest.
That is when the fun began.
She narrowed her eyes and asked me in a very loud voice "Do you baptize babies?" I said I did. She said "You can't baptize babies" nearly yelling. At this point it was really awkward as the gas station was smaller than a phone booth and a number of people were hoping for 19 billion (including the lady now yelling at me ironically). I said I was sorry and I simply didn't agree and tried to end the conversation politely.
It didn't work.
She kept at me, basically saying over and over 'You can't baptize babies!' I was concerned what kind of witness this would be presenting to those in the store and those who worked there. I asked her if she could see how it looked to have this happening in a small gas station.
My kids were in the car wondering what was taking so long and the store employees were obviously uncomfortable. I was thinking 'I can't believe this, am I on video, what is going on here!?'
She finally gave up yelling as she stepped aside to check her numbers. I paid for my ticket and my gum and walked out.
I apologized to my children for taking so long and tried to explain that this gal was upset with me for baptizing babies. Needless to say, they didn't understand. They were a bit freaked that someone would be yelling at me. I pulled out of the station, blood still pumping through the veins in my forehead, and prayed for her and prayed for me.
As I prayed, I decided I needed to go back and apologize to the employees of the gas station for being subject to a couple of 'Christians' arguing in their presence. They were very gracious in understanding and accepted my apologies with out much thought.
Later that day I went with a friend to purchase an item off Craigslist.
As we pulled up to the house, I noticed the car parked in the driveway had a rainbow colored flag on the bumper sticker as well as some other symbols of the gay and lesbian community.
The gal that came out introduced herself and proceeded to help us with what we were looking for.
I noticed a tattoo on her arm of the trinity symbol done in rainbow colors. I asked her if she could tell me more about it. She did.
She explained that the upside down triangle was similar to that the Jews wore in the concentration camps, the trinity symbol was never ending and the rainbow color was for the gay and lesbian lifestyle that she would never leave. I thanked her for being willing to share that with me.
I told her I was a priest and am trying to better understand the gay and lesbian community from a human perspective, not labeling and name calling but what it must be like to live as a gay or lesbian person.
She was grateful for someone trying to understand and not 'throw rocks.'
As we left, I prayed for her. I also prayed for myself.
I was really struck by how different my discourses were with each of those people that day. One was 'in the faith' but wanted to make sure I knew how to think 'Biblically' and that I was in error because I didn't know enough about her position on baptism. The other was 'outside' the faith and was grateful to have a gentle interaction around something as painful as her lifestyle choice and the responses of others has been.
This is not about 'See those judgmental Christians!!!' This is not about 'See how kind the gay and lesbian community is!!!'
I am not sure what it is all about really. My heart was broken and emboldened on the same day.
I guess I am trying to be more compassionate.
I guess I am trying to be more compassionate with those I disagree with both inside and outside the faith.
Regardless of the response, I want to lead with Mercy and Compassion. In the words of Rich Mullins I want 'every footprint that I leave to leave a drop of grace', not a drop of Bob.
For those of you who are compelled to tell me how bad it was to buy a lottery ticket, save it, I had an extra buck.
For those of you who want to make sure about my theological convictions, I am Calminian. No I don't want to talk theology.
For those of you who want to take up the practice if infant baptism, can't we talk about all the things we agree on?
For those of you who would have issue with me being kind to someone I don't agree with, please be kind to me :)