Shortly after I moved to Wilhelmsplatz, I received a call from Second Cousin Jim.
I’ve never met Second Cousin Jim, or Second Cousin-in-Law Judy, or Second Cousins Once Removed Samuel, Jacob, or Maria. Nonetheless, the whole family invited me to visit, since they live in the area.
Surprisingly, I agreed. Family or not, these are total strangers. It is not like me to visit total strangers.
It is also not like me to consort with Air Force bigwigs (Judy) or former army chaplains (Jim). I had reservations about spending the day with people who, I assumed, had totally different outlooks on politics and religion.
But Second Cousin Jim sounded so nice on the phone, so eager to meet me, that I couldn’t refuse. So yesterday I drove out to the Air Force Base, after a quick prayer that these people not stone me once they figured out what I’m like.
Turns out I assumed correctly about their religious views. They interpret the bible literally. Everything they think and do is deliberately, consciously informed by scripture. Striking examples:
- [on being introduced to a friend of the family]: "This is Barbara. Man oh man, can this lady pray. She sure is a prayin’ woman."
- "Have you ever met my brother’s son? He was born out of wedlock. I’m so glad he wasn’t aborted."
- Me: "History is so fun! It’s my favorite thing to study!" Six-year-old: "Jesus is my favorite thing to study."
So yeah, these are some fundamental, evangelical Christians. And despite this, I had a great day.
The family realized very quickly that I practice a distinctly different form of Christianity, that I have a doggedly liberal worldview. But they were very cool about it.
I spent most of the day talking with Jim about the bible. It is a great pleasure to talk with an expert about his subject, be it religion or hog farming or belly-dancing. Jim and I disagreed about a lot, but we were civil and open and attentive. I would like to think I was a good representative of the Other for him.
And this cozy, beautiful family went a long way toward redeeming the right-wingers in my book. We covered a lot of difficult subjects, and never once did I sense any hatred or intolerance. These people look at the world in a completely different way than I do, but there was never any meanness or resentment.
This was very good for me. It forced me to look at them as individuals. I must endeavor to apprecite the unique and valid people who represent everything I don’t stand for. They are not the enemy. They’re just different.
Also got a behind-the-scenes tour of a naval docking base. Civilians don’t normally get to see this kind of thing, but thanks to Judy’s rank, I got to see some HUGE Navy carriers. They are massive. My brain couldn’t process what my eyes were seeing. They are threatening and intimidating and powerful– exactly the kind of thing my pacifist soul recoils against, but durn if it wasn’t fascinating.
Plus I got to spend time with kids, something I don’t normally do. I’m not comfortable around children, so it was good practice. We read lots of books together and I got some excellent snuggle from the three-year-old.
I wussed out of going to church with them, though. Maybe next time. Besides, I think I got enough churching from spending all day in conversation with a man of the cloth.