Last week I answered a knock at the door to find two very well dressed young men beaming at me.
No, really. They were glowing with joy.
They were far too happy for a miserably cold, would-swear-it-was-winter-again, spring day.
They introduced themselves as Elder Polson and Elder Piung.
Call me stupid, but it did take me a minute to realise that they do not share the same first name.
Oh yes. Realization dawns.
I squint at their name badges. Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
I don’t do religion.
But I wont be rude. They’re seem so…well…joyful.
So I groan inwardly, but let them speak.
Surprisingly, they don’t launch into their religious speech immediately. They want to chit-chat.
They’re actually quite pleasant and very friendly. Easy to talk to.
Elder Polson is from Utah. And very very good looking.
We wax lyrical about the crazy stupid weather. We discuss the differences in weather between Melbourne (4 seasons in one day) and Utah (either blisteringly hot or arcticly cold-apparently)
We talk about Elder Polson’s plans for his stay in Australia for the next two years.
I tell them about Barbara, the Jehovah Witness that regularly calls on me in much the same way. I tell them I am used to this kind of front-door-hovering religious conversation.
Barbara is such a lovely elderly lady. Originally I let her talk because I didn’t want to be rude. She’s just too nice to treat impolitely.
She visits us quite regularly now, and I listen patiently while she tells me all about her God. I tell her the truth of my beliefs too. I don’t simply smile and nod, it’s not in my nature. It seems to make her happy that I am a willing ear. It absolutely makes her day when the children all come to the door to say Hi. She remembers all their names and asks them about school.
I feel rude not inviting her in, she almost feels like a friend of a friend.
But I can’t ask her in. If I did, I’m afraid she’d take up a whole afternoon instead of just 15 minutes at the door.
It seems I’d be crossing some kind of invisible line.
So we continue to stand in the doorway. Divided by more than just the lintel.
I don’t invite the two Elders into my house either.
For one thing, I just got home from work and it’s a pigsty.
For another thing…..well, door lingering is more than enough.
He really is quite good looking though. Elder Polson.
It’s somewhat disarming.
Then he asks me The Question.
“Are you religious?”
I consider myself more spiritual than religious. I definitely do believe in God, in a sense; just not the sense that most people would think of. My God is not an all seeing, all knowing, interventionist, prayer granting, minutiae controlling God. Not at all.
And although I do believe in God, I do not believe in religion.
I tell him so.
He seems confused at the notion that God might exist outside religion.
He asks, very politely mind you, if I would please explain why I have a problem with religion. If I don’t mind. Thank-you very much.
The truth is I find religion to be divisive, intolerant and sanctimonious. I do not like the lack of acceptance of others’ beliefs. The premise of ‘what I believe is right, therefore what you believe is wrong’ does not sit well with me.
This too, I tell him as gently as possible. I don’t want to offend his faith. And it’s not the people of faith that I take issue with, not really.
He counters my argument with “Someone has to be right. We can’t all be right. There has to be one religion that is true.”
He goes on to give the example of Jesus Christ and Buddha. “Both religions can’t be true, can they?” He turns it into a question, an attempt to be respectful, less confronting.
Well actually, I believe they can.
He raises an eyebrow in question and is clearly confused by my logic, but still enjoying the debate.
I tell him my theory of God. That God is everything. The universal source of all there is. An energy rather than a being. Neither male nor female. Neither Good nor Evil. But both.
I tell him that it is perfectly feasible for our great religious prophets to have all been messengers of one God.
Well why not?
We shouldn’t confuse religious rituals and doctrine as rules from this God or that God.
Those things, dogma, are man-made.
God just is.
Strip away the manmade construct, and the message is the same, regardless of the messenger.
Elder Polson is still grinning. He likes debate. He tells me in all his travels he’s never heard this belief before. (wow, am I really so strange?)
It’s apparently given him something to consider. I don’t for one second believe that I have shaken his faith. Nor would I want to. But he’s not shutting me down. He’s not looking at me like I’m crazy. He’s accepting that I have a different, and just as valid, belief from his own.
He tells me how much he enjoys talking with people like me, because I am honest.
That and the fact that I am not slamming the door in his face.
He really is distractingly good looking.
We finish our chat, he leaves me a brochure (which I did read), invites me to call his mobile if I have any questions or want another chance to debate, and after offering his services (as if I’m going to let a stranger weed the garden) he gleefully high fives me before he turns down the drive.
As I close the door behind me I notice that he has left a little piece of his joy behind in my heart. His particular combination of devotion to his faith, acceptance of others beliefs, and love of healthy debate is refreshing. This stranger, who I interacted with for no more than 10 minutes, was able to get inside my soul and leave me feeling…peaceful.
I have to wonder, if that love and peace is the hand of God, perhaps telling us both that no one is right, and no one is wrong.
Deflector comes to the door once they are gone and says ‘What the hell was all that about?’
Just a spirited discussion about God, and religion, I tell him.
“Huh.” He says. “I don’t get religion. I’m more of an evolutionist.”
And just as I open my mouth to tell him that the belief in evolution doesn’t necessarily negate the belief in God, he turns back, scratches his still boy-ish chin and says
“And anyway, I do think that God is Love, and really, that’s all you need to know”