“Do you have a relationship with Jesus?”
Oh, man. Why did she have to go and do that? We were having a perfectly wonderful day together. I’d worked with this older lady a few times before. Doing background on a tv show, or a commercial. Maybe a movie. You tend to cross paths with the same people eventually, when you do this sort of work long enough. You make friends, since sometimes you are spending a fifteen hour day sitting together in the holding area.
She had plenty of fun stories about sets she’d been on, and of course so do I, so the time flew by as we shared bits and pieces of our experiences in Hollywood, so far. I was enjoying her company. Now what? How am I supposed to respond to this inorganic change in tempo?
“Oh, yes. Isn’t he great? We’re old pals.”
Should I just pretend that we are on the same page, and stop that particular steam locomotive before it leaves the station? If she thinks I’ve found Jesus as she has, then we can smile at how blessed we are and move on to other topics. No point in preaching to choirs, right?
Or does it work that way? Would I only be encouraging her to forge ahead, sure of my complete faith in her god? Rather, the son of her god. I’ve been trapped in that scenario before, and it only gets worse.
Once, I worked with a Jesus guy on a tour. When we met, he was not an actor in the cast. He worked for the theatre company, and we were sitting alone in the van. He talked for three hours about his relationship with his savior. I knew enough of the language to pretend I felt the same way. There was no point in broaching such a subject with a person I may never meet again. The polite thing to do was to smile and listen, and wait for him to run out of things to say.
Well, I had no idea he would be joining the cast, and would be my roommate on tour for the next three months! (An actor was fired, and he stepped in as a replacement.)
Now I was in the awkward position of having allowed him to think a thing about me that was not true, and the longer this went on, the harder it was to undo. He would be hurt, convinced that I had deceived him, which I suppose I had, but only because I was trying to be kind.
I did not want that to happen again. Perhaps I could hijack the conversation and steer it in another direction?
“Actually, I was just chatting with Jesus this morning about the acceleration of climate change in the past few decades, as a direct result of global warming. Would you like to hear his thoughts on that?”
Why are some people convinced that a movie set is the right place to introduce a topic as touchy as religion? We are working. This is not the time to pull out your pamphlets and start converting sinners.
That part was not a metaphor. She had pamphlets. She pulled them out. Which means she is accustomed to switching into missionary mode at any given moment. In the waiting room at the dentist. At the bus stop. Backstage on set of a major motion picture.
What is it about me that made her think of her pamphlets? Did I seem willing? Did she surmise that I was a follower? Or was I one of the sinners she needed to assist in finding redemption? What part of my squeaky clean Bobby Brady manner made her wonder if I had not been saved?
“You know, I’m a vegetarian. Here, may I show you this list of grocery items that secretly contain meat?”
Seriously, I have been a vegetarian all of my adult life. Although I do not carry lists around with me, I could easily turn into that annoying yoga guy, hopping up on his Aloe Vera soapbox. I choose not to, because I understand how uncomfortable it makes people feel, and not just the person with whom I am speaking.
We are in a holding area. There are dozens of people sitting around. Some of them did not bring a book, or cannot get a wifi signal. They are trapped within earshot and have no desire to listen to a conversation about Jesus. Trust me, this is not a good topic to bring up right now.
Yes, yes, I know. You are told to go out into world and preach the word, and what better place to do that than in a room full of depraved actors who cannot get up and leave?
The problem is that this nice older lady has altered our friendly acquaintance, and placed a burden on me. I have to either endure her proselytizing, or present a defense of my own beliefs, and why should I want to do either?
It is not my job to convince her that I have a right to my own spiritual path. Or even that I have, in fact, already had a deep and transformative inner journey. That my early twenties were not spent playing video games, getting drunk, nor sleeping around. Even if I wanted to have this conversation with someone I don’t really know, what would I be inviting next?
Would she bring up her friend who tried being a vegetarian, but her doctor said she wasn’t getting enough protein? Oh yes, please tell me about that. You see, I’ve never heard that one before…
In the end, I took the pamphlets and put them in my garment bag without looking at them.
“Thank you. I’ll read these later, when I get home.”
I didn’t ask any questions, nor say anything to encourage further discussion. Thankfully, she took the hint.