**WARNING: If I seem condescending, know that this entire post (rant) is solely from my perspective (a Catholic perspective) and I would be happy to discuss anything with anyone calmly and peacefully. This is just a story about a particular situation and a particular vibe I was getting from a particular person.
It is rare that I have a post to make that goes with my apologetics stuff and my waitressing stuff, but here goes:
Today I was serving lunch at my place of work, minding my business and trying, if feebly, to suggestive sell at least a few more cents worth of teas and lemonades (no one spends S*** during lunchtime) as I worked towards getting out of there to a doctor’s appointment. Needless to say, I was NOT expecting to have a highly theological discussion at the time.
But as it happened, my three-top table with the soups and salads needed their check, and as I was over there, the older man who was part of the party asked me if I was a student. I informed him that I had, in fact, just graduated with a degree in English and Theology.
You know, whenever I pair the two, usually one of following happens:
- They ignore the fact that I said “Theology” and ask me if I’m going to teach English.
- They ask me what “Theology” is.
- They say “Huh. What are you going to do with that?”
This guy said ignored the fact that I said “English” and asked me if I was going into ministry. He also asked me “what Bible college” I went to.
I was already mad at this point.
I should say ahead of time that everything about this encounter made me irrationally angry, but anyone who knows me really well knows that my religious beliefs are my rock and are as close to me as my heart. Therefore, criticizing them is the most immediate route to either enraging me or breaking my heart, depending on my mood. On a good day, I’ll be mildly concerned.
I was at work.
So all the assumptions that he had just made about me had to roll right off my shoulders and I had to smile and let him talk and be polite.
RECAP: He had just assumed that if I had studied theology that of course I would be looking for overt ministry (because according to him I probably should), that I had gone to the kind of school he had (i.e., one that teaches the Bible exclusively … he told me he had a theology degree too), and that the only people who actually study theology must be Protestant, or at least not Catholic, because apparently they automatically go to “Bible colleges” that teach… the Bible. I guess the teachings of the Church that date all the way back to the Apostles that are not contained in the Bible have no merit.
And apparently they don’t! Because this guy tried to tell me that Jesus was not/is not God.
This is what happened sequentially though:
After I told him that my university was actually a privately owned Catholic institution under the care of our Franciscan friars (plug for Franciscan! woot woot.) he sort of nodded at me with a secret kind of smile like he knew something I didn’t. OK.
He then asked me if I had studied anything about monotheism. I was incredibly confused at what exactly he was getting at, so I replied that my degree was pretty exclusively Catholic (Reminder: Catholics, Christians, Jews, and Muslims are all monotheistic, because it’s a WIDE MARGIN. Second Reminder: Catholics fall underneath the category “Christian.” *I’ll get back to that some other time) but that I am interested in the beliefs of other peoples and would love to learn more.
He followed up with telling me that he was a monotheist. I still wasn’t following, but here’s what he said as well as I can remember:
“You know, a lot of people believe in a Trinity. They consider God as Three: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. But they are mistaken. You see, Jesus never claimed to be God. He did say ‘The Father and I are one,’ and the people said He was blaspheming, but He said ‘No, no, no.’ You see, He is just the son of the Father. Read John 10, it’s really good. You know what? I’m going to challenge you, go ahead and read it and see what you think.” (notice I capitalized every “He” 😉 )
Dude, you could not have interpreted John 10 more wrongly.
Also: The bold claims that he just made caused me to become annoyed to a degree no less than fantastical. I was fantastically annoyed. The pretension of this guy!
Let’s start from the top.
“A lot of people believe in a Trinity.”
Glad I’m just part of your “lot of people” but don’t you realize that the Trinity is a very widely accepted Truth? Most actual Christians do believe in some form of this…
“But they are mistaken”
AKA, “You are wrong.”
K. Thanks for that, dude.
“He is just God’s son.” (I had to lowercase here because that was actually his point.)
Well, you’re just a stupid dude in a restaurant.
Throughout this whole thing, I listened politely, but I could feel a response smile creep up on my face. The kind of smile that hears his smile saying, “I know more than you” and replies, “Okay, dude, I’m sure you do.” And I’m thinking, just let me get through this.
I’m SURE the two ladies in his party could see everything going on. Every social cue playing out on both of our faces. They KNEW he was being a butt and I was tickeddd. But they kept quiet and said not one word.
Basically they were this:
And you know, it’s not so much that he disagreed with me. I have many friends of all different religions. I have Protestant friends, Atheistic friends, Muslim friends, etc. I also appreciate that he had some backup for what he was talking about (even though he was completely wrong).
There were really only two things that got me. These will always get me:
Wouldn’t those bother you too?
Well, to address the first, I was AT. WORK. Did he think that I really had the presence of mind AT WORK to address his claims? How about this: Did he really think that I had the TIME to do this? Right here right now? (I didn’t.)
When you are at work, is it appropriate to open a long discussion which will only be adequately finished to the detriment of one’s quality and completion of work? Nope.
So do NOT do that to me. I’m sorry, but when I’m serving, I gotta go. I gotta do a million and one things more pressing than talking to your face or else I have no money. To you it may be a quaint little brunch, but to me it’s food on the table (MY food for MY table).
I could not have sufficiently explained my position, which he wouldn’t have accepted anyway and I will tell you why.
Because he had BIG FAT ATTITUDE.
It’s not always the volume level of the voice. He was perfectly calm, but you still feel that attitude when it’s in the room. He had that knowing smile, I already mentioned. Even if I had closed my eyes I could have seen it. He also had a very condescending word choice. He was going to “challenge” me. Like I was an 8th grader and he was dangling extra credit for my pop quiz in front of my face.
I’m sorry, but I know he was wrong because I’ve studied what Aquinas has said on the very question that that dude brought up to me because St. Thomas Aquinas commented on it hundreds of years ago:
If our roles were reversed and I was explaining something true to him (he was not explaining anything true to me) or even if I was making the same exact wrong point that he was but I considered it to be true, I would have spoken seriously without smiling… because it’s not funny… and simply offered what I knew. I would not have treated someone else like a child.
I didn’t deserve that.
All in all, it just made me sad that he held something completely inaccurate as part of his belief system and I didn’t have the chance to really do anything about it.
I think it was meant to happen though, because now I am praying for him. And it reminded me how much I care about my faith. AND… it caused me to start writing another article about the whole theological question.
But really… I love you and Jesus loves you.