Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

Good Girl

Despite my best efforts, today I became part of an office conversation that I wanted to avoid: religion.

My colleague – the same one who complained about 21st century women – asked me, “Bethany, are you Christian?”

“No.”

“But you seem like a Christian girl.”

Pause.

“I don’t know what you mean by that,” I said.

The woman beside me answered, “Because you’re sweet and quiet.”

Wow.  Do I sound exciting or what?

Trying not to be too insulted, I said, “I know lots of people who aren’t Christian who are still good, nice people.  I also know some Christians who aren’t nice.  There’s a spectrum of individuals in any religion – just like within different races and cultures.  I try not to judge people and make presumptions on their personalities because of what religion they identify with.”

The woman beside me agreed and told us a long story about the judgmental people in her church.

My colleague regarded me like an alien from Mars.  “So do you believe in God?” he asked.

“No.”

“What do you believe in?”

Oh no.

I tried to answer using his vocabulary.  “I don’t believe in the personification of God.  I believe in the Holy Spirit, but not the Father or the Son.”

“What?  How can you believe in part of the Holy Trinity but not the rest?  And what do you mean by the Holy Spirit?”

I wished I’d lied and said, “I don’t believe in anything spiritual.”

Instead I tried to explain, “I think the Holy Spirit is similar to what Taoists described as ‘Chi’ and Hindus as ‘Karma.’  It’s what the romantic poets described when they said you can feel God through nature.”

The conversation then took a slight turn as he and my other colleague argued about whether or not drinking is a sin.  He thinks it is whereas she thinks the actions you commit while drunk can be sinful, but God put alcohol on this earth for us to enjoy as long as we’re responsible.

He looked at me, “Do you drink?”

“Yes,” I laughed.  “And I definitely don’t worry whether or not it’s sinful.”

He started asking me more questions.

“Do you believe in Heaven?”

“No.  I also don’t believe in Hell.”

“Where do you think we go when we die?”

“I don’t know.”

“Don’t you want to know?”

“No.  I’ll worry about that when I get there.”

“Do you believe in Creation?”

“No.”

“Evolution?”

“Yes.”

“Then why aren’t we evolving anymore?”

“We probably are still evolving, but evolution can take thousands of years.  It’s impossible to see it in one lifetime.  Also, evolution is a response to outside stimuli.  Our environments haven’t changed significantly so that we need to evolve to survive.”

“So you believe the world is billions of years old?”

“Yes.  How old do you think it is?”

“Not older than 3 million years.  The universe is not billions of years old.  You believe the scientists and their carbon dating?”

“Yes.”

(I thought this was a particularly weird point in our conversation.  Is there religious significance between 3 million years and 13 billion years?  I personally can’t comprehend anything that big anyways, so the age of the universe is just a number.)

“I’m glad I’m not a scientist.  It would be tiring to come up with data to prove my beliefs.”

At this point I couldn’t continue with the conversation anymore.  It was just too ridiculous.

He probably thought the same thing about me.

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