When I was a college freshman I hung out with a group of three or four friends, most of whom were Jesus Freaks. Some of them, however, were freakier than others. I remember this one conversation that took place around the lunch table in the cafeteria, which everybody on campus called Saga, because that was the name of the company that ran the food service.
One of my friends, Claudia, was a little on the quirky side. So it shouldn't have surprised me what she said. But after she said it, my view of conservative Christians began to crystallize. Besides Claudia and me, there were two other guys at the table. I can't even remember their names. But one of them performed a mock toast: "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may die!" Then Claudia said it. "I would like to die tomorrow. Actually, I would like to die today!"
My other friend asked her why she wanted to die. "Because my body does things I don't want it to do. It gets sick; it feels sad sometimes."
I don't remember the rest of the conversation. I just sat there, being struck by the audacity of what she had said and wondering if she really meant it. What I actually said was - nothing. I just listened and wondered.
What I should have said was: "Claudia! If you think that dying would be better for you because you get to go meet your God, then why don't you just go ahead and kill yourself?"
Imaginary Claudia: "Because I don't want to mess with God's perfect plan for me. He has a plan for me and I have to see it through."
Imaginary Me: "Do you know what God's plan for you is?"
Imaginary Claudia: "No, of course not. Nobody knows God's divine plan."
Imaginary Me: "What if God's plan for you is for you to kill yourself today? And by not killing yourself you're actually screwing up God's plan!"
Imaginary Claudia: "Bite me!"
Another scenario I play out in my head goes something like this:
Real Claudia: "I'd like to die today!"
What I should have said: "Claudia, why? What is it about your religion that makes you want to die at such an early age?"
Imaginary Claudia: "The sooner I die, the sooner I get to go meet my Savior."
Imaginary Me: "But what if your religion is wrong? Have you considered that possibility?"
Imaginary Claudia: "It's NOT wrong. I have the bible as my proof!"
Imaginary Me: "But what if the bible is wrong?" How do you know it is correct, because it says it is? What if what you believe is wrong and the Presbyterians are right, or the Catholics, or even the Muslims? If you're wrong, you go to hell. So why put all your eggs in one basket?"
Imaginary Claudia: "I have faith that what I believe is true. I feel it in my heart."
Imaginary Me: "Have you ever felt anything in your heart that turned out not to be true or beneficial? What if the religion-shaped basket you put your eggs in turns out to be wrong? The Muslims have the Koran, which informs their beliefs. And they believe just as strongly that they are right. They have just as strong of faith as you do. You believe they are misguided or that they haven't yet been exposed to your truth yet, but they believe the same thing about you and your religion. Both can't be right can they? But both can be wrong. And you're actually going to sit there in all your religious smugness and wish death upon yourself based on what you feel in your humanly fallible heart?"
Imaginary Claudia: "Bite me!"
There, I'm glad I finally got that off my chest!