I was flashed once by a girl in Tampa, threatened with a beating in Colorado Springs, handed a room key by a beautiful blonde bookstore manager in Atlanta, and told that God only speaks through me by a woman in West Palm. These people all waited until the lobby was empty and the crowds were gone before talking to me. The “off” ones always wait to be last. It gives them all my time and attention and that, really, is what they want. So, after a show, the thinner the crowd gathered around talking with me gets the more alert Brody and I must become…just in case.
This past weekend in Florida, an hour after one of the shows, only five people remained in the lobby talking with me while Brody packed up the last of the Compassion packets and CDs. These five folks and I were standing in a circle talking, laughing, having a good time when I saw her, over one guy’s shoulder, head slightly tilted down, eyes staring intensely into mine, holding a clipboard against her chest, clicking a pen rapidly with one hand and tapping her foot on the tile floor. She was irritated or impatient or crazy and I couldn’t tell which. But she was purposefully last so I guessed crazy and kept the conversation I was in going in hopes that she would give up and walk away. (I’m not a good person, especially toward Christians, especially when I’m tired. I’m working on this always.)
What I didn’t notice was the four year-old girl hidden behind those gathered around me, standing at this woman’s side. I didn’t notice her until her mother handed her the clipboard and pen and pushed her through the crowd toward me. “Go ahead, ask him,” she said nudging the girl forward.
I knelt down, thinking I’d read her mother all wrong. “What’s you’re name, beautiful?” I looked her in the eyes and stuck out my hand.
“Will you sign this to get God in school?” she asked, and handed me a petition.
“Let me see,” I said, taking the clipboard in my hands and standing to read it. I saw the words “prayer,” “evolution,” “homosexuality,” “Christian founders,” and “condoms” and scrambled inside to figure out what to say to this woman in front of these strangers and her daughter.
The five sensed the awkwardness of the moment, said their quick good-byes and walked away. It was just me, this lady and her little girl left in the lobby.
“I admire you for doing something about what you believe. Most of us say we have convictions but are really pretty apathetic. I know I am. So, I applaud you for acting on your convictions.” She didn’t say a word. She just stared blankly at me. I continued. “But I don’t agree with everything in this petition so I can’t sign it. It would be lying. I wish I could help but I can’t. I’m sorry.” And I handed it back.
She thrust it back into my hands and crossed her arms. “What’s wrong with wanting God back in public schools? They hand out condoms and teach homosexuality and the Big Bang and that we came from monkeys and my kids can’t pray and -”
“That’s not true,” I interrupted and immediately wished I hadn’t. “Are your kids Christians?”
“If they’re Christians,” I said, “then that means they take God with them wherever they go right? God is in them and with them right?” She cocked her jaw and stared through me. I kept going. “If your kids are in a school then God is very much in that school too, and everyone knows it when they act like Jesus – when they love people, do their work like it matters to God, sit with the lonely kid, respect their teachers, laugh, stop fights instead of starting them. Even if your kids weren’t there God would still be there really. You can’t kick God out of any place on earth right? The earth is God’s foot stool the bible says. It’s all his right?”
“But things are so bad today. Wasn’t like this when my parents were kids and that’s because they took God out of school. We’re founded under God and now we let liberal atheists say you can’t even pray in school and they don’t even say the pledge any more and…” On she went.
Brody was through packing up by this point and giving me the “we need to get going” look. And I wanted to. We had a long drive ahead and had to get up early the next morning, so I tried to end the conversation. “You obviously feel very strongly that you’re doing the right thing here but I don’t agree with everything on the petition. You have lots of signatures and you’ll get lots more I’m sure so you don’t need to convince me of anything. You’ll do fine without my name on this petition.” I shook her hand and invited her to e-mail me if she wanted to continue the conversation another time and I turned to walk away.
That’s when a volunteer for the radio station that was hosting us, apparently eavesdropping on us the whole time, chimed in. “Are you even a Christian?” he asked me…