A couple of months ago on a crisp, tropical Floridian morning, my wife and I were headed to a state fair. Tourist traffic in the beach town was mulling with a swelling crowd. In the midst of the diaspora, a T-shirt caught my eye.
"Religion. It's a powerful, healing force in a world torn apart...by religion." - Jon Stewart, The Daily Show
Given that I'm a Jon Stewart fan, it did not seem like much of a surprise that I took an instant affinity to the quote and it's ironic yet gospel-like truth ( given the present day religious spectrum).
An hour later the Floridian weather started acting up and the heavens opened up. It started raining cats and dogs with little to no warning. We were running like madcaps trying to find a shelter and saw this matriarch of a woman with a warm smile step out of a tent and beckon us to get in. We were truly touched by the humane gesture - or so we thought. What followed for the next 30 minutes was a diametric shift from the humane heaven to the despairs of hell.
Having ushered us into the tent, the lady inquired if we would like some coffee. We gladly accepted the offer. The tent was dimly lit, 20X20, with neatly arranged chairs and tables. Elderly citizens seemed to be at work talking to eager listeners. I started to feel a sales pitch of sort waft thru, but the simplistic folks sans the suits did not seem to be the kind to drive a hard sell. Given the selfish motive of evading the rain, we stayed on.
The lady returned with more than just coffee. She had a book that had progressively graduating colors with the first page being black and the last page being a rich gold. She asked me to interpret what the book could be about. The agnostic me, sensing a religious connotation, tried to keep it generic by suggesting it seemed to imply from darkness to light and good ending. That made her happy, but what rolled out of her mouth consistently after left me aghast - the long and the short of it being that the Indian gods were too gory.
Her religious fold had a savior who had already bled for the sins of his followers and we should look at converting. Polite refusals led to spirited anecdotes about how someone who had refused, just like us, was run over by a truck just as they were leaving. That was the last straw. I took the material she had handed us, pulled my still shocked wife out of her stupor, threw the reams of paper into the trash (Miss Missionary still gaping), and headed out to the pouring rain. The rain was a welcome break. It seemed to cleanse. I'm not sure what - maybe the anger I felt at her insensitivity and her faith? As if to rub it in or calm me, I saw the Jon Stewart T-shirt again.