19 January 2011

Story Time: Meet Me At The Top of What?

Gather 'round, it's story time. This happened in 2001:


I was in East Africa leaving a store, on the sidewalk I was accosted by a young man wearing what looked like pajamas (but were not). He told me he had converted from Islam to Hinduism on a trip through India. The young man was Kenyan born and bred, his parents being from Pakistan. I could tell that he was practically quivering with anticipation at finding a nice bubble-headed American to share his spiritual journey with--a special joy, I am sure, since the streams of locals plodded out of the store were, he could tell, bound to their own native-born spiritual communities as people overseas tend to be.
He begged me to enter his spiritual experience.
I extended the offer back to him.
A bit shocked at this sort of response from nice American lady, he told me in sotto voce,
“No, mum, I know it’s true, you see, I had an experience.”
“I had an experience wherein I narrowly escaped death in the middle of a busy street, you know. And facts being what they are, I might not escape it if I tumble out into that street.” I indicated to emphasize my point.
“I see, mum, I see. But you have to believe me.”
“I don’t disbelieve your experience—what I do wonder at is if it’s verifiable—is it true.”
He blinked and warbled: “As true as Christianity.”
“I am not sure you understand that depth and breadth of Christianity. While I savor Christianity in my experience, it is not founded in my experience.”
I stopped and waited for him, but he allowed me continue:
“The Christian gospels contain the prophecy, and the story of the coming, the works, the crucifixion, subsequent resurrection of Jesus Christ: who was seen by more than 500 witnesses—including the nonconverted—and it has all the marks of historical facts. Therefore not to pay homage to it is akin to running into that stream of cars, while all the time denying their existence. The founding of Christianity is grounded in an identifiable time and documented place. By its nature, it occupies someplace in another universe from the one wherein I try to replicate a single experience of yours. But, thank you.” (As a polite American I say thank you and smile.) - Charity Johnson
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“It is as easy to be logical about things that do not exist as about things that do exist. If twice three is six, it is certain that three men with two legs each will have six legs between them. And if twice three is six, it is equally certain that three men with two heads each will have six heads between them. That there never were three men with two heads each does not invalidate the logic in the least. It makes the deduction impossible, but it does not make it illogical. Twice three is still six, whether you reckon it in pigs or in flaming dragons, whether you reckon it in cottages or in castles-in-the-air.”
  • GK Chesterton