One of my favorite TV shows is the amazing 30 Days, the brainchild of Morgan Spurlock, the guy who made Super Size Me. This week’s show placed an atheist woman in the home of a Christian family for a month. As always, it was fun and informative to see the interactions between the people, and to see where my empathies lay. No surprise here– I was down with the atheist and her kind critique of the family’s huge church and their giddy and wide-eyed drive-by of the mega-church in town. “That seems like a lot of money invested to me,” she said, to hoots around our house. And the Christian father’s lack of compassion, aversion to abstract thought, and complete ignorance of any form of morals or ethics that wasn’t dependent upon theism or revelation was irritating, to say the least.
But enough of the cheap shots. The more subtle theme that struck me was how the two factions expressed and affirmed themselves: by meetings. The Christian family took their guest to church, where they sang about common ideas and listened to a message about shared values. If I remember it right, one of the services was about the imperative to spread their particular Christian message to absolutely every person in the world. In their evening Bible studies, they discussed their feelings of persecution and spoke smugly of the godless folks who disagreed with them. In return, the atheist woman took her hosts to an atheist church, where folks talked about how they felt marginalized by the dominant Christian culture, and how they only wanted some space to pursue their ideas. In short: they knew they were right, and met regularly in a deserted restaurant to talk about it and to pursue legal recognition of their group by the state.
And I wondered, is this all any of us do? Can we only get together with like-minded people to affirm one another and to complain about our own persecution? To shrilly cling to our own rightness and views of the world? I eagerly wanted someone– anyone– to put themself out of their comfort zone and to try to really learn something. I wanted someone to put themself in a place where they might do something to serve someone else: to put feet to their noble claims that they were the ones who wanted to help others. And then I wondered why I don’t do the same thing.