At time of writing I have just gotten off of a flight from Dallas Fort Worth to Los Angels, ordinarily a very reasonable flight of just four hours. The idea of having to do anything in the infamous Los Angeles International Airport, or as I prefer to call it ‘L.A – X’, is not exactly something that fills me with joy. In fact I have a tendency to approach L.A – X with the same trepidation that I would Charles de Gaulle (if I ever have the misfortune to go back there). It’s just not a good airport. However there was something, which set this particular flight and subsequent arrival at L.A apart from most if not all of my previous flights. I was seated next to young man; 24 years old, dressed more or less the same as I and packed more or less the same as I. As I am rather glad happened, he was a very amicable young man who loved to talk and have a deep and meaningful four-hour conversation. In many respects we were very similar, more than in just our garb or packing style. He too had started University with a void or gap where a person’s faith usually sits in a person, and he too had finished University with a new strength to him brought about by a spiritual awakening or elevation. There is however, a difference between he and I.
Gavin found Jesus and I found something else. More than this, Gavin is an evangelical minister working at Bradley University. I am a travelling English teacher taking up the runes.
It certainly seems like a potentially volatile combination for a four-hour flight. Admittedly, I was somewhat (privately) taken aback when I asked him what his job was and ‘Christian minister’ came in response. However it quickly became obvious to both he and I that although we had started in different places and even arrived at different places, we were both cut from the same cloth. So to speak. Neither one of us was terribly confronted or even intimidated by the reality of the other. He told me that he was an Evangelical Christian minister and I told him I was a Pagan and a Heathen. We then talked about the nature of spirituality, the complexities of faith, the idea of caring and loving, and generally became very good companions in a matter of hours. Though some might have looked or heard us and thought that we were full of it, there was something genuinely amazing about how we both recognized the same quality in each other even though it was of a different kind. In some respects it was really quite intimate how we opened up to each about our respective spirituality – let’s face it, delving into the details of each other’s spirituality the way we did is intimate.
No, that’s not a metaphor for anything. Four-hour flight, remember.
The thing that really made me think ‘woah’ was really just how easy it was: there was not hesitation, there was no doubt – it reminds me of a song from season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The episode is called ‘Once More With Feeling’ and the song is question is when Buffy is in The Bronze singing “There was no fear, there was no doubt; when they pulled me out… of Heaven…” We just met in the middle, brought together by our mutual spiritual quality and started talking. He told me about his journey, I told him about my journey. We discussed what exactly is deity; the irony of ‘The Big Three’ claiming to have THE TRUTH and yet being the most fractured and divided of religions (Paganism and Heathenry were raised and had their own discussion devoted to why they don’t count – the end result was because we allow for the paradox of contradiction within the collective of Paganism and Heathenry, claiming that there are many truths and or no truths). We really both had no fear and no doubt and quite readily left the idea of Heaven behind (in favor of meatier topics).
By the end there was something that struck me, after a particular subject of conversation. All too often evangelists are viewed by everyone, ordinary folk, other ‘Big Three’ members, and really everyone as being crazy or nasty or just out to put the fear of Hell in you (rarely is it actually the fear of God). Yet Gavin was just a guy. A person like any other, albeit with a somewhat stranger job than usual. Yes, its true that he might have been somewhat of an exception, even taking into account stereotypes and stigmas, however I really feel that there was something in what we saw in each other. He had no agenda, other than to talk, for no other reason than he just likes to chat. At the end of the, that is what it came down to. He likes to talk. He just likes to get to know people. Unfortunately it is the nature of small talk to inevitably ask ‘what do you do for work’. To my great, genuine, surprise he has actually started conversations in cafes (which is what you do) and had the person talking to him clam up utterly when they find out he is an evangelical minister. That in itself led to another discussion about the Catch 22 nature of what he does, trying to elevate people’s spirituality but being treated in such a way by most and really only being understood by people who are already spiritually elevated.
Gavin the Minister and Alan the Teacher. We could have been mirror images of each other.
Always remember, evangelists are people too.
They aren’t all that bad.
Some just want a chat.