I stopped into a grocery store this afternoon, on my way home form school. It was all rather mundane, until a chipper girl with a sing-song voice came up from behind me and told me that "Jesus loves you". She preceded to literally skip away, repeating this message to other shoppers. I was at an utter loss for words. I simply had no idea how to respond without: seeming like a jerk or being unnecessarily glib. Off the top of my head I could think of several theological reasons why such a statement would be untrue, but I did not want to get into a discussion about theology while I was shopping.
Upon reflection, I am not sure why I did not want to engage. I will engage in conversations with people who happen to be discussing theological issues, people handing out tracts, manic street preachers, and even those folks who deliver themselves right to you door. What was it then that kept my tongue behind my teeth in this instance? If it is anything it would probably be civility; I could not think of an appropriate response which would have instigated a conversation without seeming overly hostile. Civility is a very good thing, and I do wish it was practiced in a more general way. In this case though, did I let someone make a statement with a good deal of inferred meaning, say so without response, simply because I was worried I would be looked upon as a jerk? I believe this is the case, and it is only upon reflection that I realize I have done a great disservice to myself.
I will preclude this next bit by saying that I may very well in fact be over-analyzing the whole scenario. What is entailed in the statement "Jesus loves you"? There are the obvious elements of omnibenevolence ascribed to Jesus, and the Christian god; "their infinite love for you is only a conversion away, and they want you to know they are concerned about you, well actually they are concerned for your immortal soul. For while they love you dearly, they will not tolerate disobedience. So if you reject their love, well eternal torment is the least you deserve for refusing such a divine gift." That sums up my position on the implied meaning, or logical conclusion of the initial statement. It also touches on the "alright, well why should I care?" angle, as their is an implied value to this "love" in so much as one should care becuase "it is only through the love of Christ Jesus that you can be saved". I am curious what the response would have been to: "Well my gods are fairly indifferent to you, but wish you no particular ill will?" I suppose not having "soundbites" makes for a more awkward delivery.Likewise for not revering deities who seek universal worship.
As always, I question whether this proselytization effort was intended to develop into a discussion, or simply a "drive by" proclamation? Was the girl cognizant of the implied message behind her words, or was she simply trying to spread a little good will? Does intent matter more than meaning? Does ignorance of the problematic nature of a given message excuse an unintentionally condescending comment? Or am I simply reading far too much into this?