I rode up Alvarado Street the other day. It’s a road I don’t take often due to a steep, and I’ll confess, uncomfortable climb. It’s one of the few roads that keeps my speed in the single digits — generally about 9 mph. However, I wanted to work off the french fries I stole from mom at lunch, so I took a left where I generally take a right.
There’s a house I pass on the way up Alvarado — owned by some of my first clients in Fallbrook, nearly 20-years ago. It’s a family of three — a father, his wife, and their (then) teenage daughter. I trained the parents for general fitness and for their daughter, a competitive tennis player, I was a private strength and conditioning coach.
They invited me over for dinner one evening, maybe a few months after our professional relationship began. I was new to town and grateful for the invite. I even wore long pants that evening — which doesn’t happen more than a few times a decade. I arrived at dinner with a bottle of wine and some flowers for my hosts. We sat in the living room and caught up for a few minutes, but they were quick to serve dinner.
I was escorted to the dining room and to a table which more resembled a holiday meal than a casual dinner. Something among the fabulous place settings stood out though — on one dinner plate was a stack of books and pamphlets. The book on top, A Purpose Driven Life, was making its way through churches across the nation at the time.
As I sat, my host turned the deadbolt on the door leading from the dining room to the back patio. It occurred to me only later, that might have been for effect. As his wife began bringing dishes from the kitchen into the dining room, my host began talking about his journey into Christianity. I immediately felt uncomfortable.
Dinner was served, and forgive the expression, but the sales-pitch continued through the entire meal. It was loud, relentless, and I was afforded no time to speak or reply on my own behalf. I was being witnessed to — a concept I was familiar with, but had never experienced. After dinner we settled in the living room for a continuation of the same.
Feeling less comfortable, I made attempts to change the conversation or suggest it might be time to go. I was met with scenario after scenario that might benefit my soul, and was asked repeatedly for a commitment to join them at church the following Sunday. I gave the same vague excuse each time I was pressed — that I was unsure whether or not I’d be working that Sunday. I didn’t have anything against church, but I didn’t want to be coerced into going.
Their schpeel continued into the evening and I was getting weary. I wanted nothing more than to get in my car and drive away, but felt trapped. It must have been as clear to them I wanted to leave as it was to me that they weren’t willing to release me. I sat for a couple of hours, listening to all their brand of Christianity could offer my life. The evening came to conclusion just before midnight, but not without a couple more attempts to get me to commit to attending church with them.
I couldn’t drive home fast enough. I felt dirty as I drove away — like my mind had been violated, because it had been. To this day it was the most uncomfortable I’ve been in the presence of social contemporaries. I didn’t feel violated because of the content of their offering, but from their method of delivery.
The church they were associated with, I learned in subsequent weeks, one of the larger ones in this area, was known for this pressing sales approach. I’m not sure if any perks, credits, or heavenly incentives are offered for each soul brought to the table, but they got no bounty for me that night.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m religion’s biggest fan, though I subscribe to none. More than half the books I own have to do with the world’s religions, both historic and current, and their value in society. I will argue until my dying breath that the world needs religion — it’s the mortar that holds the bricks of culture together.
We live in a time when far too many people are critical of or are outright against religion. It’s not religion we should be against, not ever. It is the abuse of religion which gives all faiths a bad name — in the same way that it’s the abuse of any institution that gives those institutions bad reputations. And I can think of few worse abuses of religion, than trying to get somebody to commit to it against their will — over chicken cacciatore and a raspberry vinaigrette salad.
I didn’t let that incident sour me on Christianity, Christians, or the upside of that tradition. It did though, reinforce my stance on propagating any religion — that it should be made available, but never forced down anyone’s throat.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
This week by the numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 7
Mph Avg: 15.4
Seat Time: 11 hours 07 minutes
Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Los Cenzontles. Enjoy…