April 4, 2010

Looking past the cover

I received an e-mail from my friend and roommate Matt a few weeks ago with a link to a story online. For a couple of reasons, I hadn't made the time to read it until today. Since I am getting home late these days, I have only made quick scans of e-mails, and the longer stories were marked to read later. The other reason was that the link was to a story on the Huffington Post, and the link had in the title, "6-questions-for-an-athies".

Oddly enough, I have never visited the Huffington Post (though I hear Arianna Huffington as a commentator on the podcast Left, Right and Center). And the title in the link kind of made me a little suspicious going in. What sort of story was I going to find sent by a conservative believer to a liberal agnostic. And again, I don't describe myself as an atheist so that gave me a little extra tweak. I did not intentionally leave the story to the day of Easter, but this morning it seemed appropriate to finally click the link.

What I found was a great interview with the author of In the Land of Believers: An Outsider's Extraordinary Journey into the Heart of the Evangelical Church. It is the story how the author, a self-proclaimed atheist, goes undercover in the megachurch in Lynchburg, Virginia founded by Jerry Falwell. As the interviewer says:
In the end, she came out -- as we all should -- more understanding of our religious neighbors. Her book is a great example of how those on any side of the religious, political, or cultural divide can retire our preconceived notions by walking a mile in someone else's shoes and come out a more tolerant and well-rounded individual because of it. In that sense, we should all try to emulate Welch's open-mindedness.
It is an interesting interview about the author's motives and experiences, and I have placed the book in my 'to-read' queue. It was also an interesting lesson. The author attends the church to get past pre-conceived notions by meeting real people, hearing their stories and getting a taste of their lives. Theses caricatures and stereotypes we knowingly or unknowingly perpetuate get in the way of honest communication and real understanding.

I had a pre-conceived notion when I saw the link that made me hesitate to click it. I had my own little knee-jerk reaction, even though the story was coming from a friend. But I came back to it eventually and found a great article and story. Check it out.

The rest of Easter was great. We attended a nice service at church this morning and then headed to a friend's house for more fun and a nice dinner. We even had an earthquake (7.2 centered near the Mexican border) and a small fire on the patio to make the day that much more memorable.

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend