Something that I haven’t experienced in a while happened over the weekend. I was helping my grandfather’s friends in the Shriners load 400lbs of Vidalia onions they are storing at my shop, after cordial greetings and solid tough guy man hand shakes of course, when the one gentleman asks if I was a Shriner.
My response was a light head shake in the negatory and a simple “nope”. He, as was to be expected, then asked “when I would be a Shriner”. Knowing as I do, the organization at hand and the impossibility of my fraternite’ within it, I immediately knew it was walking on eggshells time.
My response was the standard that I give to such invitations from similar groups, smiling sincerely now, “due to differences in philosophy or world view which you and my grandfather can discuss if you wish, I simply would not be able to join.”
Now came a moment of contemplation on his part, he looked to the onions in the bed of the truck considering what such a difference could be, his eyes then widened, turned to me and asked “do you believe in god?”
I was still smiling, for I knew where this was going from the moment we started our dance. I simply and calmly, with a smile still, answered “No I don’t” and then waited. Two things were about to happen, a debate or an abrupt end to the discussion.
To my approval, it was simply the end of the conversation. But something interesting started, otherwise why would I be telling you about this. He immediately had to get away from me, he quickly changed in posture and moved to the far side of the struck where my grandfather and his other friend were talking. No words, just staring at me uncertainly, just a need to back away and regroup. Regaining some of his posture he shook my hand right before they left but it was cold and wet now, no longer the healthy rigid shake or eye contact from a mere moment before.
The Shriners expect a deistic admission, at least, to be granted into their ranks and I wonder if they will ever realize the number of people like me who could enthusiastically and very heavily help in person and or financially if they could look beyond such trivial matters.
So, I think of Christopher Hitchens and one of his devious maxims: “Here is my challenge. Let someone name one ethical statement made, or one ethical action performed, by a believer that could not have been uttered or done by a nonbeliever.” Henceforth The Foundation Beyond Belief is where I still give my charity and shall be for some time as we still deal with the diversity of identity in these “most modern of times”.
-Thoughts from Chris Hanna