Politics and Religion: What Happened in Conversation with “Cookie”

The first time I met “Cookie” at our coffee shop, he asked me if I was a famous violinist, which made me erupt with laughter—I am not musically talented! Over time, I had many other “chance” encounters with Cookie. Our talks were always brief and light.

Then one day in the coffee shop, Cookie sat down right at my table, which wasn’t typical. He started ranting about politics and religious people. My first thought was, “Oh, great! The two topics I usually avoid.” My second thought was a silent prayer, “Oh dear God, help me!”

Then God reminded me of what I learned at a conference a few weeks prior, and I sensed a need to approach this differently than I would have before. God was urging me to practice the new ideas I had just learned.

So, as Cookie ranted, I listened intently. Instead of trying to “fix him,” I asked questions, curiously seeking out how his life events had led him to such conclusions. I was especially curious about his view of God and Christians. I also began to silently lift up prayers for him. As he began to unpack his experiences from childhood, something mysterious started happening in me: overwhelming compassion and love for this hurting person began to flow within me. Suddenly I understood how he had developed the beliefs that he had about God and Christians.

As we were finishing our coffee and getting ready to leave, Cookie said, “What about you? You never told me what you believe.” I told him that I am a Christian and briefly shared what I believe about God. “Wow!” he exclaimed. “You didn’t respond the way most Christians respond—you actually listened to me and cared about me as a person.”

The new tools I was practicing were some of the 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations. Had I left these tools in my toolbox, neither Cookie nor I would have had that profound experience. In fact, without practicing these new tools, I would guess that our conversation would have only solidified his views of God and Christians. What I found was that because I was praying, listening, asking questions, and loving in that interaction with Cookie, he became open and curious to listen when I was openly sharing the gospel. It was amazing! These practices are based on the ways that Jesus interacted with others, and I can say from my experience with Cookie that they are easy and they work—even when politics and religion spill over in a coffee shop.

– Betty, Ottawa, IL