Shutting Down Conversation – Or a Mea Culpa Post

Normally I’m pretty adept at asking non judgmental questions and waiting for answers that may lead to conversation, but for some reason there are a couple of triggers that stop me dead.  It happened twice this weekend.  
The first was on Main Street.  Several people had set up a political kiosk with literature demanding the impeachment on President Obama, declaring, among other things, that he had sold out the country by giving away our nuclear capabilities.  I was surprised that most of the literature on the table was under the name of Lyndon LaRouche.  I thought he was dead, or at least his movement was.  More than that, the several people handing this stuff out were young adults in their early to mid-twenties who showed some evidence of being reasonably well educated.   What I would like to have done is visit with them enough to find out what inspired them to follow a man like LaRouche who is, if nothing else, strange.  It’s not just that he is affectionately regarded by Maoists and Tea Party types alike, but neither seems to see the irony in that.  I would like to have patiently asked questions and listened, but I didn’t.  Instead I challenged with the unanswerable question; Why would you follow a nut like LaRouche?  That pretty much ended it. 
The second was equally cold hearted on my part.  An elderly man and his wife stopped me, and many others, in the grocery store.  He was handing out his own non denominational religious tracts.  I took one to be polite.  Glancing at it, one sentence  caught my eye:  “Your standing before God depends on your acceptance of Jesus Christ.”  He said, hopefully, “I see you are interested.”  What I should have done was ask him to tell me more about what inspired him to hand them out and what he hoped might happen as a result.  What I said instead was, “I think you need to rethink your theology a bit.  This sentence puts all the burden of our salvation on us.  My standing, and anyone’s standing, before God is dependent on God, not on me.”  Now let’s face it, not only did my rudeness stop any useful conversation, but my own sentence needs more than a little unpacking to hold any water as a theological position.  
The point is that I shut down two opportunities to learn something from people whose world views are vastly different from mine.  I don’t think I’m the only one who does that.  I suspect it’s a common fault.  If I am to be an effective minister of God’s grace it might be helpful to know how to talk to a follower of LaRouche or exchange the peace of God with someone whose understanding of salvation is so very much at odds with my own.  It’s getting a little late in life to work on that, but I’ll give it a shot.