Sunday, January 09, 2005

I have spent a fair amount of time by now observing and ruminating upon the phenomenon of flirtation. In particular of late it has struck me as intriguing and somewhat amusing the way serious Christians flirt. We do flirt of course, and anybody who imagines that serious Christians are stodgy and unflirtatious has either been scaring them or else doesn't know very many. What intrigues me is the way we flirt. When a boy and a girl meet each other and experience that heady spark of attraction, the conversation can generally be relied upon to turn towards the verbal equivalent of a mating dance. Just as a peacock or a topi will advertising his good genes to a particular mate by showing off his superfluous, calorie-sucking ornamentation, or just as a marmoset will advertise his attractiveness by displaying his ability to gather food or care for small children, so we too try to figure out and display what will impress the object of our attractions.

Generally speaking we all do it, I have observed, though not everybody is conscious of the fact when it happens. It happens like this. One person will ask the other a question: perhaps what they're studying in school, or what they did over the winter break. The other person answers truthfully, but the rhetoric of his or her answer is shaped by an underlying desire to advertise, "I am a kind, caring, or whatever-else-is-important-to-you human being." So we talk about the importance of family to us, or we are sure to bring up the video games we play, or the sports we do, trying to figure out what constitutes "good genes" in the other person's eyes. This is self-interested in two ways. One, it potentially lures a potential mate closer to us. Two, if we are honest about what we advertise, it potentially serves to warn the other person early that "I would not make a good mate for you; don't get too heavily invested."

Christians do this too, and we're generally concerned about the same advertising as everybody else. But we also take care to advertise our Christianity. It's usually not as blatant as just saying it outright, listed among your hobbies say. It might be pointing out that we have to go to church tomorrow (which implies that it's important to us to go to church tomorrow) or remarking upon that as one of the things we did over a weekend or vacation, or it might find its way (if we're feeling really bold) into an explanation of why we are doing what we are doing. If I am merely telling you why I am in law school I will spin you a [true] story about a certain dinner conversation and the things about the practice of law that appeal to me, both intellectual and lifestyle. If I am feeling comfortable with you, or if I feel that it is critical at this stage in our flirtation that you understand that when I say "I'm Christian" I mean it and mean something very serious by it, then I will tell you I am in law school because this is where God called me, which is no less more or less true than the previous answer but more important.

Next time you have a chance to observe a single Jesus person flirting with people of uncertain religious background, watch and see. I personally find it highly amusing, even when I'm the Jesus person I'm observing. But I wanted to make the observation that beyond its obvious amusement value, this practice of ours is a blessing. For when it meets with a like answer it has all at once established a foundation from which flirting may in good conscience proceed. This is one of the ways in which the magnificent and formidable lady Nari has blessed me in our short interactions. For the difficulty is that when this signal is not recognized as a query as to the flirtee's religious convictions, all that follows is in reality wheel-spinning - but only one party will recognize that. And it is very hard in that circumstance to be knightly, which you must be at all costs. So tip to anybody who is interested in seriously flirting with me: find a way to tell me where you stand on religion and why. We'll have much more fun that way, whatever your answer is.

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