It happens to almost all of us at some point, and it recently happened to me. I was sitting quietly on the couch when I heard a knock at the door. Opening it revealed two door-to-door missionaries, in this case Mormons, resplendent in white shirts and dark slacks, looking entirely too happy to be there. It happened that my wife was due home with supper soon, so I used that as an excuse to put them off in the hope that they would forget about returning. But return they did, a few days later. This time I went to the rope-a-dope, being as polite as possible in expressing my satisfaction with my relations with the Almighty while avoiding any specifics that would give them an opening for discussion. Eventually they realized nothing was going to be accomplished, so they moved on.
I’ve given some thought to that encounter, especially my actions. Why didn’t I gird my loins and engage them in lively conversation? After all, I’ve read enough about Mormonism to wonder about some of its more… er…interesting aspects. I could have at least asked them what luck of the draw got them Pierre instead of someplace like Ethiopia, and whether they considered that a good thing. Instead I basically curled up like a hedgehog and waited for them to tire out.
The shallow reason is I wasn’t in the mood. I was enjoying my evening and didn’t want to interrupt it by arguing with a couple of strangers. More to the point, I didn’t feel like engaging in a discussion that had no hope of accomplishing anything other than perhaps determining who had greater patience with the other. I certainly wasn’t going to join the Latter Day Saints, and anyone who has the conviction necessary to cheerfully (at least apparently; if they were faking it they were doing a fine job) engage in missionary work isn’t likely to be swayed by the likes of me. That at best leaves agreeing to disagree, which hardly seems worth the trouble.
As for treating it as an opportunity to learn more about their faith to satisfy intellectual curiosity, that would have violated a basic rule for dealing with people with Conviction: don’t get them started. Had I popped that cork I likely would have had to forcefully replace it. The end result would likely have been general irritation, which would have spoiled everyone’s evening. Perhaps under different circumstances, such as a discussion group or a classroom-type setting, I would be more inclined to pursue an inquiry, but not one (or two) on one in my living room.
I guess it comes down to apathy. As long as they do me no harm, I don’t care enough about their religion to inconvenience myself arguing about it.