I spent this weekend helping my best friend out with Archaeology Days at the Delf Norona Museum in Moundsville. It’s something we’ve been doing for several years now, ever since she worked for the museum there. It’s a great time. My old friend is an archaeologist who lives in central West Virginia, so it gives us a chance to get together and catch up, as well as showing people how Native Americans actually did things. Each year, we give people a chance to grind corn, work a pump drill, and make pinch pots. It really is a blast, but this year something happened which stuck in my mind enough for me to want to share it with you folks and see what you thought.
Late Saturday, a church group came through. They’d been touring the former Federal Penitentiary across the street and had come in to see what we were up to. They were quite pleasant and not obnoxiously Christian; indeed, the only references were a cross around one girl’s neck, the sweatshirt with “Jesus” written on it that another girl was wearing, and a mention in passing of who they were. I don’t even know what denomination they were and I might wear a cross or a Christian t-shirt on a similar trip. I was showing them how to work a pump drill, which, to my mind, is a marvelous piece of engineering which was used by Native Americans. It’s a neat piece of engineering, and my friend has four handmade pump drills with flint tips which we use for these demonstrations. After I’d demonstrated them and got people to try working them, a man who was with the group asked if they were for sale. I told him they weren’t, but did tell him how to make one. He asked if he could buy one of the ones we’d brought, and again, I told him they weren’t and that we brought them for demonstrations. He continued to try to get me to sell me one, and I continued to politely refuse. Finally, he said to me, “Everything has a price.”
I looked him straight in the eye, and told him, “Not in my religion.” Around then, my friend returned from some other business she’d been taking care of. I mentioned his interest in buying a pump drill and she, too, told him they weren’t for sale. At that point, he gave up.
I’m a devout, liberal Christian, which will come as no suprise to most of you. I’m also rather sensitive to the image Christians present when we’re identifying ourselves as such in public. Forget my pagan friends; I get a little leery of being told I’m on the wrong path because of my liberality because it’s happened on-line and in real life. I know that being a Christian does not automatically mean one is a good person and that just because one is with a church group doesn’t necessarily mean one is actually a Christian. My agnostic father still came to church picnics and other church activities. Still, I was taken aback by what to me is such an un-Christian statement coming from a man who was with a group of self-identified Christians. He was told the pump drills were not for sale and why. To try to persuade me to sell him one of them anyway, to me, is to ask me to do something unethical. The ironic thing is, he probably had no idea I was a volunteer who drives a couple of hours each way to do this and is out of pocket not only for the gas money, but also for half of a hotel room and meals for this. The time I spend with an old friend and showing people something knew is well worth the money spent.
So, Dopers, what would you have done in this situation? Also, if he had asked what religion I follow, I would have been tempted to use the term a Wiccan friend uses to refer to me: “Episco-Pagan”. What would you have said, and what do you make of this?