As a priest, I have had several conversations about The Da Vinci Code. None have been as memorable as the one I enjoyed, not as a priest, but as a rock climber and a friend. On a winter evening in 2004, between runs up the wall at the climbing gym, one of the guys asked if I’d read the popular bestseller. I admitted I had not, and after asking for his impressions, promised that I would read it and get back to him. That simple question, and an honest reponse, initiated a spiritual conversation as thrilling as the climbing itself.
So it is with most spiritual conversations. We enter them unprepared, in the midst of other, seemingly irreligious activities. My most fruitful spiritual conversations have taken place in living rooms, coffee shops, ambulances and climbing gyms. They are the conversations I relish most as a priest, and yet they arise regularly in my personal, everyday relationships, the ones that all Christians share. It is through these spiritual conversations with everyday Christians in everyday situations that people reguarly come to faith in Christ.
If you are like most Christians, I imagine such spiritual questions have been asked of you by friends or family, and you have been equally unprepared. Why do you go to church? What is it like? What do you believe about this, or that? These conversations can provoke fear and anxiety for the average Christian. I belive this likely comes from an impression that we need to be Billy Graham, that a spiritual conversation only succeeds if it leads someone from spiritual nothingness to full-fledged discipleship. This is seldom true. Good spiritual conversations are seldom one-time encounters, but usually just another chapter in a long spiritual journey shared by two or more friends, in the venerable tradition of the Emmaus Road.
In my case, I was unprepared to answer my friend’s questions, being unfamiliar with the book he had read and the challenges to Christianity that it posed. A knee-jerk reaction would have ended the conversation, but with my offer to read the book and respond, we entered into a spiritual conversation that lasted months and led us to much deeper questions.
The Gospels record the spiritual conversations Jesus had with people in the midst of everyday life, such as the woman at the well. His followers, like Philip, carried on the tradition, and we as his disciples today are called, in fact commanded, to keep sharing the story.