|Luke, you handled this very very well (though your wife had great advice, too!). |
Teresa really hit this one on the head, though -- this cousin-in-law is not in a position to be able to love you (or perhaps, to be able to love anyone at all). This guy's timing was poor, but from his view he was thinking about getting you into that psycho-epistemological comfort zone that someone else had gotten him into (whether it was a person, the authors of the Bible, etc). From his view, the timing was perfect.
Catch 'em when they're down and out, that's when they'll eagerly listen to your sermon. That's when they'll be ready to "believe." It's highly-manipulative but that is the mystic mindset (and the mindset of many secular shysters and hypocrites, too). In my own dealings with similar "thinkers" I take a different approach (though I don't preach what I practice). My practice is to steer the discussion toward ethical individualism as much as is possible. This just happened to me today:
My aunt is a Christian Fundamentalist. She was ranting about how the world's problems would be solved if all humans just took 2 steps:
(1) Follow the 10 Commandments as if they were from God, himself
(2) Accept the Lord, Jesus Christ, as your Savior
At one point, she directed the discussion at me (her sister was there, too -- but she addressed me, personally):
"Eddie" [my relatives call me Eddie], she said, "don't you also agree that the answers are right there in those 2 things?"
I said that there is a lot of helpful wisdom in the writings of Paul (the dude who wrote the last several books of the Bible). And proceeded to bring up points in the Bible that appear to be championing ethical individualism. She cut me off. Apparently, she did not want to have to think any harder about the issue -- this issue which she preferred to believe would be solved for everyone, if only everyone took those 2 simple steps toward Grace. Knowing the Bible better than most religionists do can be helpful in those cases where you prefer to engage them in debate. Ironically, in THIS CASE, it actually turned her (the mystic) off and served as a discussion-stopper!
So, while I really think that you handled this very, very well (and that your wife's advice rocks) -- I'd personally handle it differently; and that doesn't take anything away from the way that you handled it.
(Edited by Ed Thompson on 3/23, 9:09pm)