Delta Airlines, seat 9c, Ruth was in 9a.
9b — between us — was empty.
I asked if she lives in St. Louis.
“I go to school there.”
“Wow, I could never do that. Must be hard.”
“It’s a challenge but I love it. And you?”
“College campus ministry. Headed to our national staff conference in St. Louis. Ever heard of InterVarsity? There’s a chapter at your school.”
“Yeah, one of my friends goes to InterVarsity. What do you do there?”
Only 60 seconds gone and I was fully engaged. She was sharp, conversational, mature.
“We study the Bible and try to apply it to our lives. You ever read the Bible?”
“I’m Jewish, Reformed. Not really practicing Judaism. So, no.”
“How do you define what it means to be Jewish? I’m told by my rabbi friend that it’s an on-going discussion in the Jewish community.”
“True. Not everyone agrees on a definition. My parents are both Jewish, so I was born into it.”
We talked a bit more about Jewish identity — Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed, secular. Something along those lines. Then she asked about my Christianity.
“I’m an evangelical Christian.”
“What does evangelical really mean?”
“Evangelicals believe in the authority of the Bible and all that it teaches about Christ and salvation.”
“So you take the Bible literally?”
This question comes up frequently in my travels. I was ready for her.
“Just the literal parts,” I responded.
After a moment’s pause she looked me dead in the eye and said abruptly, “Am I going to hell? Please tell me. I want to know what you think. I won’t be offended by what you say.”
Next week: the middle of our conversation.