I have a lot of Christian friends who ask me to read their religious books – some fiction and others (pseudo)scientific or evangelical in nature. I feel very pressured culturally to take these books as it would be quite rude to refuse.
The problem arises when it’s time to return the book and the lender says, “How did you like it?” The blunt truth would be to say, “I hated it – what a waste of time!” but I could never be so tacky. But neither could I lie and say, “Oh, it was great!”
Where’s the middle ground here? Is there a polite way to tell the truth without making a big deal of it and shoving my disbelief in their faces? Or should I resort to the old trick of saying “I’ll read yours if you’ll read mine?” Help!
I get the idea that you’d prefer that they stop offering you that stuff entirely. You’re right, lying with “Oh it was great! I loved it!” is bound to get you deeper into trouble, and the brutal truth, “Don’t waste my time with this crap!” will probably also cause you trouble.
A truthful middle ground would probably be the best path. “Middle ground” of course doesn’t mean a half truth, it means being truthful with a mid-range of confrontational tone, so the effect is that they stop offering the books without stopping the friendship.
So maybe a casual statement like, “Oh, thanks, but I’m just not into that,” or “Oh it’s ok, but I’m just not interested in that right now.” It’s truthful, expresses a disinterest, and most likely it will not the first time they’ve heard it. A kind of shallow disinterest will probably turn them away gently where a strong rejection might stir up their sense of challenge or their resentment. Hopefully, eventually they’ll shrug their shoulders and look for someone else with whom to share their books, without starting The Shunning.
Only consider your idea of the book exchange if you really want to start an on-going atheist-Christian dialogue with these friends. Some of them may be mature enough for that, but others may not handle it in a positive, respectful way. In Mississippi you’re greatly outnumbered, and how many “discussions” with the immature ones are you willing to have?