I went to Wheaton College – a big Evangelical Christian College in Illinois. I had just graduated but was still living near campus. I was going to move off campus and live the next year in Wheaton with a friend who was going to be a senior. During that next year, to make money to pay back loans, I was working days as a High School biology teacher and nights as a restaurant waiter. I never owned a car until ten years after college and that night I was riding my bike back from the restaurant job but a long train was stopped on the tracks blocking my return. I waited 10 minutes or so but the train did not budge. So I threw the bike over my shoulders and daringly climbed over the train.
That night I bragged to some friends about my daring climb and they told me they had just heard that the reason the train was stopped was because it ran over a student. The student was my future roommate. My world stood still.
My friend had been raised in Taiwan as the child of Christian missionaries. But Taiwan had changed him — and this is one of the reasons I was so attracted to him. But he did not fit well into Wheaton. He felt comfortable incorporating Taoist thoughts and did not believe non-believers would go to Hell. This was painful for his girlfriend too who felt his Christianity was unstable and she broke up with him two months earlier. Believing the right thing was very important at Wheaton.
The train conductor said my friend stood calmly on the tracks facing the train, sat down slowly on the tracks and laid his legs and neck across the rails. The conductor said he slammed on the brakes 1/4 mi before impact but could not stop the train.
Sometimes it is important to understand someone’s background when arguing philosophical issues. For it is our daily life and our history that feeds our beliefs much more than tight logic.