Having Jesus over for tea
Welcome to another one of those can't-speak-publicly entries. I can smart off on solecist but cat.net is for thinking. Make no mistake, that is what this entry is -- thinking through keys -- and I write it with a great deal of worry about how it will go over.
I have never stated my religion publicly on this site. There are reasons for that: among other reasons, I am not sure if there's a name for people like me. In cases of religion, I am negative space, more easily defined by what I'm not than what I am.
I'm not Christian.
Those are words you just don't say out loud down here. The American South is permeated with religion; even our speech drips with phrases of religious origin. Even the speech of those of us who aren't in the majority.
Saying you're not Christian in the South isn't a death sentence, but it's not a recipe for social comfort, either. One of the easiest ways to get to know people here is to go to church with them. Not going that route immediately strips you of a social safety net, and I am adult enough to admit that I have seen my friends cared for by their fellow church members in times of need, and I have envied them.
But I can't be something I'm not, just for the sake of a bit of social comfort.
I've kept my mouth shut ever since Roy Moore. His stand over the Ten Commandments didn't baffle me quite as much as the citizenry's reactions did. I wanted to shake many of them collectively and to say, "Don't you see? They might be good guidelines to live by, but they're one religion's specific guidelines, and not everyone living in this state follows that religion!"
What I saw was that while there were decent people living here, decent folk who understood that not all of their neighbors necessarily shared their beliefs, there were people who just couldn't or wouldn't see that the rest of the world might not be like them.
The end result? People like me duck their heads. We shut our mouths when religion is brought up. Nobody wants to be 'tolerated' or 'accepted.' We just want to belong, and that's an entirely different animal.
Fast-forward to a recent work event. There was a small group of employees working it, and we were on the clock. In the final few minutes before the event started, we were gathered together in the staging area, and a quick announcement was made that we (those of us working) should have a prayer before we started the event.
I think I did a triple-take.
The funny thing is that the prayer was over fast, and took less time to say than one of the longer paragraphs here took to type, but I was so surprised and bewildered that I stood there in silence. I didn't bow my head, but instead just stood there with this quiet look on my face.
They were praying, but what was going through my head? "I don't really know this Jesus well enough to feel comfortable inviting him over for tea like this." It was a surreal, humorous moment, and I was grateful I didn't blurt out my thoughts.
I don't plan on doing anything about it. Realistically, there is no point in doing so. It would only serve to ostracize me from people who genuinely like [what they know of] me. It would do nothing to improve my work environment, and likely wouldn't change anything. I wasn't physically hurt or oppressed, but it did make the room an incredibly lonely place for me. I was keenly aware of not belonging.
I say this knowing full well that my silence did me no long-term favors. The people involved went home secure in their belief that what they did was the right thing for everyone involved, and did not learn that there was someone in the room who didn't share their viewpoint.
I wonder if they would be shocked if they knew.