I am usually quite open with my friends, and even with this blog about what I am thinking about, about what I believe, and about who I am. In thinking about what I’ve blogged about in the past, I realized that I have never (or almost never?) mentioned my religion. As we label ourselves with so many modifiers why do we not foreground our religions (or status as atheists or agnostics) in the same way?
Many of my close friends know that I have both Christian and Jewish family, but I think that most of my friends assume that I am an atheist or at least agnostic.
I am in fact a Christian. And yet I seem not to talk about it much. I wonder why. Here are the reasons I can think of that might be relevant:
- Because Christianity is a dominant religion in the United States, I am uncomfortable discussing my Christianity.
- I worry that discussing my Christian beliefs will make others feel that I don’t respect their beliefs or that I am just humoring them. I worry that it will interfere with my ability to communicate respect with my non-Christian friends (most of my friends?). I think this is strongly related to number 3.
- I am ashamed of the way that Christianity has been coopted by the conservative right in this country. I know that people associate Christianity with people trying to convert others without listening to them, respecting what they have to say, or taking them seriously. Conversions are used as sort of notches in someone’s belt – proof that they are true believers. And Christianity is used as a way to avoid logic and debate and to institute laws at national, state, and international levels that oppress people.
- I worry that people won’t take my logical arguments seriously (see number 3).
Here are some reasons that those reasons are silly:
- I speak about privilege in other contexts – about white privilege, heterosexual privilege, male privilege, and social and economic class privilege. I know that this isn’t the real reason I don’t talk about my beliefs.
- This may be true with acquaintances or people who I don’t know but I hope my friends know that I respect them so it doesn’t explain why I don’t really talk about it with them, or with Quench.
- Should this be a reason to avoid the topic? Perhaps it is a reason to actually bring it up occasionally and try to take away the hold that the Dark Side claims to have. (sweet, star wars references!)
- Maybe I should just be logical and that issue would be solved.
Well, step one of not hiding my religion is to explain how I got involved in activism in the first place.
Christianity was begun by a servant-leader who put the lives of oppressed people ahead of his own. He spent his time helping and glorifying people who were hated by others of his time period – he helped lepers (who many were afraid of or judged as immoral) and told stories of a Samaritan who was hated by society and yet was the epitome of what is good. A woman at his time had access to very few resources, and yet Jesus said what she was willing to give to the community was worth more than what a rich man gave.
The old testament/torah chronicles a people attempting to free themselves from slavery, a god who teaches people to love their neighbors, and families, and people who are wise enough to make peace at times when it seems impossible.
Jesus was recognized as a leader and as a messiah and yet he took the time to wash the feet of his followers and to thank others who were less fortunate than he was. At this time of year, as Easter comes closer, I think about what Christianity says about sacrifice. Jesus sacrificed everything that he had so that others could inherit everything that is important.
Unconditional love in the bible teaches Christians that we need to work to respect everyone in the world as if they are our family and closest friends. This means actively pursuing an end to racism, an end to incarceration and the prison industrial complex, it means an end to war, it means an end to sexism, it means a fair financial world, it means ending ableism, it means taking care of our future generations, valuing all love and all sex, stopping violence of all kinds, and it means no excuses.
I got involved in radical activism because the bible told me to. I have met the most amazing, great people on the way. And to be honest, most of them share my Christian roots – because by Christian, I mean radical justice activists who are willing to look beyond current power structures and look to others for support because they acknowledge their limits as an individual. These beliefs are not exclusive to any single religion, of course, but some so-called Christian leaders would have us think that they are incompatible with Christianity.
George Bush and Fred Phelps can’t take Christianity away from its radical roots. Shame on them and others for trying.
(I would be curious to know if there are aspects of their identities that other quench bloggers or readers have noticed themselves not talking about, and also interested in how your religion, religious background, or lack there of interacts with your activism and how you relate to religious activists [like me]. For example, how did you feel when reading this post? Would it be better if I just kept my religious views to myself?)