I’ve been reading Rapture Ready! by Daniel Radosh. It’s a fairly good book, the writing is not amazing but it’s certainly engaging enough. So far, it’s about Radosh’s travels around America sampling bits and pieces of Christian pop culture, most of which are enough to send the average New York liberal into his reinforced 9/11 bunker. Being a lifelong New Yorker, as well as having been raised Unitarian Universalist, I haven’t had much experience with Evangelical Christians. I know a lot of Christians but few have ever tried to seriously convert me.
Reading Rapture Ready! has caused me to reflect on my upbringing. I was raised in a predominantly Roman Catholic neighborhood where virtually all of my peers went to one of two local churches. On Wednesdays during grade school, when my friends were allowed to leave a little early to attend Confirmation Class, the only kids left in the room were myself, a Jewish girl, and a smelly kid of unknown religious affiliation. I was jealous that my schoolmates were allowed to leave early until I found out what they were being taught. I wasn’t too popular as a little kid, but I wasn’t totally friendless. I think I was ostracized in part for not being Catholic, but largely for being a weird nerd in so many other dazzling ways.
I remember being in the first grade and blithely informing my friends that I didn’t believe in God. If I had been more articulate, I might have explained that what I was rejecting was this bizarre paternal figure who we’re told is peaceful and compassionate, yet heaps vengeance and punishment on people all the time. If I wasn’t six, I could have said that I didn’t subscribe to an anthropomorphic God, an all-knowing creator who gives a shit about our daily comings and goings. However, I had neither the vocabulary or the cognition to express myself fully, so I dropped my non-believer bombshell and my first grade classmates slowly moved away from me in terror. “You’re going to Hell!” they cautioned, or taunted, or both. “God hates you,” explained one girl, sadly, though she didn’t further clarify why I should care what a fictional character thinks of me. Possessing none of the emotional fortitude necessary for theological discussion, I burst into tears. I was still crying when I got home and told my grandma what happened. “Don’t worry,” she said in an exhale of cigarette smoke, “you’ll believe in God eventually.”
When I was around nineteen, I worked at a liquor store during the summer with a guy who was a self-professed born-again Christian. More than his being a Christian, I remember this dude was the BIGGEST Debbie Gibson fan I’d ever met. He had all of her albums and singles in every available format, and his most prized possessions were a half dozen unopened bottles of Gibson’s perfume, “Electric Youth.” He was a little weird and most of our co-workers avoided him, but I’d chat him up from time to time. “Being a Christian is the ultimate rebellion,” he explained to me one day, “because everywhere you go, you’re persecuted for what you believe.” I was confused by this statement, I had certainly known no one to be persecuted for being Christian in my neighborhood. Seemed to me that most everyone was Christian, meanwhile I was teased and called a Jew even though I had set foot in synagogues maybe three times in my life.
At the heart of this belief some Christians seem to share, that they are righteous and persecuted and need to keep up the good fight, is pretty much why Christians routinely freak me out. I think we should tolerate other beliefs, it’s part of harmonious society and people are so fixed in their trust in crazy shit that it’s less work to accept their craziness than it is to rectify it. However, part of my tolerance includes you not explaining any part of your belief system to me. Chances are, it’s ridiculous and going into detail about it will only make me lose respect for you. Virgin births, resurrection, wheels turning within wheels…it’s all a bit much, isn’t it? You’ll get fewer stares claiming to believe in Bigfoot than you will trying to explain the inner workings of the Mormon church. And the ridiculous part is that there’s no shortage of Mormons lining up to tell me all about it.
I guess my point is that I don’t really care if someone is a Christian any more than I care if they are homosexual. That’s something they do on their own time and it shouldn’t affect me. Similarly, I want to hear about your personal relationship with Jesus Christ about as much as I would like to see two dudes screwing. Or anyone screwing, really. I mean when you really watch two people have sex, even if the people are attractive, it’s pretty gross. But you don’t have to take my word for it, attend the next sermon this coming Sunday at my Church of Sextology. Bring a friend!