I read an amazing article yesterday written by a Christian and relating some of the religious right’s “activism” to Jesus’ teachings. I mean, it BLEW MY MIND. I immediately shared it out on Twitter but hesitated before sharing it out on Facebook. I tweeted about my nervousness and was reassured by a few people. But a few others were confused, “Why does being an atheist mean you can’t share out stuff like this on Facebook?”
And – it doesn’t. At all. But, here’s the thing. Actually – here’s TWO things.
1) There are Christians in my life that I love dearly and would never want to disrespect.
2) I have had experience with Fundamentalist Christians in the past that have taught me that some of them feel like an atheist commenting on Jesus or the Bible is disrespectful.
Am I being disrespectful in my mind? No. And do I think interpreting it as disrespectful is logical? No. But still…remember? Feelings are feelings, they don’t follow logical patterns. And I worry a lot about the people I know and I fear them thinking I’m disrespecting them or their religion.
Basically, my experience in the past with some Fundamentalists (most of my Christian friends and family are NOT Fundamentalists, by the way, which I think is why most of my Christian friends and family are LGBT supporters) relates to Jesus. They look at Jesus as the Son of God and their Savior whereas I’m like, “Cool guy that taught cool stuff.”
To many Fundamentalists, I must believe Jesus is either a Lunatic or a Liar (there’s actually literature entitled that) if I do not believe he’s the Son of God. Because, the Bible is truth and Jesus said he was the Son of God so I have to choose to either believe hew was crazy or lying. And if I believe either of those things about the Son of God or their Savior, they find that VERY disrespectful. At least some of them do.
The problem is, these Fundamentalists assume one postulate of truth that I don’t: That the Bible Is True. I don’t believe the Bible is any sort of truthful documentation of anything, so I can just believe Jesus was a guy who taught some cool stuff and I don’t have to worry about the rest. Maybe he was a liar. Maybe he was a lunatic. Or maybe he never said anything about being the son of God. Or Maybe he never even existed. None of it really matters to someone who doesn’t believe in the Bible as some sort of Truth Text From God.
If I found out my son’s math teacher was addicted to My Little Pony, that wouldn’t suddenly make her teachings untrue. If I found out Brené Brown was a pathological liar, it wouldn’t make my revelations about myself based on her books be false. I can still look a the Jesus’ teachings in the Bible and talk to the kids about them without having to worry about the truth behind his existence. The TEACHINGS are what’s important. As an atheist with no affection for the Bible? The rest is not.
And in my experience, some Fundamentalists look at those two paragraphs above and think that this attitude means that any time I talk about Jesus, I’m being disrespectful. That by using Jesus’ teachings to support my non-Biblical beliefs (like treating people in the LGBT community with respect) would be like someone from another country who burns our flag, using words from our constitution out of context to support their genocide.
Now, none of my Christian friends in YEARS have had this attitude. BUT! Since some in my past have, I get VERY paranoid about offending people. And “offending” them is not even the real issue, but to be perceived as being disrespectful? That concerns me. Because I’m that person that worries more about what people think of me, than I do about how they treat me.
Of course, the BIGGER issue is probably this: If someone on Facebook thinks I’m being disrespectful, then chances are – they don’t believe in gay rights and probably also believe my gay family are a bunch of sinners destined for Hell. So, in truth? Our friendship could never go that deep anyway, so why do I worry about someone whose friendship could only be surface level?
I don’t know. But I worry about them nonetheless. So, I posted the article but with the following accompanying status:
I always worry it might seem disrespectful to share out Christian writings as an atheist, but voices like this are so important to all LGBT teens questioning their faith. Support from people like me doesn’t help as much as support from people of similar religious beliefs. So, I feel like I need to share it…for them. But as I share it, I do it with respect, even as an outsider.
And y’all? It took me 30 minutes to do that! I kept deleting and retyping and rephrasing. I didn’t want to pander and be all, “I’m sorry if this hurts your feelings!” but I wanted people to know that I respect these Christian voices greatly because they are needed in the army of support. An LGBT teen questioning their faith is not going to value support from a heathen like me anywhere near as much as a Christian like Rachel Evans. And I really wanted to make sure I conveyed that. Like, I’m not sharing this to poop on your God and his son, I’m sharing this in the hopes that it will reach the LGBT teen questioning their faith in light of their sexual orientation.
So, even though I know 95% of my FB friends would not flinch over me sharing such a thing, I fret over the 5% that might.
But really…would you expect anything else from me at this point?
And do I wish I could say, “Screw those 5%!” and just post anyway? Sometimes. But here’s the REAL truth. If some of my 5% think that my gay family is destined for hell, then I believe I can convince them otherwise. SERIOUSLY. I believe if I respect their faith and keep posting articles like that from Rachel Evans, and keep telling my story and the story of my gay family, then one day it will be MY VOICE that will finally change their hearts. I truly believe that. And I can not change their hearts and bring them to my side by being disrespectful, so I try to avoid that. My Christian friends who already support LGBT rights? Hopefully they’ll share out the article too and change THEIR friend’s hearts.
That’s the truth. I don’t protect their feelings because I value them more than my supportive friends. I protect their feelings to keep the pathway of communication open so that someday they’ll see something I write or something I post and the switch will flip and they’ll say, “How can I possibly deny these people their right to spend their lives holding a covenant they so desperately want to share with the person they love?
That’s where my Faith lies. I believe that one day they’ll all be on my side. As long as I keep speaking with kindness and respect.
Naive? Yes. Definitely. Ego-Centric? OF COURSE. Necessary in the shifting the tides of cultural issues? Without a doubt.