Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Liars for Jesus
This morning started with me being told that I am an unreliable person and a liar because I profess no god belief. That’s, um, that’s really not the best start to the morning. It’s also damn impolite, considering that I was told this in the comments on my own blog by someone who hadn’t heard of me until last week, has never been in the same room as me and who had, in fact, been extremely disingenuous to me. It’s interesting, though, that I would be getting so worked up over being told that I am untrustworthy because I have no god belief. I, myself, am getting to the point where I don’t really trust Christians. However, that statement needs about a dozen qualifications, so I’m writing a blog post on the topic. Overall I don’t distrust “Christians.” I don’t think “Christian” tells me any more about the inherent trustworthiness of an individual than “atheist,” “left handed,” or “resident of Kansas City, MO.” I can, however, identify an internet troll, and even though I’m always a little disappointed when someone turns out to be a troll, I’m rarely completely surprised. You can’t really trust people on the internet. But you have to draw a line somewhere, offer some form of benefit of the doubt until it’s not worth it. The thing that surprises me, though, is when I find out that people I know in real life, people I’ve always assumed knew better, turn out to be little better than internet trolls. Honestly, that hurts just a little bit. Sometimes it hurts a lot. Leaving Christianity was not an easy decision. I’ve tried to cover that in various ways and come at it from various angles on this blog. A while ago I wrote a post on the moment I realized I had to be honest with everyone no matter the cost. I’d been covering up because I didn’t want to have to deal with the fallout. But one day I was talking to a guy who was, well, kind of an ass to begin with and he was going on about how some actor claimed to be a Christian but really wasn’t because of this, that, and the other. It pissed me off that this guy could have the arrogance to judge someone like that. Then I realized that I couldn’t say I was any better. There I was, still pretending to be an insider while silently judging someone. It’s never fun to see yourself in the mirror like that. It’s also really sad to find out that I’m not afforded the same consideration I try to give to others. See, it’s one thing if an internet troll shows up and says, “I just want to have a discussion,” then proceeds to not listen to a word you say and rams useless evangelical tactics down your throat. There’s a reason we call these people “trolls” and not “unicorns” or “friendly woodland nymphs.” A troll doesn’t care about me and I don’t care about the troll. However, on several occasions since I went public with my departure from Christianity I’ve heard from Christians I knew, in some cases for years and years, with the same exact troll tactics. “I’m not going to try to re-convert you,” they say. Then they do. And all of the sudden a friend has become an annoyance at best or an enemy at worst. This, of course, isn’t something that happens all the time. I’ve got this one particular ex who I would completely trust if she came to me and said, “I’m not going to try to re-convert you.” Hell, she did that not so long ago. The problem is that I couldn’t trust anything else she said to me. I guess that’s what happens when your main opinion of someone is, “She’s a manipulative control freak.” But that’s neither here nor there. During the year that most directly contributed to my decision to leave Christianity I was the Outreach Coordinator for an on-campus ministry at my university. That, I suppose, should count as a great deal of irony. I wasn’t a very good Outreach Coordinator. But not for the reasons you’d think. I’ve got nothing against evangelism. Over the course of the time I’ve maintained this blog I’ve evangelized for storytelling, Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, Local H, The Saw Doctors, Lucky Boys Confusion, HTC, Sharp Aquos TVs (or, at least, if I haven’t I should have. I love my 37” Aquos), Grand Theft Auto IV, Team Fortress 2, Maker’s Mark, baseball, Craig Ferguson, Creative Zen mp3 players, and probably dozens of other things. It’s a natural human tendency to want to share the things that make us happy with people who may or may not know about those things. Oh, speaking of: Glenlivet 18 year and Lagavulin 16 year. Great single-malt scotch right there. Yeah, it’s expensive, but the finer things usually are. Oh, and speaking of expensive alcohols, try to find Metropolitan Brewery, Two Brothers, and Lagunitas. I can’t recommend them enough. Where was I? Oh, right. Evangelism. One of those things that I realized at some point before I was an Outreach Coordinator was that no matter the number of times I was told that not evangelizing for Jesus was a sign that I was ashamed and I was running the risk of, um, making baby Jesus cry or something, I just didn’t want to do it. I don’t know that I was ashamed of the Gospel. What I realize now, and probably realized then, even if I didn’t want to admit it, was that I was never happy as a Christian. That should be the root of evangelism. If you truly believe something and if that something makes you happy, you shouldn’t have any trouble sharing it with people. There’s no place in the world I want to be more than a Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers show and, dammit, I want you to know that because I think that you should be able to share in that experience. But I always went to church because it was what I was supposed to do. I was going to go in to ministry because I thought it was what would make god happy. I gave no thought to what would make me happy, nor did I really believe that this thing I secretly hated would make anyone else happy. I remember sitting in church one day listening to some sermon I’d heard six times before in one variation or another and thinking, “Do I really have to do this for the rest of my life?” I was 23 or 24 at the time, so I was still gung-ho about going to seminary and becoming a pastor. But church bored me. Church didn’t offer me anything I hadn’t heard a thousand times before. This should have been a red flag. Especially when you consider that I’ve seen Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers seven or eight times since 2006 and I’ve honestly stopped keeping track of how many Local H shows I’ve been to. I do know that I saw them on the 21st and 23rd of May, though. Oh, and those shows were kind of bookended by RCPM shows on 5/15 and 5/28. That’s just how I roll. Either way, I would never dream of walking up to someone and saying, “I’m not going to talk to you about Roger Clyne.” It’s a stupid promise. I’ll talk about the things that make me happy. If you don’t want to hear about it I won’t bring it up. Yet I’ve been approached by Christians who tell me they won’t try to evangelize to me. The ones that say that are extremely likely to do exactly what they promised me they wouldn’t do. You know what that tells me? All those years I went to church with that particular person, all those conversations we had, all those things we did don’t actually mean a damn thing. I’m not a person. I’m just a name and a label. All they ever cared about was that we were on the same side. Being lied to sucks. I can’t think of anything that hurts worse than finding out that you’re not actually a person to someone else. I think it’s deceptively easy to figure out who is who, too. If I randomly hear from or run in to someone I haven’t heard in a while and they ask what I’ve been up to, I can generally figure they actually give a shit about me (well, except in the case of that one ex…). If I randomly hear from someone who tells me they’re not trying to get in touch with me to tell me about Jesus, I can generally assume that they’re planning on working an angle. Oh, and it seems that they think I’m really, really dumb. It sucks, though. I don’t want to think of my friends as insurance salesmen. All in all, though, I’m not often pleasantly surprised.