On Feeling the Need to Apologize When People Find Out I’m a Christian

I remember the way your face looked when you found out I was “religious.” I expect I always will.

The way your shoulders tensed and your chin jutted out—just a little, but enough. You suddenly focused on your drink. Your eyes narrowed. It didn’t look like you were afraid. If anything, you were the opposite. I’d compare it to the look of a wolf defending her cubs. Or, more appropriately, a wounded soldier preparing to show that she has some fight left in her. 

There are any number of people who have a reason to bristle against my being a Christian. My religious community has kept women from being respected, black people from voting, other racial minorities from feeling safe, religious minorities from having their voices heard and even kept intelligent people from using their research to help mankind. If you’ve got a gripe against my religion, get in line.

But you’re gay. And you might not know where to even begin with religion. I wouldn’t.

I fought the urge to leap right to defending myself, countering whatever you were thinking before you even said it. “Yes, I’m a Christian,” I wanted to shriek. “But I know what you’re thinking and I’m not that kind of Christian!” Then it would all come tumbling out. Something about how I voted for Obama and I like Brokeback Mountain and I’ve got gay friends and all that. Pretty stupid stuff, but you understand my position. It’s not that I’m ashamed of what I believe. It’s that I’m ashamed of the perception of my beliefs, and I think that the perception is sometimes valid.

I also fought the urge to just start rattling off my Apology on Behalf of All Christians Everywhere. About how I’m sure you’ve faced a lot of hate and there’s no excuse and I know that every time you’ve tried to speak up for your rights, my religious community has claimed that we were being discriminated against, and that’s awful, and I acknowledge that, so will you please just issue me some sort of Forgiveness of Behalf of All Gay People Everywhere.

But I didn’t say any of that. You didn’t say much either. We just stared at each other across the chasm that had opened between us—two people who had, until then, been getting along swimmingly.

No, it’s not fair for either of us. It’s not fair that you’re an outcast. It’s not fair that I’m grouped in with lunatic fringes of my religion. But it’s where we both find ourselves, and so here we so incontrovertibly are. You’re known as an oddity and I’m known as a bigot. Maybe, somewhere in there, we can find some sort of common ground to start on. Maybe, in our mutual misunderstandings, we can start fresh.

I don’t mean for any of this to come across as me telling you how hard it is to be a straight, white, Christian male. I don’t doubt that, of all possible demographics in this country, white straight Christian men have it the easiest.

It’s just that I am so tired of it. It’s exhausting, being lumped in with an oppressive majority. All the apologizing, all the disavowing hate and fear and persecution. Everywhere I turn, I bump into someone else with a just claim against my religion.

And each time, there is nothing to say but “sorry.”

And each time, there is nothing to hope except that we’re all learning.

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4 Comments

  1. Hmmm. Amen.

    Reply
  2. So well written. Thanks.

    Reply
  3. Caroline

     /  October 17, 2013

    just found this through relevant.com and it’s so helpful. i have a couple of new friends who are gay and i foresee this type of interaction to come in the near future. good to read your thoughts and pray our conversations also unfold in a similar way.

    Reply
  4. Cassandra

     /  October 19, 2013

    I know this sentiment so well and it truly is challenging to fight the urge to apologize, especially when talking to someone who may feel marginalized by the Church. I often find that when people respond with “oh, you’re religious?” it is incredibly hard to stop myself from launching into a diatribe on faith vs. religion. Or the need to explain to them that I’m practically a democratic socialist. Or that I don’t think evolution and divine creation are mutually exclusive. Or that Jesus and I have many conversations about homosexuality.

    So thank you. It’s nice to know there are others in the proverbial boat along side me.

    Reply

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