Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On Not Being Christian

I realize that I haven't been posting as regularly as I should be.  The truth is, I've been a little down, and by a little down, I mean I've been very maudlin and pessimistic and alienated and all that fun stuff.  I feel like I don't fit in here at all, and a lot of the reason that I don't fit in is because I'm not Christian.  And I feel a little stifled about it, as if it's a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" sort of situation.  Everyone assumes that, if you aren't wearing a burqua, a headscarf, or a yarmulke, that you are of course Christian.   And that if I'm not, I really should keep my mouth shut and nod and smile. 

There was the situation at the "good" zumba class, the one that I pay extra for outside of the gym I'm actually a member of.  I overlooked the fact that we do a zumba routine to a pop-country song about "Save a horse, Ride a Cowboy."  It's ridiculous, but I figure we are in cowboy country, it's sort of inevitable.  But then last week the instructor said we were going to be learning a routine very near and dear to her heart, a routine to a Christian hip hop artist who lives in our community.  She said that we are going to practice these songs (there are actually two of them) and then she would video tape us doing them and put them up on her facebook page so that other zumba instructors would see it and want to use it in their class and we could help spread the love of Christ.  I was looking around the class to see if anyone else seemed to feel uncomfortable with this, but everyone was clapping and cheering.  I just went along with it.

There is a sign you pass as you enter Stillwater that says "Attend the Church of Your Choice on Sunday!"  There are a lot of bumper stickers that say "Invite Someone to Church Once a Month!" The Mother's of Preschoolers group is religiously affiliated.  Even the preschool I am sending Elsa to is at a church.  I struck up a conversation with someone who seemed cool at the library, and we decided to start meeting at the park once a week; I discovered at the park that she considers herself "deeply religious" and that everything she does in her life she does because she loves God.  And that she's considering homeschooling.  I mean, she's a lovely person and all, but I don't know that we will ever be able to connect that well if our views are so different.  I don't think she's seen my bumper stickers yet. 

I started really noticing this feeling a couple of weeks ago when there was this festival called Celebration Stillwater that was put on by the churches of Stillwater; I actually wrote this next bit as soon as we returned from this fuction, but then I wasn't sure if I should post it, because I really don't want to offend people that I know and love that are Christians.  So if I know you and love you and you are Christian and you've never tried to convert me, then this isn't about your kind of Christian. Here it is:

We had gotten a flier about "Celebration Stillwater" from school earlier, but we had decided not to go, figuring it would be aggressively religious.  But they must have talked it up at school a lot, because the girls came home on Friday practically peeing themselves with excitement about Celerbration Stillwater! so we figured we'd better go.

And I'm glad we did, all in all.  There was horse-back riding-- not ponies, mind you, but full-on horses!  Charlotte and Ramona each rode a horse, and I went on with Elsa.  She was skeptical, but decided it was good.  There were bounce houses, free oil changes (weird, right?), free health and dental check-ups, and, get this, free "hot dogs, cookies, and cokes!"  I can't even think those words in my head without supplying the Oklahoma accent. And for the most part, the religiocity was confined to people's tee shirts(a lot of which were aggressively, almost offensively Christian,) and the christian rock that was playing.  Well, yes, there was a prayer tent, but you know what you're getting into if you go into the prayer tent, right?

There was one booth that really pissed me off, though.  Next to the face-painting and balloon animals, there was a bead-your-own bracelet booth; fun right?  So the girls sit down, and the volunteers start in on their spiel: "The knot at this end is the day you were born!  Do you know when your birthday is? This BLACK bead is comes first, it stands for your sin!  Your sin is what separates you from God!"  Do you know how much it pisses me off for someone to tell my six year olds that they are sinner? I bet you can guess!  Then each subsequent bead represented some other thing on the path to heaven; I had to walk away and just let them do it, or I was gonna lay into them.  Then they asked the girls if they had a bible at home.  They said "What's a bible?"  Such fresh young heathen sinners!  So they got bibles to take home (only the New Testament, though.  Why is it always the New Testament?  Don't want to pull out the old vengeful God unless you need Him for condemning homosexuals?) Luckily my girls are so unused to that kind of talk that they didn't absorb any of it.  I asked them what the book was, and they said it was a book about growing.  Okay.  I asked about the bracelets, and they only remembered what the green bead was for (also growing.)  Whew.

I know, we went to a festival put on by the churches, what did we expect?  But it was also pushed heavily at the elementary school, they did posters for it in class, so I expected it to be inclusive. And mostly it was pretty laid back.  It was just that one booth.  

Anyway, that's how I'm feeling right now.  I miss the casual secular feel of my social life in California.  I'm pretty sure that the majority of my friends and acquaintances in California would consider themselves Christians, but it didn't seem to be the central aspect of their lives, and they didn't just assume that everyone else felt the same as them.  Here, I feel like I'm doing it wrong.


  1. Wow, that must be awful!Guess they call it the Bible Belt for a reason.
    Maybe you could start a Freethinkers chapter, and see who shows up.

  2. I'm sorry this has been such a source of stress and judgment. I wonder if there are others in your area who feel the way you do. I'm certain that you're not alone in the big scheme of things... so many people in the world feel judged and oppressed in environments where they're not understood or accepted.

    It's funny, because I was recently thinking that one day it would be cool to take the girls to a Buddhist retreat... just because Buddhism has helped me to accept life more and be a somewhat better, happier person. So I want to share that possibility with them. But I realize that this is probably how the Oklahoma Christians feel, too... their intentions are to share what's worked for them. The problem is when people "share" in a dogmatic way -- that's hard to swallow. All of us are already so caught up in thinking we need to change, we don't want to hear it from anyone else! Anyway, this is a good lesson for me in my own spiritual wanderings. Also, it cracked me up that the girls said, "What's a bible?"

    Thinking of you all with love.

  3. It must be very hard for you to be isolated from friends and family in such an alien community. Don't give up on finding others with like ideas though. Try the Humanist Society of Payne County. It's in Stillwater the contact is a guy named Doug Sander and he is at OSU.

    I wish I had a magical bit of advice, but it's all mundane. Hang in there, stick to your ideals, you're a great parent, you have to tell them about religion so they aren't broadsided by some zealot, tell people you're uncomfortable before they drive you over the edge, hang out at the college, etc.