I’m sorry I waited a month and a half to write this.
You see, there have been a few big fluff ups in the Christian world that have needed my attention. There were some Christians who have been saying not-so-nice things about other Christians, writing books and giving sermons that denigrate women in the faith. They have an actual impact within my community, but they also have an impact on how people outside of the faith see us.
Of course, in the midst of these things, I missed a more direct opportunity to not just talk about how we look to people who aren’t Christians, but to actually be someone who gives a crap about people who aren’t Christians.
I saw the story about Jessica Ahlquist’s fight and didn’t really think much about it. Of course she was in the right. Of course the courts were going to find in favor of separation. Of course there would be some who would say that this was further proof of the persecution of Christianity in America. I’ve been around for a while. These stories all play out pretty much the same way.
Then the story turned nastier. Florists refused to deliver flowers that were purchased for Jessica. A representative from Rhode Island called Jessica an “evil little thing.” Jessica received death threats and needed a police escort to and from school.
I still stayed silent.
I let the arguments about the worth of women in the church consume me while I missed an opportunity to defend a young woman who was being dehumanized directly by people who share my faith. I allowed discussions about how in-fighting inside of the church looks to those on the outside eclipse how it looks when someone who claims my faith calls a 16-year-old girl “evil.” In my desire to make sure we didn’t look like asses, I ignored folks who were actually being asses.
There are lots of excuses as to why I didn’t write about this earlier, but what it boils down to is that it’s easy to ignore things that aren’t happening directly to me or “my people.” Jessica has had the support of the atheist community and it can feel like that should be enough. No sense in sticking my neck out and risking the wrath of people who would threaten a high school sophomore.
But if I honestly believe that I need to love my neighbors as myself, then I need to speak out when my neighbor is being hurt.
So to my fellow Christians? Stop it. Stop the name-calling. Stop the death threats. Stop the angry letters, the whining about attacks on religion, the accusations that Jessica is just a tool. Treat her the way you want to be treated by those who disagree with you.
And to my neighbors in the atheist community (and especially Jessica), I’m sorry I was silent for so long. I’m sorry for my hesitancy and my timidity. Mistreating people simply for disagreeing is always wrong and it always deserves to be addressed. It is always my hope that this won’t need to be addressed again, but if it does, I won’t wait.