Jennifer Andrews is a military spouse who recently moved to Fort Bragg with her husband Brian. She wrote to me about their experiences getting settled in, and it’s quite unsettling.
I grew up in the Buffalo area in NY and lived there my entire life, until I married my husband and relocated to Ft Bragg. My first experience with the locals here was at the housing office on post, trying to move into government housing. On our way out the door, the woman asked us if we’d found a church yet.
We said “No, we just got here.”
She invited us to come to her Baptist church in Hope Mills; our response was that we aren’t Baptist. Naturally her next question was “Oh! Well what are you, then?”
My husband and I quickly told her that we’re Catholic, since that was how our parents attempted to raise us, and it was what we were most familiar with. We didn’t want to tell her that we’re atheists, even though it was the truth, because we thought she would “lose” our housing application.
Her answer to that?
“Oh! Well our pastor draws inspiration from the Catholic Church all the time, you’d fit right in! You know, I go to a lot of churches to pray, sometimes I even go to a Jewish synagogue because everyone here accepts Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior!”
Our interactions with any locals haven’t improved much since. My family doctor is off-post and I had to argue with the Nurse Practitioner that “no religious preference” is NOT the same as atheist. It’s things like this that make me genuinely nervous to live down here as opposed to NY, where no one cared what you were as long as you didn’t throw it in their face, uninvited.
That said, I just wanted to thank you for putting so much effort into creating a haven, even online, for members of the secular community. It gives my husband and I a lot of hope that things might change for the better eventually, but mostly, we’re just grateful that we’re not alone. We’re very excited to to attend Rock Beyond Belief–thank you for working so hard to make sure it actually happens.
I asked her for some sort of picture. And holy shit, did she ever deliver.
I do have a picture of the decal he just put on his truck window on Friday, as a response to those experiences and how his mom handled finding out that her son is godless. We’re surprised it hasn’t been vandalized yet!
Funny you should mention it.
I have the same decal on my car, albeit much smaller. Mine is metal, and pretty well a-fixed to the back of my car. You can see key-scratches if you get up close. I used to have a much less contentious sticker next to it, a gift from the AHA. It said “Don’t Believe in God? You are not alone.”
The top part of the sticker (the part that read: “Don’t Believe in God”) was scratched and peeled off about 3 months after I slapped it on. It’s been nearly a year now, and it’s weathered off nearly completely. I now have a bunch of atheist stickers, patches, buttons, and other merch in my possession. But I’ve been saving them as giveaways for the local MASH Fort Bragg group of military atheists.
Which reminds me. Jennifer and Brian, WHY HAVEN’T I SEEN YOU THERE?! HUH?!?? But seriously, I think yours has a good chance of survival. It’s really fucking big, and I think that works in your favor. If it’s on the inside of your truck’s window, even better.
Duality of man
Before the accommodationists protest the T-Rex, I just want to urge you not to waste your breath (or keystrokes, rather.) There is room in this movement for all approaches, firebrand and interfaith both work. Also, don’t pigeonhole yourself into ‘just checking one box.’ I play every situation by ear, successfully adopting many approaches over the years.
If you are still confused about the plurality of approaches, just remember this classic scene from Full Metal Jacket.
“Christians drive like shit.”
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Also, when I see a Jesus Fish on the back of a car in front of me – I don’t think “Oh, I hate this damn Christian! GRRRR!” Not at all. Instead, I tell my buddy to call work to tell them we might be late. It’s like a badge of honor for slow drivers.
Here’s a fun song by lo-fi art-damaged punkers that keep it really minimal. The lead singer basically just repeats the title over and over, but I dig it.
John Wesley Coleman III – “Christians Drive Like Shit”
Conversely – while we’re on the topic of the duality of man… I hate it when atheists suggest that there is absolutely no good ‘Christian music’. There simply is some. Admittedly, the shit-to-gold ratio is extreme in the genre, but there are some amazing artists.
Daniel Johnston – I Had Lost My Mind
That song was not religious, but it’s the best introduction to his music. You simply must watch the breathtaking documentary about him, “The Devil and Daniel Johnston”. I can’t stress how amazing this film is. I believe the whole thing is free on YouTube now, check it out. Your life sucks without knowing the sheer humanity of this man’s struggles with mental disorders, overbearing religious parents, and obsession with girls, the Beatles, Jesus, and the Devil.
And yeah, I could make a long list of Christian music that doesn’t suck. All of it is underground – even within (or maybe especially within) the Christian music industry.