Nervous atheist military family “Will Fort Bragg ‘lose’ my housing application?”

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!”

right.

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!

T-Rex eats Jesus Fish

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.

www.youtube.com/embed/KMEViYvojtY?

Classic.

“Christians drive like shit.”

(continued below the fold)

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 JohnstonI Had Lost My Mind

www.youtube.com/embed/sKIRN7c4G7Y?

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.

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About Justin Griffith
  • Darlene

    Right on, Justin! I love reading your blog. You totally get me, right down to our shared enjoyment of some Christian music. :D

  • Tsu Dho Nimh

    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.

    The post HR department should be told that the employees of the base housing are using it as a private hunting preserve for their church.

  • Jasmyn

    Jessica, join MASH. My husband and I arrived here feeling really out of our element, so we went to the chaplaincy (we didn’t know where else to go) for support. They tried to suggest things like Protestant Woman of Faith, but that isn’t my thing as an atheist. MASH is great. Fun intelligent people and it’s a great way to not feel so marginalized in a town plagued by religion.

  • Jim Baerg

    Christian music that is good?

    How about Handel’s Messiah?

  • http://lordsetar.wordpress.com Setár, self-appointed Elf-lord of social justice

    re Christian music: The most commonly heard stuff is most likely to be the shit stuff, because the biggest pushers of such Christian music are the rich megachurch fundagelicals who are trying (and failing) to bring more kids into the fold. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if part of their motive for deriding ‘unwholesome’ music came in the form of kickbacks from the record labels that publish the ‘wholesome’ music.

    That being said, the shit stuff tailors about a ratio of 50% super-preachy (for the true believers) to 50% ‘cool-sounding’ but still slightly preachy (the recruitment drive). When I hear the former, I hear the lyrics and can’t stand them. When I hear the latter, I hear that it’s Christian music and feel betrayed because I know that if I were to go back and look over all the ‘cool’ lyrics I’d find a hell of a lot of subliminal preaching.

    And, just so you know, I haven’t heard any of the underground stuff* — all the Christian rock I’ve heard or heard of is commercialized and ‘popular’ (as far as Christian rock goes). And my roommate blasts Chevelle all the damn time

    * – another idea: maybe a lot of the good Christian rock doesn’t get classified as ‘Christian’, because the artists are billed as mainstream rock? I rather like U2′s album The Joshua Tree, despite it being full of religious references, but I have never heard that album described as ‘Christian rock’.

  • F

    * – another idea: maybe a lot of the good Christian rock doesn’t get classified as ‘Christian’, because the artists are billed as mainstream rock?

    King’s X. They don’t tend to identify that way themselves, but a lot of their stuff is sort of mystical xtian. I’ve not listened to all of their stuff, but I can recommend Gretchen Goes to Nebraska. It totally slays me.

  • Slithy

    That John Wesley Coleman III track sounds pretty good, kind of like a cross between Lou Reed & Tom Petty. Just a pity he’s a christian though.

  • Justin Griffith

    John Wesley Coleman III is not a Christian – as far as I know.

    However, Daniel Johnston is most certainly a Christian. And his music is amazing, including many of his explicitly religious songs.

  • http://inmyunbelief.wordpress.com TCC (fka The Christian Cynic)

    Sufjan Stevens would be another good example of a Christian making good music without being pigeonholed as a “Christian artist.” There are plenty of others as well.

    As someone in a non-military situation that bears some similarities, I wholeheartedly agree with the suggestion to get involved with MASH.

    P.S. I consider myself an accommodationist, most probably, but I can’t get any ire worked up over the T-rex sticker. I’m not even sure why that would be a big deal.

  • reenie

    Devil and Daniel Johnston rocks! Been listening to him since the 80′s! Everyone’s covered this dude!

    I’ve listened to some Christian Music. It’s not all about god and jesus. I liked Six Pence None the Richer, the Throes- paisley punk- saw them live , Adam again – Blues rock, and Charlie Peacock. I like that the songs aren’t mysogynistic.

    Another mentally ill man who makes amazing underground music is Wesley Willis, though I am not sure of his religious orientation.

  • Aquaria

    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.

    What is this nitwit doing, pushing her cult on people on military time?

    I would have asked to speak to her superior, right then. And if I didn’t get the woman reprimanded on the spot–in writing, I would have gone to that person’s boss.

    That’s the beauty of everything associated with the military. Someone has a boss.

    “Oh! Well our pastor draws inspiration from the Catholic Church all the time, you’d fit right in!

    1) Good grief, what a moron. All christer churches draw their inspiration from the Catholic Church. All that stuff about original sin, communion, the trinity, gawd always existing (the famous Aquinas infinite regression argument)–all of it is originally from Catholic theology. Really old Catholic theology, at that.

    Honestly, it’s like nobody’s heard of the Reformation.

    2) Passing around some grape juice for Communion doesn’t count as Catholic inspiration.

    3) I’d expect a Catholic-inspired church to have a lot of Mary worship on display: Statues and paintings, flower garlands around her neck, candles lit for her (especially her) and so on. That’s some serious Catholic inspiration.

    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!”

    What a lying little toad.

    I know some of the Reform sects are really liberal, but not so liberal that they accept a wannabe prophet as the Messiah.

    If this nitwit had said something so stupid to me, I think I would have commented that her Hebrew must be really good to follow along with the service. All the Reform services I ever attended had a lot of Hebrew in them. I’ve never been to a Conservative service, but I understand they use a lot more Hebrew than the Reform. And Orthodox is pretty much all in Hebrew, especially for the daily prayers. It would be blasphemy to them to conduct such things in anything else.

    One of the advantages of being a secular Jew is that I get enough knowledge of the religion to expose lying little frauds like this, without believing any of it. Best of both worlds.


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