A Day In The Life of a Religious Minority

(Note: I am on my honeymoon this week, so if your comment doesn’t show up right away, give me a day or two!)

There are some ways in which I have privledge in this society and other ways in which I definitely don’t. Religious privledge is something I’m lacking and so it is interesting to me to see those who do have it calling me too sensitive or silly or disrespectful to their religious rights.

Let’s do a little exercise. I will tell you a little about what it’s like to be a non-Christian in a heavily Christian country. You try to imagine these same stories but with a religion that you either don’t know or don’t like. What if all these things were Hindu things? How would you feel? What if all these things were Islamic things? How would you feel? What if all these things were Jewish things? How would you feel? What if all these things were….Atheist things?! Go ahead, imagine it.

I get up. Feeling good. I say my morning prayers in my altar room. I put on a bindi, which I see as being equivlent to wearing a cross necklace. I get my purse together, grab a lunch, and head for my car.

There’s a sign on a lawn next door facing me. It says “Jesus is the only way.” So now I’m on the defensive, made painfully aware that my path to God is considered invalid and disgraceful to my neighbors. I’m not sure what they hope to accomplish with this sign. It’s not like anyone is going to read a sign and go “Oh yeah, I never thought of that.” All it does is make me feel super unwelcome.

I get on the road. The car in front of me has a Jesus fish on their bumper sticker. I wonder if that person would hate me if they met me. I get on the highway. Now the car in front of me says “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the light” in letters that cover the entire back windshield. I don’t believe those words. I never have. Why would having them written on a car change my mind?

There’s a billboard I drive past advertising a Christian radio station. “Jesus is watching.”

Now imagine it saying “Shiva is the Only Way to avoid Hellfire”

I wonder why no one thinks it’s weird that I know all kinds of Christian catch phrases and Bible quotes but none of them knows a single thing about my religion. Getting off the highway I drive past about thirteen churches on my way to work. They all have pithy messages on their signs. Some of them tell me I’m going to hell. I think hell is a stupid and ridiculous concept. One church is so large that it managed to have the new roads changed to accomodate its traffic flow. My GPS gets super confused in this area because the map it has is how the road was planned to be and not how it ended up.

At work I pop over to Facebook. Someone’s status is “Praise Jesus I got the tickets I wanted.” I wonder how many more Praise Jesus status updates before I have to hide them from my newsfeed. Someone else has posted an article about how people complaining about Christians expressing their Christianity is persecution and religious freedom means they have every right to tell me about Jesus on their shirt, their car, their lawn, their neck, and anywhere else they please. Yeah. I know. And it sucks. Apparently they think atheists are trying to shut them up even though I have yet to see a single atheist message, bumper sticker, billboard, or statement all day. I immerse myself in a webpage where people see Ganesha in their toast.

After work I stop at a grocery store. There’s something on the ground that looks like a $20, but it’s kind of the wrong shape. What the hec is that? I pick it up and instantly regret it. It’s a flier that says “Some things are more important than money. Come to Jesus” and has an illustration of how a cross can bridge a gap in a mountain. I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean but I wonder why I can’t even pick up my groceries without a Christian message being forced on me. Can’t they leave me alone, for like, thirty seconds?

The person in line ahead of me has a Jesus Saves tattoo on the back of his neck. The cashier says “God bless you” to her customers. I smile, say “And you as well” even though I really feel like screaming by now.

I get back to my car and now there is an advertisement for a church stuck on my windshield. I’m starting to feel angry. Why can’t they leave me alone? 

So all day I’ve been soaked in Christian messages. I get home, turn on the TV, see ads for the movie Heaven Is For Real. People on the sitcom talking about going to church. Wow Worship music has a new CD out I see.

They’ve followed me into my house now. Isn’t there anywhere I can go where Christians aren’t following me and shouting at me?

Yes, it feels like being shouted at all the time. Paritcularly when it is things that don’t invite any conversation. I’m happy to talk about religion, but a bumpersticker, a billboard, a flier, a sign, none of these things allows for any conversation. All they do is shout “You’re not welcome here” to me.

It’s got to be just as hard on a Christian living in India. We have a lot of holidays and we celebrate them very publically! (except in America where they are safely contained to Temple grounds).

So you think, why do I even live here? You think, if this were me and I was somewhere where all the messages all day long were Hindu ones, I’d move.

Except that you wouldn’t. Your whole life is here. Your family, your job, your friends, and everything you’ve ever known. You were born here and you grew up here and you have every right to be here as your neighbors do.

To say I’m being sensitive to call it being accosted with Christianity is to show how very privledged you are. You don’t have a clue what it feels like. Sure, you can have your lawn sign if you want. But you should be aware that the message it sends is one of exclusivity and hatred. It doesn’t welcome people to move towards Jesus, it encourages them to worry that you might hurt them for not believing what you do. The only time I would engage in a conversation with a Christian about religion is if they had been kind and welcoming to me. Those signs say nothing but “keep out.” So I’d call that an evangelizing fail.

Can you even imagine what it is like to have your home be a place where you get about 20 “unwelcome” messages a day? And then to add salt to the wound, let me laugh at you and tell you that you’re being too sensitive. 

 

About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.


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