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. 

 


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About Ambaa Choate

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.

  • http://thehighcalling.org/ Marcus Goodyear

    I’m sorry that you feel like these Christian artifacts are yelling at you. If it is any consolation, I’m Christian, and I hate this stuff too.

    Most of all, though, I hope you are having a wonderful honeymoon and not approving any of these comments until you get back.

    • Ambaa

      :)

  • Melinda Farnham-Thomas

    Yup. My feelings exactly. If there is one silver lining in this for me it is that I feel I need to be even more kind and compassionate to people of a majority religion because hopefully when they do find out I am Druid it might make them question any judgments they might harbor towards Pagans. And I look forward to the warm fuzzies I get when my judgments are challenged when conversing with an open minded Christian. It can be disheartening being constantly confronted in everyday life but I’m holding my head high!

    • Ambaa

      It’s true, in a way we are responsible for how people think of all people of our religion, which is a big weight. But I have also had fantastic conversations with Christians where we discover how much we have in common and feel energized by the discussion.

  • Katherine Harms

    You are being too sensitive. I’m not laughing at you. I’m telling you that we all are bombarded all day every day by messages we don’t like. I am a Christian. I see things I don’t like all the time. It is the price of living in a free country.
    Christians are not exempt from seeing messages that are irritating.
    Within our own homes, however, we need not turn on tv. We need not go to Facebook. If we interact with people, we need to let them speak and then move on.
    I am sorry you are upset. I did notice that you didn’t talk about all the insulting government messages from the .gov sites that completely inundate us every day. I’m tired of them. I refuse to watch news on television because it is so juvenile and condescending at the same time. Those messages make me angry. I don’t like to see headlines about activism for political agendas that will destroy the country. I don’t like to read that our military officers are forbidden to write scripture on whiteboards or start meetings with prayer.
    See, we all have to put up with things we don’t like to hear in a free country. The whole meaning of freedom is that we allow freedom rather than endure tyranny. If you want tyranny, you can go live where nobody can talk about anything. That would be North Korea. In the US, we are free to put up signs and make Facebook updates and praise Jesus or worship Krishna if we like . That is what freedom is about.

    • boxthejack .

      Perhaps, but Ambaa isn’t suggesting that people be banned from putting up messages she doesn’t like. She’s asking whether the fingers-in-ears monologue of a bumper sticker or billboard can ever be a healthy contribution to people’s lives or spiritual well-being, as individuals or as a community in which we all (should) temper our exercise of freedom with respect, hospitality and love.

      • badtooth

        i agree with harms, how hyper sensitive can you be. political correctness has run amock. all this walking on eggshells around everybody and their crying about how they feel upset about everything, annoys me more than any billboard.
        i thought hindus were supposed to have balanced shakras or some sort of internal peace. how does a piece of paper shout at you? i think she is projecting something.
        i laugh everytime i see a finger-in-ears monologue of a bomber sticker that has “coexist” on it.

        • Ambaa

          I do wish there was a way for you to put yourself into my shoes and I was hoping that this post would give a little peek into a life other than your own.

          You seem determined not to let that insight in.

          Is PCness really such a burden to you? Is it so awful to have to be aware of how others are feeling? Those darn egg shells. If only other people were tougher. Then I wouldn’t have to worry so much about being nice to them!

          I don’t know why. You’d rather laugh at me and tell me I’m being silly when I’m experiencing emotional pain. The lack of compassion is absolutely staggering.

          I just feel like you’d be saying something profoundly different if all the things I pointed out in this post were Hindu messages or Muslim messages in your face all day every day.

          The “you’re too sensitive” response is nothing more than a way to invalidate other people and tell them that their experiences are not as important or meaningful as yours.

          • badtooth

            put up all the hindu or muslim messages you want. trust me, it will have no effect on me. i agree, i will never walk a mile in your moccasins, nor you in mine. clearly we have very different attitudes towards our journeys.
            you remind me of when i was shooting baskets one time. my cousins daughter was 5 or 6 and was running after the ball and throwing it back to me. one shot came of the rim and hit her right on the top of her head. i saw she was about to cry, so i said, “oh come on, that didn’t hurt”. she laughed instead. not 20 minutes latter my cousin came out and took some shots and the exact same thing happened. but his reply was to say he was sorry and ran over to her asking if she was alright. she started balling, screaming bloody murder for the next 5 minutes. maybe i do lack compassion? 😉
            http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-27099700

          • Ambaa

            We really do have very different perspectives. But then, that’s what makes the world wonderful. Variety is good and I wouldn’t want us all to be the same.

            I just don’t see why if I’m writing expressing a feeling I’m having you would feel the need to comment at all if you think I’m being silly. It’s a pain you haven’t experienced and don’t understand, but instead of shrugging and moving on you have to say “That couldn’t have hurt.” I’m sorry, but I’m not 6 years old and it did hurt.

            Not in horrible, I’m sobbing now, kind of way. Just in a way that made me want to try to show the little ways that someone who is a minority religion in the U.S. experiences little pinches all day long that people in the majority religion are entirely unaware of.

          • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

            People who invalidate the feelings of a six year old are probably not worth entering into dialogue with. Just saying. I, for one, remember very well being a child and these kinds of adults were #1 on my list of people I did not like – those who thought they understood me, those who forgot what it was like to be a child.

            We live in a world where it’s worse to be called privileged than to exercise privilege without showing empathy, worse to be called racist than to actually be racist. That is proof itself that these power structures still exist and make a difference in the world. And those who refuse to acknowledge this cannot be taught. We can just keep doing our part to make their words irrelevant and laughable in the face of history.

          • badtooth

            firstly, i was a child myself in that story, 15 or 16 maybe. i very much remember being a child and being told, “stick and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”. i guess that has been replaced with “microaggression”?
            the point of the story is not about my empathy for a little girl getting hit in the head with a ball. but whether or not to encourage a response of crying about it, or one of ‘shake it off’. much like ambaa, you and i were clearly raised much differently.
            are u emo?

          • Ambaa

            I have been accused of being too sensitive. My own family has worried that I am too sensitive. I don’t mean to be, but when I was told that awful rhyme as a child it made the pain I was experiencing so much worse.

            To be taunted and then have my teachers sing song that stupid verse at me?!

            I retreated for years into myself and didn’t interact with people. It was too painful and scary. I’d rather the broken bones than the hurtful words, honestly.

          • badtooth

            yes variety is the spice of life. or if you believe morgan freeman in robinhood after being asked why he was painted, by the little white girl, “because allah loves variety”.
            actually your pre-emptive, ‘they say i’m being too sensitive’ comment prompted me to comment, that u r being too sensitive. but clearly it was a good tactic. you elicited empathy from the majority of people. you’re batting like .900 if you were a baseball player that would be instant hall of fame. is not my opinion validate? i’m in the minority and i’m being attacked from all sides. 😉 jk. but we can go round and round on this for eternity. i call em as i see em.
            anyway, good to hear it was not a debilitating pain that left you in a ball on the floor, not able to ever face the mean cruel world again. but your writting which brought about sympathy from so many made me think this was possibly the case.

          • Ambaa

            I didn’t mean for you to feel attacked. I apologize. I’ve been trying to explain but I feel quite confused by your perspective. I’m trying to understand it and it’s a struggle for me. But, as you can see, my message to everyone is to try to understand and have compassion for others, so I am trying and maybe I’m failing. It’s not an attempt to manipulate, it’s an honest attempt to understand and to explain.

            I have Asperger’s and I find that makes it challenging for me to appropriately interact in the world. I much prefer to communicate in writing, which is why I blog. Maybe people who don’t have AS are better able to handle the world. Years of trying to “toughen me up” hasn’t worked, so going through life thin-skinned seems to be just how it’s destined to be.

          • badtooth

            again, no need to apologize. i was joking, i’m not feeling ‘attacked’. (andrea may not like me, but that’s alright. not everybody has to like me or agree with me;) i was trying to make the point that if you draw the line at someone’s feeling being hurt, the line will forever be in flux. there is no way to know where the line even is?
            yes our perspectives are so different you will probably never understand mine. i don’t shy away from confrontation, in fact i enjoy it. i was raised on constructive criticism. if you think i’m bad you should meet my dad and my oldest brother.
            that’s funny i was going to say maybe the universe sent me here to toughen you up. but that’s been tried, ok.
            now we are into real political correctness territory. do i apologize because of your condition. can i call it a condition? aspergers is what? a high functioning form of autism? or is an apology a de-humanizing insult? treating you differently than i would any other 32 year-old woman? i would think a hindu wouldn’t want pity for a physical condition caused by the universe. i guess you were the christian bully in the last life? so, again we can go round and round about this all day long, but i think you where being overly sensitive. maybe it is destined to be. or maybe i’m wrong, most others here seem to agree with you. i was wrong once before. 😉

          • Ambaa

            I don’t often tell people about the AS. But when I do, my own take on it is that it’s an explanation and not an excuse. I don’t ask for special treatment, just an understanding that I don’t always “get” things as quickly as you might be expecting me to.

          • badtooth

            i took it as an explanatin and not an excuse. good to hear you don’t expect special treatment.
            funny thing is i think we are actually coming to our opinions by similar methods, just opposite angles. you had a day of being bombarded with a message you found unwelcoming and unhelpful. and it had the opposite effect that one would assume the messinger was intending. and when i hear the term political correctness or what i perceive to be an attack on freedom of speech a flood of stories come to the front of my mind like bright red and yellow billboards. and the untended consequence is to make me defensive as well. and maybe a little more aggressive then you. but i think we get each other.
            anyway you ever seen the movie ‘temple granderson’, i think that is how you spell it?

          • Ambaa

            I think you’re right! It’s the same issue and opposite sides of that one fence. Balance is necessary, of course, and so difficult to get right!

            I haven’t seen the Temple Grandin movie yet, though I’ve read a lot of her essays.

          • Pixie5

            Ambaa, from what you have said I would guess that you have felt different all or most of your life and I think that makes it more difficult to deal with rejection.”Sticks and stones” may work for most people if they have in general friends and family that care about and understand them. But if you are different and you can’t quite pin-point what you are “doing wrong” then I think it is natural to internalize those feelings of rejection and think that there is something wrong with YOU as a person. You probably had trouble making friends and maybe your family didn’t quite understand you either.

            I agree that words DO HURT and I think that statement is really often used as a way to shut people up, especially children. Now maybe people are well-meaning when they say that, but often it may mean that they themselves have trouble dealing with emotions.

            I also think that you are an introvert as I am and that can make us more aware of our feelings and maybe that can lead us to take things more personally. But the upside of introversion is that we also tend to be more empathetic with others. Introverts often don’t fit well with the rest of the world because extroversion is valued more. On the other hand introversion is what makes us more spiritually aware.

            I know some people with Asberger’s and yes they do function differently in the world but I am learning to understand it better. I have bipolar disorder and that makes me different as well. But if we don’t lock-step with the rest of the world then maybe we can at least learn to value our uniqueness. It isn’t all bad, just different.

            I think that badtooth is not really going to understand, but I think other people get the message. I know you were not trying to be manipulative. 😉

          • Sabina

            Badtooth, I’ve been reading and following the comments here. A lot of your comments have rubbed me the wrong way, but I thought about them more, and what you say does make sense to me in some contexts. However, I think that this context is the wrong one for your specific advice.

            Basically, I think your advice- essentially to toughen up, keep your chin up, don’t let the bastards get you down- works really well when a person is faced with people who are TRYING to hurt them. Like school bullies. Telling a school bully that their bullying is hurting your feelings will not make them stop- because hurting your feelings was their intention. In the face of people whose aim is to get a rise out of you, it makes total sense to just ignore them and not let their words or actions affect your life.

            However, those are not the people Ambaa is talking about here. She is talking about people who are NOT out there to get people or hurt people’s feelings. She’s talking about people who have different aims. In some ways, evangelicals have an aim apart from kindness and compassion, and that aim is to win people over to their point of view. This is not the same as aiming to bully or to hurt- these are people who genuinely believe that they are doing good. And there are plenty of people who aren’t aware that their well-intentioned words and actions might not only be hurting others, but might be counterproductive to their motivations as well. I think Ambaa is doing a good thing by calling people out on both of these failures.

            Let’s say that you, Badtooth, have a best friend who is a great person who cares for you, who will help you move or lend you money or let you crash on his couch whenever you’re in town no questions asked. Let’s say this friend has a habit of calling you a certain racial slur in a joking, bantering tone- a slur that really hurts you. Or let’s say this friend constantly makes jokes about your dog that died. Now, what would you do? Would you endure this patiently and pretend to laugh along and conceal the raw hurt that comes up every time he does this? Or will you tell him “Listen, friend, I don’t find it funny when you talk about my dog, I really loved that dog and the loss still hurts, can you please stop it?”

            The difference is intention. Some groups, like the Westboro Baptist Church, won’t listen or won’t change if you tell them that what they do is hurtful. They WANT to be hurtful. Most groups are not this way, and Ambaa is calling for compassion. People are generally compassionate and receptive to suggestions for how to be better, kinder human beings. I think Ambaa is doing something very admirable by calling attention to ways that we all can be better.

            Some people will laugh at her for this. Those are the bullies- the people who she could maybe ignore.

          • badtooth

            i was going to ask her if she felt her neighbors were trying to be hurtful or the people behind the billboard.

            i see what you are saying, but i would imploy the same tactic in both situations. looks like that is just me?
            yeah a friend of mine once got upset with me always picking on him. so i siad i was sorry , i did not know it upset you so. so i tried to temper my tongue around him. not sure how long that lasted but we have been friends for 25 years. i think more he got thicker skin and started to hold his own?
            WHAT? you think me a monster. i would never make fun of someone’s dead dog.

          • Sabina

            The dead dog thing was the most extreme example I could think of, and I didn’t think you would do that. I was imagining you in the role of the friend who HAD the dog, and asking what you would do if YOUR friend made fun of YOUR dog. I was trying to illustrate the difference between how I, personally, would deal with a well-intentioned friend versus a malicious bully. I would tell a friend that they were hurting my feelings, and because my friends care about me and are good people, they stop the behavior that hurts my feelings- and usually we become closer because they ask me WHY it hurts my feelings and we understand one another better.

            I see what you mean when you say, where is the line, when anything a person does has the potential of hurting another person’s feelings. It’s true. That doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t try to be sensitive toward others.

          • badtooth

            yes i understood your anology. i was just kidding about the monster thing. sorry i forget my jk s sometimes. and the lack of tone in typing makes my sarcasim hard to follow sometimes. anyway i was sitting in the hot tub at the Y this morning and the seinfeld cigar store indian seinfeld episode came to mind. you ever seen that one?

    • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

      It is not necessarily about freedom of religion – that is of course one of the great things about being in this country – but about how that freedom is used and what happens when one religion is both the vast majority and for centuries has accumulated power. It is not about freedom–that’s there–but how you choose to use that freedom, and how you deal with the privilege you have as a numerical and power majority when you interact with those who do not have that privilege.

      This is a great article on exactly the topic:
      http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2012/05/list-of-examples-of-christian-privileg/ and I will take an excerpt here.

      – You can expect to have time off work to celebrate religious holidays.
      – You aren’t pressured to celebrate holidays from another faith that may conflict with your religious values.
      – If you are being tried in court, you can assume that the jury of “your peers” will share your faith and not hold that against you in weighing decisions.
      – Politicians responsible for your governance are probably members of your faith.
      – You can go into any career you want without it being associated with or explained by your faith.
      – Your faith can be an aspect of your identity without being a defining aspect (e.g., people won’t think of you as their “Christian” friend)
      – It is easily accessible for you or your children to be educated from kindergarten through post-grad at institutions of your faith.

      • badtooth

        you want free religious education of your choosing? and you want whatever days off you choose for your religious holidays? you want all juries to be made up of people of the same faith as the accused? why not race and gender then too? same educational level. that’s insane.

        • Ambaa

          It doesn’t sound insane. It sounds…fair. But maybe unrealistic.

          It isn’t to say that we all need to have every holiday off for every different religion. It’s only to point out that if you are Christian, you never have to worry about whether you can get off Christmas to celebrate with your family. It isn’t even a thought or consideration. You know that you will. No problem.

          Someone of a less dominant faith can’t count on that. I often have to work on the biggest holiday of the year for me.

          I understand that that’s how America is structured, so okay. But it helps a lot when those who do have that ability to be assured that they will always get their holidays off, have juries who understand their religious background, who can educate their children in their religion easily, to REALIZE how lucky you are to have it.

          • badtooth

            you don’t get vacation days? that sucks. i’m an atheist so i don’t celebrate the birth of jesus. and everyone knows that he wasn’t born on december 25th anyway. but it is established and is really more about the retail sector.
            i just don’t see where it ends. as you say, hindus have lots of festivals. i see the new new york mayor is giving eid off for the muslims. teh sihks won a lawsuit in michigan to carry their knives to school.
            this kind of reminds me of when arizona didn’t want to give the state employees off for MLK day. my catholic mother had a good idea. there should be an american hero day. we can’t keep creating holidays for everyone who mak when i was a kid we got lincoln and washingtons birthdays off school. now it’s presidents day. what i’m getting at is there is fexibility. but i guess if you tie things to the position of the moon or a date certain as opposed to a monday, it makes things harder.

          • Ambaa

            Vacation days are really not the point. It’s just an example of ways in which someone who fits the cultural expectation of our country gets some advantages. I don’t think there’s any way I’m going to be able to put it in language that you will understand.

            I don’t ask that I get all holidays off. In this post I have not asked for any change at all except in people’s own awareness.

            All I have asked for is that Christians notice the advantages that they are getting and the ways that their behavior in evangelizing their message isn’t necessarily having the effect they might intend. I think it’s helpful for Christians to see how they are seen by others, particularly if it’s important to them to build bridges and “bring people to Christ.”

            So the point has never been that things should be changed, that laws should be different, that I should get a more level field with the majority religion. Only that the majority religion might want to notice what high ground it is on.

        • Pixie5

          Many Christian parents ARE getting free religious education of their choosing for their children, which I believe was her point! Voucher programs exist for religious Charter Schools using taxpayer monies. But one thing that has upset Christians is the fact that to be fair and constitutional schools of ANY FAITH that wish to be included can be. So there are Muslim schools, and other schools of different faiths that can also receive taxpayer monies.

          The hypocrisy of the Christians that they object to this and claim that this is another liberal ploy to destroy religious freedom in this country just because they can’t have a theocratic government. RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IS FOR EVERYONE, not just Christians.

          As Inigo Montoya said, “I do not think that means what you think it means.”

          I think Andrea’s point was that Christians ARE NOT PERSECUTED and that in fact all those rights she mentioned Christians have and yet take for granted.

          • Ambaa

            “RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IS FOR EVERYONE, not just Christians.”

            Yes!

        • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

          *blinks*
          You set up so many straw men here that I wonder if you own stock in a scarecrow factory.

          No one is asking for ‘free religious education’ or ‘all juries to be made up of people of the same faith’ — but somehow Christians get this particular benefit without even trying because they’re the majority. I didn’t learn about Jesus in church – I learned in PUBLIC SCHOOL. from my teachers, who thought they were being so very subversive in their hint-hint-come to Youth For Christ to find out more manner.

          The point is not that everyone should have these things. The point is that in the US, if there’s a question about faith, the bias swings toward Christianity (and with the exclusive nature of this religion, against other faiths). It is something that Christians should be aware of when interacting with others and should attempt to minimize ill effect on those who do not share their beliefs.

          • badtooth

            ok, you are not asking for free religious education. good to hear. i didn’t know what all your hyphens meant?

    • Elizabeth Beck

      Hmmm… I feel as though beginning this with “you are being too sensitive” is probably an ineffective way to start a response to Ambaa’s post if your goal is to start a dialog and find some common ground. I think this definitely depends on exactly where in the US one lives; I live in the deep south, and as far as I am concerned, this is a very Christianity-dominated landscape. I don’t think it’s fair to compare other people in the military not being allowed to pray (especially considering how badly people of other faiths or no faith in the military are treated) with what Ambaa is experiencing. Ambaa is in the minority and experiencing prejudice that is directed right at her, not just at a tribal/community identity. We are free to put up signs that say that everyone who isn’t a Christian is hellbound, and I cannot imagine why that is a freedom worth exercising as its aggressive and toxic. I imagine the types of people who erect those signs and then point them directly at their neighbors who don’t share their beliefs aren’t really considering the idea that the freedom to do something does not mean that it is a good, kind, or helpful thing to do.

      • Ambaa

        “We are free to put up signs that say that everyone who isn’t a Christian is hellbound, and I cannot imagine why that is a freedom worth exercising as its aggressive and toxic.”

        Exactly!

        • Pixie5

          This would make a better sign:

          “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7

          Emphasis on “Anyone who loves is a child of God..”

          That would include Hindus, Buddhists and all people who devote their lives to love.

          Church pews would be crowded if they preached love instead of hate.

          • Ambaa

            I like it!

          • Anne

            The other verse is ‘Peace on Earth to people of Good Will’. If only some Christians actually took that message on board! Anyone can have good will! Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Atheists, Wiccans!

          • Pixie5

            Amen!

    • Levedi

      I think you’ve missed the point of her article. She’s not trying to reduce your freedom or anyone else’s. She is telling Christians what our messages look like to the people we are supposedly trying to speak to about Christ. We Christians are supposed to be spreading the good news of Christ by our loving actions, not beating others over the head with our religion. At least 90% of the “Christian” messages I see in a day strike me as incredibly boastful and self-righteous – they put me off wanting to deal with Christians and I am a Christian. Ambaa has described living with these messages as feeling like harassment. If you want to go on being a harasser, then you have that freedom. But don’t claim that Christ told you to behave that way.

      • Ambaa

        Exactly! You have captured precisely what I am trying to say.

        If you want to lead people to your faith, you should be aware that these signs are unwelcoming and are a huge turn-off rather than an invitation to this “good news”

        • badtooth

          you didn’t like my other comments? now you have made me defensive. all you religious people with your holier then thou. if you don’t worship this god or that god you will be re-incarnated as an untouchable. or a dung beetle?
          seems to me you are a hypocrite.

          • Ambaa

            I’m not sure what you mean about your other comments…?

            I think you have a very flawed understanding of karma and reincarnation. Some people may believe that rebirth is a form of punishment for not worshiping a particular God, but that is absolutely not the case.

            We are free to worship however leads us closer to bliss and peace. Whether that is to a God, Gods, no God, our inner Self. Anything that leads us towards Good is Good. Anything that makes us happier and kinder is Good.

            Rebirth is a form of learning for our souls. Rather than having a brief 100 years or so (for some only maybe 10 years even) to figure out the universe, we have many lifetimes to learn and grow and get closer to Truth.

            That Truth is not a God or particular Gods, it is the unity of the universe and realizing that we have divinity already within us.

            You are reborn, according to the sages, based on what you most need to learn to come to that understanding. It is never a punishment.

          • Pixie5

            I see reincarnation as God giving us unlimited “second chances”. Maybe in some form it might be punishment, but it has purpose. Hell has no purpose to it, no meaning at all.

            The idea of hell (which was borrowed from the Greeks, the ancient Jews had no concept of hell) is really a way that people can envision a just world since there are many people who *seem* to get off scott-free. I say “seem” because quite often these people appear to be very unhappy. How many pix have you seen of Hitler smiling?

            Another way of envisioning “hell” is simply a psychological state of being out of touch with God. But it is not permanent.

            The basic problem with the Christian doctrine is the ideal of “total depravity” set forth by the Calvinists and others. Eastern religions off course treat the problem of evil in a different manner and I believe it is a healthier perspective. People are not evil because we are one with God (although we may not know it). Actions can be evil but that is simply a problem with being out of touch with God. At least that is my understanding although I do not have an in-depth knowledge of Eastern faiths.

            I heard a quote once that went like this, “We are not punished for our sins, but *by our sins* ” You can call it Karma, “what comes around goes around” or “what you sow you shall reap.” It is still a valid principle. In fact in my mind Karma does not even have to apply to another life, we experience it all the time through the Law of Attraction.

          • badtooth

            ok, so what is the caste system? no doubt my understanding of hinduism if extremely limited. never read the vedas. was it just the 300th or 500th annivery of a book a couple of years ago? 12? 24 gurus? it’s been 25 years since i took world religions.
            ah yes, reincarnation is a gift for the soul. the universe may make you a cripple because you were arrogant in the last life and you need to learn humility.

          • Ambaa

            Yes, that is how I see reincarnation. That’s my belief and it doesn’t have to be everyone’s belief, but it’s a closer representation than your first statement about it.

            Most people will tell you that the caste system is purely cultural and not part of the religion. It’s been practiced a long time, though, so it’s pretty ingrained. I’m sure it depends on the holy book you most closely follow and the guru who interprets it that you listen to.

            In a way the concept of caste makes sense when it goes along with reincarnation, but I think caste is a problem mainly because people use it as an excuse to be unkind to others. What happened in the past only informs where you find yourself now, but in the moment you can always change the path of your destiny. The past should not make that much impact when people are judging you. Especially a past in another lifetime. We don’t know the reasons why someone was born in the situation they were, but we can always help them to get to a better situation.

            That is sounding really disjointed. I might have to take some time to put together a coherent post on the subject.

    • radiofreerome

      “I am a Christian. I see things I don’t like all the time. It is the price of living in a free country. … I don’t like to read that our military officers are forbidden to write scripture on whiteboards or start meetings with prayer.”

      So, your definition of oppression is not being able to force everyone to act according to your faith.

      In the words of St. Dolly of Parton, “Get down off that cross. Somebody might need the wood.”

      • Pixie5

        “So, your definition of oppression is not being able to force everyone to act according to your faith.”
        That is basically all there is to their arguments, summed up. My brain almost literally hurts after trying to get through their pretzel arguments.
        “Religious freedom for me, but not for thee!”

  • John W. Morehead

    As an Evangelical Christian, thank you for sharing your story. I hope my religious community can try to put themselves in your shoes so as to better understand.

    • Ambaa

      Thank you so much! That is exactly what I want to hear :) I want to be having dialogues with people of other religions, you know?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram/ A Witch’s Ashram

    I really love this post. Thank you so much for writing this. Trying to be funny, I think, “Move to the Pacific North West! It’s much less intense than that here.” (I also hope you’re having a fantastic honeymoon!)

    • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

      I agree…having grown up there and living there currently, this is generally true. The town where I grew up, and where I work (and where I’m posting from) is considered extremely conservative for this area, and yet things aren’t too bad for me as a semi-public polytheist. (For some of my students, not so much–and both my students and myself have been harassed for being polytheists, and sometimes by faculty members…)
      Those of us who are your fellows in minority religions would agree that you’re not being “overly sensitive,” you simply have your eyes open and are noticing how stiflingly prevalent these messages of Christian triumphalism are, and how we’re all just supposed to suck it up and deal and be happy that we’re “allowed to exist” at all.

      • Ambaa

        I like the phrase “Christian triumphalism”!

  • Brian Pendell

    Thank you for sharing. I’m a conservative Christian and have been attempting to encourage more humility in fellow believers.

    Out of curiosity, what part of the US do you live in? Because up here in Maryland/Northern Virginia I see Darwin fish and similar things all the time — over expression of evangelical Christianity is much less common here. Yes, there are traffic-bending megachurches, and there are Christian TV channels like TBN, but they don’t seem to have nearly the cultural dominance you describe.

    I’m asking, because I would expect what you describe to be much more common in, say, Georgia or Oklahoma than in New York or Massachusetts.

    • Ambaa

      You’re in Maryland area? Me too!

      I have family in North Carolina and I’ll admit, it is much worse there.

      I grew up in Massachusetts where there’s much less, though, so I think I’m very sensitive to it now.

      • theworthingtonpost

        I’m a Jewish woman in Maryland! I think the three of us should get together! “A Jew, a Christian and a Hindu walk into a bar in Fell’s Point…” I’d love it!

        • Ambaa

          Hehehe!

    • garlicclove

      Some of it’s surprisingly common in MA.

      • Ambaa

        Particularly in the western part

  • Vanita Deaton

    I love your column. I bumped into it today on a google search.

    I think this sometimes, but then I realize that I wear om(s) on my beanie, on my jewelry, and I have Ganesh and Om tattoos. Granted, I’m not running out trying to convert anyone to my way (Kashmir Shaivism), but I think I should lighten up about it. I am just as out there with my practice.

    • Ambaa

      Sometimes I feel this need to be…defensive. Like I wear something in order to make myself seen because I feel so made-invisible.

      I do think it makes sense to mark ourselves as being a particular religion. I think that’s particularly important for minority religions as a reminder to everyone that we are not actually all the same religion.

      But even wearing a cross necklace is not a problem. It’s great that someone is passionate about their beliefs. And at least when you’ve put a marker of Christianity on you, it does invite that conversation.

      There’s a fine line, I guess, between marking yourself as being a particular religion and overstepping your bounds to infringe on someone else’s religion.

      Really what I can’t understand is how people in an evangelizing religion put up a sign and then shut the door. I need them to realize that the sign or billboard is a way to keep people out and make them feel unwelcome rather than a way to bring them to your faith.

      • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

        I would say that is actually by design in some ways. There are many who subscribe to the “Christ against culture” idea and their lives are structured to spend as much time within “Christian culture” as possible – Christian TV, radio, bookstores, Christian Yellow Pages so you don’t have to do business with people who don’t believe the same as you, homeschooling, social circles all based in the church. Only time it is necessary to talk to nonbelievers is when doing that dirty-but-required business of “evangelism” and if you don’t get takers, then why allow them to ’cause you to stumble’ in your walk with God? Surround yourself with those who believe what you do, who will encourage you in your faith. Don’t be yoked together with nonbelievers. Christ did not come to bring peace but a sword and he will divide families, so better to follow him than keep relationships with those who do not. It is not accidental. Not that living apart from the greater community will actually do a lot of good in bringing new people in, but as long as they’re *trying* that’s the important part.

        • Ambaa

          Well, they can go ahead and live just a little further “apart” 😉

  • http://www.patheos.com/Pagan.html Jason Mankey

    Move out to the West Coast, all my neighbors put up lights and shoot fireworks for Diwali.

  • Randy Oftedahl

    As a Christian who believes in a God of unreserved love, I too am appalled by that horrific billboard. Like others have said, it gets very wearing on us to grind our teeth all the time at things that our done especially by “our people.” But inspiration comes from all places, and I found this quote today by the Sufi Rabia al-basri:
    O God! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell,and if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise.
    But if I worship You for Your Own sake,
    grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.

    • Ambaa

      I can’t imagine how hard it is to be a kind and compassionate Christian trying to express love in what you do when the reputation of Christianity is being pulled in the opposite direction!

      • Stacey (the kids’ Aunt Tasty)

        Thank you for this comment, Ambaa. (SO MUCH!!!!) Thank you so much for this blog post, as well! You articulated your experience very well; it’s important to me to know how my neighbors are experiencing our culture. It helps me know how to be a loving and generous neighbor!

        • Ambaa

          :) I appreciate so much that you care about being a kind neighbor! It makes the possibility of dialogue about faith so much more likely. I have some dear friends who are Christian and I love to talk with them about faith. It can be such a good experience when it doesn’t feel forceful!

          • Stacey (the kids’ Aunt Tasty)

            We can talk about faith anytime! I do enjoy conversations about faith, traditions, and perspectives. I’m pretty easy though, we can also talk about books or movies or travels or chocolate or even cute shoes!

          • Anne

            Gosh Ambaa I think you are finding soul mates here. Interfaith dialogue is the way of the future. There is a hub at the centre of the wheel, and the different religions are the spokes of the wheel. Find the hub, and you have found the one, eternal, unmoveable truth.

          • Ambaa

            What a lovely metaphor! I like it.

    • Pixie5

      Thank you for that quote. That is how I feel as well. Why would God want us to come to him in fear instead of love?

  • coot

    I’m trying to sympathize but I really can’t.
    I imagine living in India for some reason. And there a Hindu temples everywhere, and Hindu statues, shrines, people giving Hindu blessings; where I live and shop and work. Even if they through in (whether they would or not – i’m imaging here): Hinduism is the only way, Christians will reincarnate as cockroaches, karma is a bitch (oh, I do see that one all the time) , and how I’d feel. Well, I’d feel: this is India, lots’a Hindus here, Interesting, Exotic even; but none of that would upset me, or even surprise me, or offend me.
    It seems you simply wish the U.S. didn’t have so many Christians, but it does, so just go on believing what you do.
    So sorry I don’t see your problem.

    • Ambaa

      I’m sorry that you’re unable to relate to my experience, but it is still my experience and clearly I’m not the only one feeling this way.

      It’s not that I want fewer Christians, I just want Christians to be aware that they are in the majority here and aware of the rights and privileges that grants them.

      I want Hindus in India also to be aware that they are in the majority and have rights and privileges that minority religions don’t.

      That awareness, I believe, will bring more kindness and compassion for our neighbors.

    • http://amarchotoprithibi.blogspot.com/ Andrea

      Your perspective and subsequent lack of empathy is normal, understandable, and typical of the Christian experience in the USA.

      Privilege is usually invisible to those who have it. Even just imagining “what if the tables were turned” – it’s an amusing thought experiment, but the results of that experiment are still informed by your privilege and the fact you have not actually experienced discrimination, microaggressions, or violence. Plus, the religious situations in the USA and India are so very different and not comparable at all.

  • Asemodeus

    That white Jesus thing never stops being funny. There is no chance Jesus would have had been northern European white and yet that is the only way the christians in this country portray him.

    • Ambaa

      Very true!

    • badtooth

      i’ve seen black jesus in black churches.

  • guest

    Why did you link the unequally yoked article? Who there is laughing at you?

    I wonder, if you could redesign your neighbors signs to invite a conversation, how would you do it? Would an ‘ask me about Jesus!’ sign feel more open to dialouge? Or a bumper sticker that said ‘Jesus saved me, want to know more?’

    Just curious if there’s any way to fix the problem. I’m an atheist but I’m British so I don’t really see many Jesus lawn signs, our culture considers religion a private matter. Sometime I see fish stickers on cars, but they don’t really bother me. The crap our prime minister came out with last week, that bothered me, but most of the time Christians here are fairly low key.

    • garlicclove

      See I like your idea for signs. Conversation is good. But I wonder what sort of response an “Ask me about Shiva” and “Let’s talk Kali” signs would have from the neighbors. Social experiment perhaps.

      • Ambaa

        Exactly! I would be very curious to see.

        • Pixie5

          The neighbors most likely would be very offended and argumentative. Christians are hypocritical that way.

          • Anne

            I hope you mean ‘some’ Christians, Pixie. Don’t tar all of us with the same brush. I wouldn’t be in the least offended by a sign promoting another religion.

          • Pixie5

            I am sorry about that Anne. I do get carried away and forget to clarify. I am referring to the “Fun-gelicals”

          • Anne

            That’s quite all right Pixie and I entirely understand. I think you’ve said elsewhere that you are a ‘recovering’ evangelical. Well, so am I. I was a cradle Catholic, digressed for 23 years into evangelicalism, and reverted to Catholicism in my 40’s. Now, I am *very* anti evangelicalism. There is sooo much wrong with it on all sorts of levels. I can be quite hostile though towards evangelicals, and it’s wrong of me to attack individuals, but I do it. I’ve got family members who are evangelical and I’m ashamed to say my zealous behaviour has alienated them. Mea Culpa. I think I’m improving though as I mature. I like the term ‘fun-gelicals’. That sums it up pretty well.

          • Pixie5

            Yeah, I can identify. But I have learned not to discuss religion (or politics) with my family. Instead I vent on forums and not always nicely!

          • Anne

            I’ve done that too, Pixie, but I’m trying not to now. I only get myself all worked up over it and I don’t think you can change anyone’s mind that way. What I’m training myself to do now, rather than slag off evangelicalism, is when I encounter any sort of hate-preaching, to chip in with a message of peace and compassion, and try and bring out the reasonable side of people by appealing to their better nature. Even if that doesn’t work, it’s made me feel better….

    • Ambaa

      I got into a fight in the comments. You probably can’t find it because there are so many comments now! But this post was entirely inspired by someone there mocking my unease.

      I’m not sure there’s a solution to the problem more than I would like for people to be aware of the effect of their actions. If your motivation is to bring me to your faith, you should know that a lawn sign is a way to make me uncomfortable and afraid of you.

  • theworthingtonpost

    “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.” A thousand times, yes. This entire piece was wonderful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.cousins.14 David Cousins

    Wah…..blog fail…

  • http://www.brotherfire.com John Beaudoin

    What about Jesus are you against? His healing of the sick; his feeding the hungry; his call to forgiveness and compassion? If you’re not against these things then you’re not against Jesus so the sign shouldn’t really be offensive to you.

    Surely there are many Christians who say that in order to be “for” Jesus you have to believe he is the literal Son of God who was bodily raised the dead. But you don’t have to look interpret Christianity in such a narrow-minded way.

    In fact the Gospels elude to the fact that not all who call him Lord will see the kingdom of God and some who don’t believe will see the Kingdom. Jesus said that many who call themselves Christian will not be saved because they only pay lip service when it comes to putting on the Character of Christ, while others will be saved because they have Christ already in their hearts: “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? And the Lord will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:38.
    So unless your religion celebrates being greedy, apathetic and uncaring, Jesus should be an inspiration to you. I know that doesn’t help when someone tells you you have to accept Jesus as your personal saviour or burn in hell. I’m just saying that being “for Jesus” doesn’t necessarily mean joining the Christian Church. It can mean putting on the Character of God in humility, love and compassion. I personally don’t think God gives a hoot what “religion” you choose to express those qualities in.

    • Ambaa

      That’s a good point. Jesus would be an inspiration for me if Christians weren’t so nasty about it. Not all Christians, of course, but there was a time when I saw Jesus as a realized man and one to emulate. Now all I see when I look at him is Christians telling me that I’m going to hell because I don’t view him as the ONLY path to God.

    • Buckley

      The reason Freedom from Religion Foundation puts up billboards stating that godless is the way to go is because it’s a way to point out the need by some Christians to call out that if you don’t follow Christ then you are going to hell. The best religions are those that are kept to themselves. I don’t want Atheism to be the law of the land any more than I want Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc. Our country functions best when laws are secular based and not religion-specific based. I think your post illustrates this privilege. You are trying to convert her through your arguments. What she has stated is that your need to argue that your way is right and that all others are false IS that privilege that you fail to exercise correctly. As an atheist I find all religions fascinating because despite of the lack of evidence for most of what is claimed, the religious go on believing. In the end, after we die, will truly learn the truth. At that point, what is the need to brag about having the correct answer when, if you are right, you will be surrounded by people who believed the same as you. All others will be gone. Or, I could be right, or she could be right….

      • Ambaa

        I feel like separation of religion and government is SO critical. It’s absolutely essential. An individual in government can of course practice his religion, but if his religion is built into the laws it can’t help but be prejudicial.

        • Buckley

          Hope you had/are having a wonderful honeymoon!

  • Zeke

    Word. Ìronic though that the source of your unease comes from the same superstitious worldview you imagine.

    • Sabina

      I got the impression that her unease- if you want to call it that- is in being excluded and yelled at. It’s not that she believes she’s going to hell because these people are shouting it. It’s that she doesn’t like being shouted at, excluded out of hand, or feeling like she’s going to be treated badly in person by these people because THEY believe she’s going to hell. It is not pleasant being told that over and over again, whether you believe it or not- whether you believe there IS a hell or not.

  • Buckley

    I really liked what you wrote. I’m an atheist that was once nominally Christian. I have always disliked the need of some to publicly flaunt their beliefs and what they think of your beliefs (when it says something about going to hell if one does not believe in what they believe in, it is in fact telling me I am wrong). I always try and keep my beliefs to myself and when my ideas come into conflict with others i always error on the side of keeping it to my self. As you can imagine about what I believe (or in my case don’t believe), I really dislike government sponsored (laws based on religious belief).

    If, as a person, you like to be open with your religion, that is absolutely fine with me, unless it becomes a chance for you to attempt challenge my ideas or call me out based on your beliefs. I have the utmost respect for religion, but I really think that for all religions to be welcome here, in the US specifically, then religion must keep its distance from each other and from the public sphere. I like learning about what and why people believe, but I need to come to it, not have it forced on me through some twisted peer-pressure.

    • Ambaa

      Exactly!

  • Unah

    I get it. It took me a long time, and living in different parts of the US, and Caribbean. I look back at the behavior of my youth group days with embarrassment. Sometimes Christians can even end up being the victim of other Christian’s aggressive evangelizing. My husband worked waiting tables in college. One night he waited on a large church youth group. When he went to clean up the table, he noticed twenty dollar bills next to each plate. Of course he was excited, but when he went to pick up the money he realized it was really the same religious tracts you mentioned in this post. Nobody had left an actual tip, just fake money with a Jesus message on the back. I can’t explain why some Christians think these signs and tracts are a good idea. I do know we tell ourselves a lot of convenient lies like, ‘those people are only angry because we are telling the truth.’

    • Ambaa

      Ewww. How awful!

      You bring up a good point that we all evolve and grow as people too. I think, I’m pretty sure, I have become less obnoxious over the years :)

    • Pixie5

      I have heard of other Christians doing the same thing. They never think about how it comes across to others. If say a Hindu were to do that, they would be incensed because 1) They would not want to be preached at, and 2) It would simply be insulting. Many people live partly off those tips in exchange for lower pay. Can you imagine some young mother who needs diapers and food for her child and sees this fake money? She gets her hopes up and then realizes it is nothing more than a cruel hoax. Maybe she starts crying. Great way to get people to come to church!

      They may claim that salvation is more important than money but I believe Jesus said different. In fact as I recall Jesus did not do much preaching without also doing something for others at the same time.

      “I do know we tell ourselves a lot of convenient lies like, ‘those people are only angry because we are telling the truth.’

      You hit the nail on the head. The MAIN REASON why people reject Christianity are Christian’s behavor. It really is not atheists who are destroying Christianity (especially since they are by far a minority) Christianity is destroying itself.

      The problem with much of Christianity is the focus is outward instead of inward. The first duty of a Christian should be becoming a better Christian. And in this country, it is completely unnecessesary to use the hard sell because there are practically as many churches as there are McDonald’s on the street corners. People can check it out if they want. Otherwise they should be left alone.

      • Ambaa

        And it’s sad that the actions of the very vocal evangelical-focused Christians drowns out the nice Christians a lot of the time. And I don’t mean to say that all evangelicals are not nice, but I mean that we encounter so many prideful, self-important, preaching Christians who don’t actually care one bit about us as people and so we start judging Christianity by that when in fact there are thousands more Christians who are friendly, helpful, kind, and focusing on bettering themselves. Their voices get completely drowned out.

        • Pixie5

          You are correct, however I guess I have baggage as well since I am a recovering fundie. I literally feel like I am “detoxing” from it. That can make me too judgmental as well. But basically I get along with liberal Christians even though at this point I see too many flaws and moral problems with the Bible to believe in it anymore. But of course Christians practice their faith in different ways, although all pick and choose. It is impossible to not do that since it contains so many contradictions.

          Basically the good Christians are the ones that have taken the good parts of the Bible and live that out to the best of their ability. The bad ones take the bad parts and live that out as well.

          I saw someone post on a blog one time that Christianity should be on trial for crimes against humanity. A Christian pointed out that not all Christians do bad things. I responded by saying that he said “Christianity” not Christians and that there was a difference. He seemed to like that answer.

          I apologize if I was a bit too negative in my posts and thank you for pointing out that there are many good Christians as well.

          • Ambaa

            I know what you mean. When people claim to follow the whole Bible literally, I just am amazed that they don’t see how impossible that is. No one follows it all literally. Do you literally refuse to call your mother “mom”? Because Jesus did say that. So yeah, it is possible to pick and choose the worst parts and follow that!

          • Anne

            Not all Christians are ‘literalists’. Richard Rohr (Google) has said that the literal meaning of scripture is the lowest level of meaning, and that it is perfectly possible to revere scripture without having to take a literalist view of everything. The symbolic interpretation is the deepest and truest. Try telling that to a fundie though. You’ll hit a brick wall.

          • Ambaa

            Exactly! I’m definitely only talking about that set of people who make the claim that they are following the Bible literally :)

          • Pixie5

            There is a puzzling teaching of Jesus that NOBODY follows. It has to do with, ahem…lust. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off

            That is definitely a worse punishment than hairy palms..lol.
            .
            I think there would be plenty of blind and handless Christians if they actually followed that teaching!

      • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

        “They never think about how it comes across to others.”

        ————————

        Exactly! You see, the various rules and laws in bibles and other books often get used as a substitute for thinking. They think in terms of, “Well, it’s wrong because God says so.” They don’t think in terms of putting themselves in other people’s shoes and try to understand how they would feel under similar circumstances. We live in a world of consequences.

        • Pixie5

          Or…it is right because God says so. I have gone around in circles with fundies who justify stuff like slavery in the Bible. What it comes down to is that either you have to accept an imperfect Bible or else you have to shut down your heart. And if you shut down your heart then you can’t possibly see that you are being insensitive or worse, even cruel to other people.
          Perhaps this is a little arrogant, but I just don’t see these fundies wrestling with the hard questions of spirituality. Questioning is how we change and grow. Simply following a bunch of rules and believing the “correct” doctrine is not going to get you there.

          • Ambaa

            And I’ve said before that I find religions full of rules where you don’t have to think quite tempting. There is something comforting about turning over your mind to someone else to hold!

          • Pixie5

            Yes, because you can never be wrong…except on some level you already know that isn’t true.So to fight that knowledge then you attack others in the guise of defending the “One True Faith.”
            It has been quite a relief to me to realize that in fact the Truth actually resides within me. We are made in the image and likeness of God. I don’t believe that that means physically. It means spiritually.Many Christians are taught that they cannot trust their hearts because they are evil. If you believe, as Calvin did, that we are completely evil, then it follows that you have to have someone to tell you what is right and wrong.
            But even the bible says God’s laws are written in our hearts.
            .
            I find it hard to believe that mankind actually needed to have the Ten Commandments set in stone
            My experience too is that God is within me and that we are not separate from him..
            I think that religions are useful as guides, but you have to separate the truth from the untruth. Fallible people came up with religions, and a good many have been useful politically to the powers that be. Uniting people under the guise of religion is the oldest trick in the world.
            I prefer to think about religion in terms of the old story, the elephant and the three blind men, each perceiving God differently and yet at some level they are all right. Or a puzzle where the pieces are scattered throughout different religions since we, on an earthly level, simply don’t have the capacity to take in all of the Divine. To say that God “belongs” to a certain group and that group only, actually is putting God in a box and saying he can only be understood in a certain way.
            But St. Paul said we see “as through a glass, darkly” as it is impossible to understand everything while here on earth.
            I think the only Truth that matters is that we learn to act more loving towards others, something I struggle with! But when I choose to look at others with compassion as being people needing to be healed rather than condemned then I feel more at peace..

          • Ambaa

            Well said!

            You know my favorite quote from the Bible? “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” :)

  • Anne

    Hello Ambaa
    I haven’t read all the comments, but hopefully enough to get the general gist. My own two pence worth is: this is really a problem with living in America. In the UK, we are much more multicultural, and Christianity is far less aggressive. Here, you will hardly ever see posters etc telling people they are going to Hell. They are more likely to say something inoffensive like ‘God loves you’. In the UK, most Christians don’t spend much time slamming down other people’s beliefs, and evangelicalism is not the mainstream. I am a Christian, but I know that if I had to see aggressive so-called ‘Christian’ material everywhere I went, I would get tired of it quite quickly, so you have my sympathy.

    • Ambaa

      Thank you! I’ve visited in the UK a fair amount but never stayed long enough to get a feel for the religious landscape. Your description is inspiring.

      • Anne

        Some things just aren’t considered to be in good taste here, and we have no equivalent of a ‘Bible belt’ – thank God. Of course, if you have visited the UK, you will know that we have quite a few Hindus, due to our historical connections to India.

  • Rose Magdalene

    Last fall my husband, daughter and I went down to TX for a family reunion. We were shocked by how many Christian billboard we came across while in TX. We saw various Christian boards, Pro-Life billboards, and at least one billboard threatening us with Hell. The most bizarre were the Tattoo Jesus billboards in the Lubbock area. In addition to that my family is incredibly Christian. They are so Christian that they always hold a worship service during family reunions. It didn’t help that my mother and father tried to encourage me to give Christianity another chance a few times. It was gentle, but still not wanted. Needless to say I had more than my fill of Jesus by the time we made it back home to New Mexico.

    Luckily for my little family Catholics don’t tend to shove Christianity down others’ throats nearly as much as the Evangelicals. And an images of la Virgen de Guadalupe are much more visually appealing than a billboards threatening Hell Fire any day of the week. Anyway, this Pagan understands where you’re coming from.

    • Ambaa

      Thumbs up!

  • http://www.deafdrummer.org Stephanie Ellison

    What she said! Now, I see that you know what it’s like for me. I had gotten to the point where if someone asks me, “Are you a believer?” I ask, “A believer in what?” When they talk about Jesus, I stop them right there and say, “My personal beliefs are not up for discussion,” and leave.


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