This semester I’m taking Religion and Culture, a 100 level Philosophy class which fills in a required “humanistic thought” elective. During the first day of class, we were asked to introduce ourselves and say something regarding our religious background. My heart was pounding as I told what should now be a familiar story: I was raised in a conservative Christian home, and when I discovered I was gay, I was ex-communicated and shunned for a period of nearly two months. The class was appropriately shocked to hear that shunning is still practiced outside of the Amish community, and we actually had an interesting, albeit brief, discussion of primitivism and traditionalism in religion.
After the second day of class, Gretchen approached me with this consolation:
“I just think it’s terrible what they did to you. How old are you? I’m dating a guy from Bluffton [my hometown] now, and he told me about this cool non-denominational church! Do you have a church now?”
When I informed Gretchen that I’ve been in a period of atheism or agnosticism for the past few years, her face fell and she mumbled, “oh, that’s too bad.” Never fear, her chipper desire to do god’s work wasn’t deterred. “Well, if you’d like to check that church out sometime, I’d be happy to go with you!”
Look, Gretchen, I’m sure you’re a nice girl and I’m sure you’ll make some one very happy some day. But really, even if I was going to go to church (which I won’t rule out), I’m not going to drive to Bluffton of all places, and I’m definitly not going with some chipper evangelist I just happen to have class with.
Today she sat next to me in class, and after class asked if I’d thought about the church in Bluffton. I calmly responded, “I have and I appreciate the invitiation, but I don’t think I’m interested in returning to Bluffton on a weekly basis; if I decide to go to church, I’d like to be involved in my local community now.”
Really, Gretchen, let’s just leave it at that.