Why am I so paranoid? I’m not cheating on my husband, committing crimes or doing drugs. But those are battles my cosmopolitan, progressive friends would understand. Many of them had to come out — as gay, as alcoholics, as artists in places where art was not valued. To them, my situation is far more sinister: I am the bane of their youth, the boogeyman of their politics, the very thing they left their small towns to escape. I am a Christian.....
Not long ago, I told a priest at my church that my friends equated religion with horrible things. I expected her to tell me I had some obligation to stop hiding my faith, but she said, pulling a scarf around her neck to hide her priest’s collar, “Those preachers on the subways make me cringe.” She said she prefers Saint Francis: “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”
I could reassure my atheist friends that the Episcopal Church is a force for equality and social justice. It ordained its first gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2003. It takes the Bible as a mandate to fight hunger and disease and to rebuild after disasters. I believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other politically involved religious groups who take the gospel as an excuse to spread hate and support specific candidates and propositions should have their tax-free status taken away.
Maybe, though, apolitical Christianity is on the rise. The Obamas are now in office — a good Christian family in the truest sense of the term — and the right wing is more marginalized than it was a year ago. My friend, the young (and kind of ridiculously hot) priest the Rev. Astrid Storm, whom I used to edit at Nerve.com, says she’s sensing more acceptance:
“When I said I was a priest, it was always a conversation stopper,” she says. “Recently someone asked what I did, and when I told him he said, ‘How interesting. There are a lot of exciting things happening right now in the Episcopal Church, aren’t there?’ The diversity of opinion people are reading about in the news — about gay marriage, female priests, poverty issues — are showing how Christianity isn’t monolithic.”
[I]ncreasingly, I wonder: When I’m getting a ride from some friends and they start talking about how stupid religious people are and quoting lines from “Religulous,” do I have an obligation to point out how reductive and bigoted they’re being, the way I would if they were talking about a particular race? Increasingly I wonder if I should pipe up from the back seat and say, “Excuse me, but these fools you’re talking about? I’m one of them.”