If you are hanging out with the same kind of Christians I am, you'll understand. I've been one of those Christians. I am now in deep recovery and working hard to silence those "old tapes". The first step to admitting you have a problem and all that jazz...
See. I live in a very conservative town. Someone would even call it a "Christian Community," though too many of us who are working to inject diversity and tolerance into our community would give a deep side eye to those who claim such titles. Siloam Springs, Arkansas is a town where there used to a billboard that declared, "Now Entering God's Country". It also used to be a sundown town.
The irony isn't lost on this African American woman.
I had to learn how to live in Siloam Springs as one has to learn to live in a foreign country where the outlets don't fit your flat irons electrical plugs and the words for beer and emergency are too alike. A single misplaced syllable could land you in trouble. Siloam Springs is home to John Brown University. My Alma Mater. I'd like to claim I was tricked into attending this school, but I wasn't. When I signed on the federal loan dotted line I knew the school I was headed to. I wanted to have my identity rooted in "good Christian ideals". It wasn't until I arrived that I realized that the cultural paradigm established by the founders of this university were diametrically opposed to how I was made. So I learned to fly under the radar (which looked like getting in lots of trouble for having pre-marital sex and drinking A SINGLE SMIRNOFF ON A SCHOOL TRIP). <- To be fair I agreed not to do these things by signing JBU's Lifestyle Contract.
I became extremely jaded and then looped back toward gratitude concerning my time at John Brown University.
Nowadays, I zip around Siloam Springs free from Lifestyle Contracts. I still, however, have to interact with folks who came out of a heavily indoctrinated experience and I still struggle against how their Christianity keeps us from authentic connection. Here is an example of the kind of exchanges that make it hard for me to connect with these people.
Me: "Hey! How are you."
Them: "SO blessed. God is so awesome."
Me: "Um... that is cool for you."
Them: "And you!"
Me: "What are you up to these days."
Them: "The Lord has been so faithful. __________ got a new job, our church prayed for it and God gave it to him and I've been home being a stay-at-home mom."
Me: "Yikes. I remember stay-at-home life... that was hard"
Them: "It can be hard, but we know this is where God wants me so I feel grateful that He has made a way."
Me: (blank stare)
Me: "So. Um.... coooooool."
Them: "It was SO good to see you."
Me: "Mmhmm. So good."
Y'all. I am not saying this is inauthentic for EVERYONE. So many people I've met in this town speak like this and function (seemingly well) in this kind of cultural dynamic. But me? I don't know how to move beyond that point. What I do know is this: Christianity was never supposed to be about keeping people away from the real parts of you. It seems like the narrative of Christianity is filled with gravitas. It was and should still be about redemption, grace, and community. When we strip things down to platitudes, though, we lose that gravitas.
I am willing to take responsibility--- maybe I just don't get it. When everything about your life is a rejection of your own will or uncomfortable emotions or, well, anything personal... I don't know how to navigate. Is there a course for this? I'll take it! Maybe I'll get credit toward cross-cultural studies.