Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"All Christians aren't like that!"

There's something I understand better now than I used to back when I was self-identifying as a theist. I, too, was really upset that atheists were so prejudiced and bigoted and just pigeonholed any religious people they knew and assumed that if you aren't an atheist, you're an enemy. Or something.

I understand marginalization and privilege a little better now, though. Only some of it is from beginning to identify as an atheist. A lot of it's stuff I've heard from LGBT people and people of color and feminists and just... y'know, people who have experience with this stuff. Here's what I've learned about generalizing about the members (or affiliates) of organizations that hate me (or you, or someone else, or whoever).

It's hard sometimes, when someone walks up wearing the badge and uniform of one's oppressors, to assume that they don't want to be associated with the other people wearing it. It's hard for me (for example) to see someone who self-identifies as Catholic and not see an ally of the homophobia, misogyny, and just general callousness that characterizes that organization. They may not personally hate women or gays or child rape victims, but they're comfortable affiliating with an organization that plainly does, and I have to wonder at that rate whether they're true allies.

Sadly, that type of Christianity is still setting the tone in a lot of the country. While I'm supportive of the efforts of other Christians to clean up their image, I no longer feel like I should suffer at the hands of the Christian cultural system and simultaneously do their PR for them. When more Christians are like Quakers, I'll talk about them like more of them are Quakers.

I get that it's got to suck having people running around acting a fool who are using teachings from the same book as you are to do some terrible things to innocent people. It always sucks to feel like someone else has enough control over your reputation to screw with it by being bigots and just generally showing their whole ass to the world.

That's the thing, though, about continuing to wear the badge and uniform of a group that--for a lot of people--has done them nothing but personal and very tangible harm. Depending on how badly they've been hurt and for how long and how much hope they have left, they might just assume that you're an ally to the people who hurt them. They're not assuming this because they're bigoted, or bullies, or intolerant. They're assuming it because they're tired of giving chances to people who put on that uniform and then getting kicked in the face for it. So... they stop taking the risk.

I'm not quite there yet, but I've seen people get there, and it's hard for me to begrudge them. It's not hate. It's hurt, and it's weariness, and they're right. They should never have had to always be the one giving out chance after chance after chance to people who didn't take it. It's hard exhausting work, and the people I know who've given up on trying to find common ground with Christians? That's why.

So this is why I've stopped saying, "Not all straight/cis/white/etc. people are like that! Please only talk about your painful experiences in a way that protects my feelings!" and it's why I think it'd be great if Christians did, too.

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