The other day, while the guy who teaches next door to me was explaining his new tattoo design, I told him I could never get another tattoo because of the pain.
He was shocked. "You? A tattoo?"
I get it. I am a walking girl scout. Yes, I curse and drink, but I can sell the crap out of a box of cookies with just my sweet smile. And don't get me started on my merit badges. Plus, I look like a twelve year old.
Regardless, I wasn't really prepared for what he said next.
"I can't believe you have a tattoo. Aren't you, like, super-religious?"
My immediate response was an emphatic No, I'm not super-religious. Then he asked why I was always leaving work to go to Montreat Planning Meetings. Isn't that a church camp? Don't you do that every summer?
Well, yeah, I do. I always describe Montreat as "church camp that's not really church camp." I suppose I don't want people to think I'm teaching kids to make bombs for abortion clinics or inviting them to come down to the campfire and witness their salvation. I always emphasize that we are Presbyterian. Decent. In Good Order.
But, what's so wrong with church camp? Why do I assume people view religion as a negative? I suppose some judgment I've run into along the way hasn't helped.
A few years ago, at a friend's birthday party, we were hanging at the bar. Everyone was doing shots and I didn't want one. The bartender offered it free, but I said no.
The reason I said no? Well, I don't do shots. I just can't swallow them, literally. If someone really wants to order me a shot, I get either Patron or Belvedere and then I sip it, just to make them regret not just accepting my 'no' for answer. Also, at this party, they were all doing gross, sugary shots that would most likely make me vomit. Not to mention, I'm a lightweight and one shot is going to put me over the edge. All this aside, this friend's husband looked at me and said, "Stop being so judgmental." Then, he 'crossed' himself.
Huh? Where did that come from?
Was it because I'd just come back from Montreat, and his wife complained to him about things I'd shared with her? Was it because I was wearing a necklace with a cross? Was it because he knew I had a commitment to my church, and he just assumed I didn't want to drink because it was against my religion? I'd never discussed religion with him. I very rarely bring it up unless people ask. Since when is saying, "No, thank you," a judgment?
I was really offended. Later, when his wife tried to tell me I was too judgmental for her friendship anymore, I couldn't help but feel so incredibly misunderstood. (Ironically, she also told me she didn't believe in bisexuality and found it difficult to believe my blond bombshell of a co-worker had a master's degree. Ok. Whatever.) Still, I never really stopped to think about judgment he'd encountered earlier in his life in the name of my religion. Maybe I had judged them, but didn't they do the same to me?
I just wish having faith didn't automatically group me in the same category as the pipe-bomb people. My faith in God tells me to love people, to forgive people, to always do what is right and to know that God will forgive me if I do something wrong. My faith tells me that God could care less about tattoos, dancing, body piercings, or alcohol and more about helping your neighbor. My faith tells me that God would want anyone, ANYONE who is in love to get married, or be ordained, or adopt a child. I'm not perfect, I don't claim to be. But I'm motivated by my faith to try and be a good person who loves and accepts others.
I know others say and do heinous things in the name of my same faith. I can't help that. I can't force people to believe the same things as me and I will never, ever do that.
However, I will continue to try and let my actions speak for themselves - to let people see that a girl who loves Jesus can also love really expensive vodka and gay people. One day, maybe that will be the new definition of "super-religious."