Every so often, I need to go into my photo albums and clean house. They’re all backed up anyway, so I don’t really have a need to let digital copies take up my storage space. Except for memes. I’m pretty proud of my meme folder.
Today, I was deleting old selfies one of my kids took (do you really need 1,293 pictures of you making the exact. same. face?) when I came across something from November 2017. Someone I knew was planning to come to Massachusetts and wanted to know where they should eat for Thanksgiving. She made a simple enough request. Then, her husband weighed in.
A joke about genocide. From people claiming to be Christians. Because, of course they do. And, yes, before you ask, they’re WASPs.
The person trying to be funny is married to a woman I went to college with. Let’s call her Artsy Karen. He and those on his wife’s timeline found the literal slaughter of indigenous people to be an amusing anecdote.
To say that I was furious is a gross understatement. I don’t think I’ve felt fury like before or since. At least not directly targeted at someone I actually know. I tried to process my feelings in an attempt to salvage the friendship. I had been friends with his wife for over a decade. I wanted to believe she’d call him out on his incredibly inappropriate sense of humor. But, of course, that didn’t happen. Why should I have expected actual humanity from someone who, despite her WWJD bracelet, saw nothing wrong with what her beloved said?
And, just when you think it can’t get better, it does.
I’m was never friends with the guy, so I admit not calling him out on it publicly. I sent a message to his wife explaining just how inappropriate it was and how it was beyond thoughtless for her to have that conversation on her timeline.
Let’s unpack, shall we?
First of all, she’s about as Native American as Elizabeth Warren. And, I say this as someone who actually likes Elizabeth Warren (most of the time). Secondly, while I’m not surprised that she centered herself in the situation, I had hoped she was better than to “you’re my friend, you know I’m not racist” me. Clearly, I didn’t believe her. She’s also an artist and one who I was once proud to support (she was in the middle on a commission at the time which she tried to decline after this conversation; we only received our items when we threatened to sue her).
Coming across this lovely picture collection I have after so long made me realize how angry I still am. I’m angry enough that I have copies of every single one of these pictures with her name still in them. I’m angry enough that I still consider emailing the collection to her husband’s place of business. I’ve had to stop myself from posting this on her business page (though, to be fair, given her clientele, it would likely get her more work). I hate her like I’ve never hated anyone before.
Well, except one person.
A mutual friend we had from college used to be my person. We’ll call her Acoustic Becky (my husband just called her “Becky with the good beats” and I’m now DEAD 😂🤣☠️). In one month, we sent over 2,000 text messages to each other even though we both had young kids at the time. Most people expected her to marry a black man (because fetishes) and were surprised when she didn’t. She had a lot of questionable behavior, but I just went with it because we were friends. Best friends. Person friends.
One day in March 2016, we were talking politics and she let me know how she really felt.
“_______ used to be conservative, but now she’s super liberal and wants to give rights to everyone, including the sidewalk! Like this bathroom bill in North Carolina…”
I admit I have no idea what she said after that because I was too angry to process words. It took me about two full minutes to be able to find an excuse to get off the phone. I was stunned. But I shouldn’t have been. Several months before, she told me that she didn’t think gays should be allowed to adopt because she read the suicide rate was high. I challenged the argument and questioned her source. To the surprise of absolutely no one, she had read that in an article by the Family Research Council – Josh Duggar’s (former?) employer.
So, yeah, let’s the company who employs a man who molested his sisters give reasons why the LGBTQ community shouldn’t raise kids. I’d looooove to have that conversation.
I stopped speaking to Acoustic Becky pretty immediately. At the time, I still (mostly) identified as a Christian. She would routinely tell me that I “had more grace for the folks outside the church than in it”. It was my understanding that was the whole point. I mean, weird flex, but okay. This was during my sister’s battle with cancer and while my enby was awaiting brain surgery. Finding the words to tell her off was the last thing on my mind. My schedule was so full of doctors, and crying, and trying to hold it all together that I barely had time to talk anyway. My sister’s death was the breaking point. I told her we couldn’t be friends and hadn’t truly been friends in months. She was an affront to everything the Christ she believed in stood for and that if people like her continued to run the church, people like me would continue to leave it. Curiously enough, we never spoke again.
So, for the last few years, I’ve hated them both. I’ve wanted to see their lives utterly ruined, their mentions in shambles. I’ve wanted every single person of faith to call out their hypocrisy. They claim to be “broken” worshippers who “can’t live without God’s mercy”, suffering daily and trying to “pour out their hearts” for their savior. It’s an act. All of it. Being the “sensitive spirit” who really doesn’t think they’re good enough for God is the pinnacle of ridiculousness because it’s how they get people to like them. Being spiritually disingenuous is, after all, the Christian way. Especially if you ask Jerry Falwell Jr. He would be very pleased.
And, to be honest, I think I hate that most of all.
Then, last week happened. 40 people gathered together in peaceful worship were killed for their faith. Radical extremists once again slaughtered innocent people who hadn’t hurt a soul. This wasn’t long after the Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh. I grew up about 15 minutes away from the synagogue and knew people who attended. In both cases, people who were praying were murdered by those who sought to silence them for their faith.
When Christian extremists bend the Bible to their will and use it as a call to end the lives of people they don’t even know, I’m reminded of all the people I know who, in their own way, contribute to the rhetoric that gets people killed. They don’t even think about it because they don’t consider the cost of their silence, their laughter, their enabling behavior that puts a stamp of approval on those who should be condemned. I’m reminded of the anger I have for people I don’t even speak to anymore. And, I justify my fury and keep the lid on my rage firmly closed. That way, it stays fresh.
But I realized something today. In the past year, I’ve began communicating with three people who are beautifully and devoted Muslims. I needed research for my book, so I looked to the experts. I can not put into words what these people have come to mean to me. We’ve never met face to face (something I hope to change this summer), but I’ve been continuously amazed at their strength in the times we live in. I think I know one Christian (maybe five?) who really lives out their faith as consistently. No one is perfect, and I think they’d argue with me for even suggesting it, but I think they’re pretty close. In any case, when they say their God loves me, I believe them. I’ve only been able to say that about one Christian in the last few years.
What’s the point? Honestly, I didn’t know how this would end when I started, but I do now. I’m ready to try to let go. There is no chance of me being friends with Artsy Karen or Acoustic Becky. I don’t respect them and they don’t respect me or people I love. That relationship is dead as well it should be. But I want to be a better person for these people I hope to one day call true friends. They make me want to see the world as they do. They make me want to love the world as they do. They’re easily and undoubtably the most Christ like people I know.
So, after years of holding on to my righteous indignation, I think I’m ready to take off the lid. I’m ready to begin the process of forgiveness and let the old wounds heal. More than that, I’m ready to believe in God again. My idea of religion and spirituality has expanded in the months I’ve spent getting to know these amazing people. I don’t quite know what that means for me yet, and I’m still not ready for organized religion. But I’m willing to explore my own belief system. That’s pretty new because the only god I’ve thought about in the last two years is The Maker from Dragon Age (I’m 100% sure if the DA chantry existed, I’d go on all major holidays).
I truly want to be friends with these people. They’re really good people. That makes me want to be a really good people so I can be a really good friend. Fortunately, I have some incredibly good examples to learn from.
Be well. Live in peace.