I gave myself a mental pep talk before I came to TN. It started off as a summer job, but now I’m living here. Long story, very temporary. I knew that in a small town, people talk. People discuss, people judge, judge, judge. Since my uncle is a pastor, and my aunt is a teacher and a first lady, the rumor mill would be spinning at the drop of drama. I mean….it has, but I decided not to rekindle kettle boiling flames by wearing my (bi) sexuality on my sleeve, or discussing religion at great lengths. You ask, I tell. You keep asking, I explain, but I didn’t want to rub it in faces, or discuss the how and why to such a point that people think I’m some evil God-bashing demon.
I was raised in a Christian home. Raised by a Christian family. I was raised to believe. That was the default. I thought it was just what you did, and the rest would come to you. I did it because my family did. Both sides. At 12-13, I questioned it. I stayed at home. When I visited my aunt, I just went. I liked my uncle’s sermons, but it felt more like a life lesson. A class. I pretended to believe. I tried to. I prayed when my dad was ill. Prayed for my ex to come back to me. Prayed when things went wrong. I tried to open myself to hear God. I never heard Him. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to cause trouble or be the black sheep. I didn’t need people trying to convince me or show me. I didn’t need a redemption. I cared, but I did not believe. I felt like I was betraying my family and my race.
But let’s be real.
I have never been the “default”. I’m not a super unique special snowflake, either. I’ve been stepping out of line for years. Fat, natural hair, geek/nerd/dork, late bloomer, and of course….bisexuality! Whee! ” Why label yourself?” asks my dad. I do it online to “find my people”. In real life, it’s guarded unless I am asked. I don’t do the impolite thing where I derail and deny, either.
Every action comes with a reaction.
Again, I keep my sentiments on Christianity to a minimum. ” open minded people” usually aren’t, and I’ve seen enough passive aggressive FB posts from Christian friends about knocking it (which I would not) because a bad thing happened at church, or one heard about it. I never believed. I was raised to believe and followed suit until I wanted something more. Until I had the power….found the power…to walk my own religious path. My neighbor introduced me, but years prior, my school set up the interest.
I love their quaint, warm feelings. I knew what I was getting myself into, but drama at home and no job put me here. So I knew that I’d have to keep quiet on some things– the damned Rebel Flag, the BLM movement, religion, and sexuality. Keep it all under wraps. Or, keep it cordial. Or, keep it to particular company. I had to keep myself as default looking as possible.
People assume that because of my family, I’m a Christian by default. Explaining to them makes it sound like I have a record. And then, the million dollar question…”you don’t believe in God?”
A lot of people don’t. A lot do.
It’s always a gossip-worthy extra layer, because I’m Pastuh an’ Missus niece from Chicaguh. I don’t get Southsider crusty about it, but the shock and awe is so old. With all the religions and philosophies in this world, why are some people so shocked and amazed that a Black person is not a Christian? Why, yesterday, did the person who asked me do the weirded out snarl thing? Look of confusion?
I am a Buddhist.
A Nichiren Buddhist.
I chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.
I want world peace, I want to be the best I can be. I want the best for my friends and family.
Is it because our beliefs are different that I’m suddenly brand new and scary? Do you think I’m going to be argumentative and purposely get in bashing debate? I disagree with a lot within Christianity, but I don’t get into it. I just don’t. I know a lot of Christians who actually share my sentiments, but they stay because they believe. I left because I did not.
I am happy it helped my aunt get through her storm to live her life. Happy my grandma kept her faith. I am happy for anyone who had found comfort and salvation in that religion of their own choosing. I just don’t like it when people say stuff to try and convert me back. I don’t like it when people think it’s a phase. Or when they treat you like riff raff.
Yesterday’s incident was so short. My employer’s husband asked what church I was going to. I calmly told him I was a Buddhist. He made a face like I was speaking a foreign language. That made me nervous, so I explained what it was, but felt like I was explaining myself! Like I was in trouble! Felt like it.
Of course he asked the million dollar question. An internal sigh later, I told him no. Hoping I still had a job, I worked my ass off feeling weird all day. I will be in this town for a while. There are things that bother me, but I’m not a jerk about it. There are things that are different and prominent, but I leave them alone. I hate how odd things get, once I relay I’m not part of the default. How people indirectly make you feel like it’s a crime to be sans-tradition. But what did I expect from a small town? A like–minded space?
These are okay people, mostly. Notice, I said “some people feel like this”. I’m sure a lot really don’t care.
So I will find a way to navigate the gentle and abrasive moments.