It seemed quite topical to me, as just last week, a good friend was telling me about a colleague whose beliefs were becoming an issue. We all want to be tolerant and kind, but some Christians just ruin it for the rest of them by making it a huge part of their personality, conversation and identity. I have no qualms with the faith itself, but it should be just that - private, personal and just one aspect of a person. I don't like to be submerged in someone's views, just as I wouldn't pelt someone with incessant titbits about my love of musical theatre or garlicky foods. It's just not necessary. This is the kind of Christian that gets my goat. I remember going to the funeral of a friend in my teens, and another friend's mother remarking that such times made her so sorry for anyone that hadn't embraced God in their lives. I hated her for that, so ill-judged at a time when God had never seemed less fair or relevant.
Of course many practicing Christians manage to be quietly devout; a person first and a Christian second. I suppose I just link any sort of religious fervour loosely to madness*, and if you were unfamiliar with the bible, many of its teachings would indeed sound like the ravings of a lunatic. This, coupled with the person's affinity to a dogma that suggests many of my friends deserve to burn in hell for their lifestyle choices, does not a firm friendship make. Is that so terrible a reason to secretly judge someone? The Stylist piece quoted many women who admitted to feeling a 'discomfort' around someone on finding out they are a devout Christian. This does seem injust, but I know the feeling they refer to - it's a sort of 'Watch your step, this one has views' aversion - and the reason I know this is because it is not simply applicable to Christians. I feel the same kneejerk discomfort on finding out someone is teetotal (terrible, I know), a vegan or a Daily Mail reader. A hard-line Tory or a militant feminist are similarly so far outside my values and opinions that I will hesitate to treat them as I would a kindred spirit. Especially if they make their 'thing', whatever it be, a huge deal every single day. This is the only circumstance in which I can imagine a Christian would face mass criticism, and it seems to me that it is a very insecure person that needs to so heavily advertise their own religion.
There are numerous little things that put us off a person slightly (drinking milk straight out of the bottle and putting it back, anyone?) Just because they used to be the default religion for this country, some Christians appear to think people not wanting to hear their preaching is a terrible movement of persecution, when in fact most of us have simply moved on from all that. We abandon outdated laws and language from our culture all the time, why not religious ones? It's ok if you believe in God, but many of us also believe in our professional environment being free from such intense subject matter. That may seem like bullying to the Archbishop, but whacking an acquaintance over the head with your creationist beliefs is probably less bearable. So pipe down - we'll risk going to hell if it means we don't have to hear you thanking an invisible deity for your morning coffee.
* Shortly after posting this, I turned the page of the book I'm currently reading on the train, and saw an excellent description about how the humanist/logical mind processes the idea of religion:
The primitive thinking of the supernaturally inclined amounts to what [Henry Perowne's] psychiatric colleagues call a problem, or an idea, of reference. An excess of the subjective, the ordering of the world in line with your needs, an inability to contemplate your own unimportance. In Henry's view such reasoning belongs on a spectrum at whose far end, rearing like an abandoned temple, lies psychosis.
- Saturday, Ian McEwan