As a black female a lot of things cross my mind that will seldom cross my white male boyfriend's mind. Rarely will he look around and be the only one of his skin tone or heritage in the room. When he voices an opinion in a meeting, he does not worry that his boss or coworkers will value his input less because of his gender, and when he converses, people don't say that he's eloquent or "well-spoken"; they simply expect him to talk that way. Aside form the stigma that is my skin (and occasionally my gender), lately I've noticed another odd feeling. I feel that people will shy away from speaking to me or opening up; not because of my skin tone or gender, but because I am Christian.
Currently on my Instagram, where the "About" section is, it reads "Limitless, because my God is". After talking to a business owner who is gay, I gave him my contact information including my social media (in order to set up an interview). While at home later that evening I suddenly worried that he would see my "About" section and decide against interviewing for fear that I might judge him, or more characteristically, think that he is going to hell. Of course, I hoped that he would rely on our prior interactions to better inform his decision, but I was not sure.
Why did I feel this way?
As Christians we get a bad wrap for being too pushy and extremely judgmental. To be honest though, in a lot of cases, this tends to be true. In my own family I have endured negative experiences based on strong personal religious beliefs. Tyler and I for example, have Christian backgrounds. However, while in college, Ty took a class on Buddhism and thoroughly enjoyed it. He identified with the concepts and over-arching ideologies, he felt more connected to the practice than his Christian upbringing and overall agreed with the founding principles. After taking this course he decided to adapt his life to a Buddhism mindset, virtually leaving Christianity on the side until I walked into the picture. Now, he didn't leave Christianity because he didn't believe it; he, like many others felt bombarded and overwhelmed by the pressure placed on him by members of his family and the Christian community.
Together, Tyler and I have made a way to combine and enjoy aspects of both religions happily. Members of our respective families are still skeptical (and sometimes unkind) about Buddhism and how it can work hand-in-hand with Christianity.
The point of this post is not to say "Shame on you!" to fellow Christians with strong opinions and ultimately good intentions. Rather, it is to say that I hate feeling like I am a part of a group that makes others feel bad or embarrassed for who they are, for who/how God made them, what religion they have chosen (or were born into) or for what their personal preferences tend to be. How in the world are you going to encourage someone to get to know Jesus while telling them that their way of life is "sinful"?... Girl! What you said last night about your co-worker was sinful and what I know about God, your sin is no better or worse than anyone else's.
More than anything I write this post to declare that, while Christian, I live with an open heart and open mind. I am learning every single day what it means to be a black women in America, a daughter of God, how Buddhism fits into my life, and if there is anything else I can make for dinner outside of our five rotating meals! Don't be shy about inviting that friend to church! Just don't hate, judge or guilt them if they say "no thanks" to your invitation. I ask that you take the time to respect the journey of others as we are all wandering, wondering and trying our very best.