Sunday, July 02, 2006

Daily Experience

This is our town square. If you click on the photo, you can read about the Civil War and see, way in the background, the marquee for the local theater, which features something on the "Gospel Truth."

My last post and the comments on it got me thinking about every day experience. Not all the issues I've dealt with recently have been great work and my home life are often a little oasis of safety. I've wondered whether to post the difficult stuff on the blog, but heck, life is sometimes about what's difficult. I struggle with where we live--in a time when religious fervor is at a fever pitch worldwide, I live in a part of the USA with a lot of evangelical fervor. Locals say, "Oh, this is the South, get used to it," but that isn't true, in my experience. I've lived both in Virginia and in North Carolina, and while these were states rich with religion, they were also places that accepted diversity and were somewhat tolerant of difference. In both of these states, there's a long history of accepting non-Protestants (Jews in particular) as ordinary citizens and even political leaders. That's not the case in Kentucky. If I question this, I've been told to "go back to where I came from." Where is that? Virginia? I'm a fourth generation American citizen. This is where I came from.

In fact, if anything, Kentucky has made me self-censor. I get cautious when I'm in social situations. What if I say something that will get me in trouble later? This sense of caution and fear is inhibiting. It's also kept me from making many friends here. As soon as I tell people about myself, it can become a difficult situation. For instance, I used to belong to a local knitting group. One group member in particular told me again and again that anything about my religion or my politics wasn't something she wanted to hear. I got tired of the intolerance...I could listen to their chatter about Easter, but could not mention Passover preparations without reproach. Now I knit by myself on the couch and participate in fiber listservs online. This was a painful experience for me, but those people didn't really know me. Even if only one member of the group perpetrated this intolerance, everyone else allowed it to continue. They didn't think it was "that bad." No one else stood up for me--in fact, the others who agreed with me just quit going to the group. In effect, non-Christian behavior, done in the guise of vigilant "moral" Christianity, kicked out the members of the group, Christian or Jewish, who did not tolerant this behavior.

This is a small town, and while I could start another group, there aren't an inexhaustible number of interested, diversity-tolerant knitters here. How do I cope? I strike back by writing about my experiences for big city publications. This is important because many people in big city blue state USA think religious intolerance is no longer prevalent in America. Here's the most recent article:

As American As...Proselytization:Fireworks,the Fourth and Jesus

Since you won't be able to see the photos clearly in the web article, I'll leave you with the flyer that was posted around our town square. Three or four blocks from my home, this is the closest Independence Day celebration...too bad it excludes all of the U.S. citizens who aren't Christian. I'll go to the university's celebration, where religious hymns will be interspersed with patriotic music. At least the fireworks are non-denominational.


Blogger sarah said...

As an atheist I might be even worse off than you in that situation :-/
I spent some time trying to understand how the modern USA developed from a country with a constitution intended to separate Church and State, founded by people most of whom believed most strongly that one's religion was a matter between oneself and one's God. I concluded that because I don't Believe, I can't comprehend it.
It's another reason to be grateful for the Internet: not only does it allow me to buy yarns from across the globe, it allows me to communicate with people who think like me (and others who don't, but remain polite despite this :-). We are no longer limited to discussing -- or not discussing -- matters with the people who live around us; we can live in communities of interest in the digital world.

July 2, 2006 at 11:10 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

AAAAAHAHHHHAHAAAHAHAHAHAAAAA!! My head is spinning!!!! I couldn't read what the movie theater sign said, but I can guess after your post. Not for the first time, I wish we lived closer together, Joanne.

July 2, 2006 at 12:31 PM  
Blogger YarnB said...

That is absolutely awful. I don't even know what to say. I wish you felt you could speak out more, on the other hand, you don't want to feel more ostracized. Just so you know, I have been in that exact same situation as a Jewish person living in other places too.. I despise intolerance. I hope you find some like minded souls there....

July 2, 2006 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger PBnJ said...

Joanne, all I can say is I'm so sorry. :( I am a Christian, but I don't agree with the behavior of many Christians. We tend to do a lot of things in the name "of Christ" that aren't Christlike. I think everyone was created the way they were for a reason. I celebrate individuality! Joanne, you are wonderful just the way you are. Your Jewish heritage is part of what makes you unique and special. I think Christians need to learn to accept others who are different from them. Sometimes we get to subconsciously thinking we're better than others because we're "saved". So, I apologize on behalf of Christians for offending you. So sorry :( I am glad you're Jewish. I respect the Jewish people and am very grateful for you. I think we Christians have a whole lot to learn from the Jewish people about how to worship.
Please have a happy Independence Day!

July 3, 2006 at 9:58 PM  
Blogger June said...

As a member of that knitting group, I did try repeatedly to "keep the peace" and have you stay with us. It seems to me that you are constantly bashing our group, but won't come back to try and confront the issues you say you have. I'll leave it at that.

July 4, 2006 at 8:15 AM  
Blogger Joanne said...

June, I did try repeatedly to discuss the matter with individuals privately. I then also tried to talk about the matter at the group. I tried gently to explain the situation to people who asked what was going on. I also tried to skip group meetings which I thought might be difficult. Finally, I tried to "put on blinkers" and continue coming to the group to draw from it what I could. After a while, I no longer felt at peace with the situation; I was giving up too much of myself. In order to "keep peace," I was compromising my values. So, in short, over two years, I confronted this issue individually, through the group, through email, and through "messengers" as well as trying to make peaceful positive change through my continued attendance.

I no longer feel I have to keep fighting this. I chose to leave the group because I got tired--I'm proud of who I am and I'm ok with what I believe, and I am tired of being made to feel uncomfortable.

As for bashing, as you may have seen in my article, I am confronted by these issues on a daily basis. The knitting group was one place where I could choose not to go. We may define "constantly" differently.

July 4, 2006 at 9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was fortunate to be raised in a community with about 1/3 Jewish, 1/3 Protestant and 1/3 Catholic. I have also seen the intolerance of people towards others who are different. I have to say it is in both north and south. They are just demonstrated in different ways.
In the south, it seems to take a religious slant as a significant numbers of one denomination believe that those who believe differently
are not-as-good as they are. It seems to be taught from birth so many do not see that trait in themselves.
In the north, it is based more on accent. Have a southern accent, no matter how slight, and people talk slowly and with careful wording because they know you are not as smart.

July 6, 2006 at 5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You need to accept the fact that it is your personality, not your religion, which turns people off. You come across as a very negative person who thinks that the world revolves around you. You lack humility which is the quality I admire most in people.

August 10, 2008 at 9:51 PM  

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