Did/do you experience a lot of backlash in Oklahoma for not being Christian?
Not in the least. I do, after all, speak the lingo. I have friends, clients and colleagues who are pastors or deacons, many who are Mennonite members or even elders, and no shortage of church ladies who are always the ones to offer the “we’d love to see you in church Sunday” approach.
One of my favorite things about being a backslider (!) among the faithful, is that my sense of what is or is not good manners is the same as theirs. I might even say that to most of these folks, a breach of etiquette is a worse social offense than a Failure to Appear in God’s House is, and I have my ways of being impeccably polite while making “don’t even go there” a pretty clear message on things spiritual. Usually when I can offer a more-informed and deeply-nuanced theological analysis of a given Bible citation (my dad is still my go-to seminarian, and the best I ever encountered) than they can as a means of reinforcing a point under discussion, their hearing “don’t even go there” as my subtext is a thing to behold.
Trick to it is, right there in the Bible: love thy neighbor as thyself. One learns not to pick fights with one’s beloved neighbors for no good reason, and besides I am in a customer-service field as a one-man home improvement practitioner filling an otherwise unmet need at a good price. No, they won’t be seeing me in church on Sunday. And no, they won’t be hearing me nitpick their faith apart like some ill-brought-up New Yorker with too much college. Given the cues and opportunities to show respect for another’s faith, I show it. Given the tests of my interpersonal skills to avoid matters of faith for lack of anything to be gained by both parties, I avoid them.
And, as visibly different as I am, with my long hair and my monthly shaves (more or less) and my oddball bachelor lifestyle and my occasionally obscure and off-worlder ideas, I fit right in.
I pull my weight and do an honest business and mind my manners. That is usually all these sorts of folks ask of others, whether they look or think or worship the same or not.