Freshman year of college, I broke up with my boyfriend for two weeks. Both of us pretended it was the right idea; both of us agreed to it; both of us knew it was a stupid plan, done for really stupid reasons. There was a lot of crying, a lot of confusion, and a lot of underlying, "You idiot, just forget all this and go back to being happy" throughout the process. But let's go back in time and be really, really blatant.
It all started with the Baptist Student Fellowship and a woman I'm going to call Susie.
Susie was the most well-intentioned conservative Texan that she could possibly be. She was cheerful, had all that Southern charm, and to boot she exuded competence and kindness. She was enthusiastic and invited me to be with the Baptist folks on campus. I went to a couple of their gatherings, and Susie, being a good group cat-herder, said that as the new person I should go to lunch with her and we should get to know each other. I said sure, that sounded fine. I was at a particularly crappy spot in my life and really needed someone to talk to who knew about spiritual matters, and she was there. So we went to lunch.
Susie and I talked over Thai food, right next to the dorm that I would live in two years later. Most of this encounter is a blur. I don't remember a single word of what she asked me, up until the memory becomes quite clear in a sudden zing.
The waitress sets a plate of mango chicken down on the table. Definitely mango chicken. I remember that clear-as-day. The mangos tastes not all that great, but I'm hungry. Susie has something else, I don't remember what. I start eating; she starts eating. She asks me, somewhere in there, who I'm dating.I tell her, this guy from my hall, he's pretty cool, I like him a lot.
I ask her the question I never should have asked her, ever, but it was niggling in the back of my mind and I wasn't about to leave there without asking. "Is it okay if I'm dating him? He's not Christian."
She said that it was a sin.
That oh, but you're not going to Hell, but...well, it is a sin. You shouldn't be dating him.
And she gave me that look, the look of concern, the patronizing look that says you poor thing, you're falling away, let me bring you back. Let me dictate to you the life you must lead, the one that will bore you out of your skull, the one where you won't be able to find romantic options because MIT doesn't have that many people who are compatible with your interests and geeky in the ways you are and Christian and not in relationships already. Let me take something that is making your sad, depressed life better, and smash it to pieces.
Let me put you back in chains.
I lost ten pounds stewing over this issue. I worried so much I ate one meal a day for a month and came out of it lighter than I had been in years. I talked to my best Christian friend, but I couldn't shake it -- this woman was Authority. Susie wasn't just any person; she Knew Things. She was Right, because she was a pastor, and of course all pastors were right. If I thought I was right, well, then all her spiritual education and connection to God was worthless. She had to be right.
I broke up with my boyfriend because he wasn't a Christian, despite the fact that he was one of the kindest, most open people I knew at the time. He was great for me, at that point in my life, and we were very close friends. But Susie said so, therefore God said so, and so I had to do it. I couldn't live a life where I was sinning.
"Do not be unequally yoked." Or something. That verse would haunt me for years of my MIT life.
And in the end, had I followed her advice, I would be a sad, miserable person right now.
I broke the rules. I broke the rules because I refuse to be a Pharisee. I refuse to believe that anything in the world that makes me happy, has to be evil. I refuse to believe that romance, and caring for another person, and love, can't transcend religious boundaries. I refuse to believe that Jesus wants us to stick in our own little enclaves. I refuse to believe that God Himself, who is my Father and cares so deeply for me that He sent His own son to be tortured and killed so my sins would be absolved, would let Satan just run rings around me, that all the people that appeared in my life and loved and cared for me who weren't Christian, were just there to make me screw up. If I was truly a child of God, then God was not going to let "faux-good" things happen to me just to trip me up. God does not plant poisoned candy there for you, just to punish you for having a good thing in life. God does not set booby traps.
These non-Christians I dated had far more of the virtues that God desires, than many Christians I know. Patience. Perseverence. Kindness. Gentleness. Self-control. You know, all the Fruits. The ones that God wants us to have.
"And you shall know them by their fruit."
What Fruits have the conservative Christians I know offered me? Fearmongering. Inflicting pain. Creating despair and depression. Lack of empathy. Self-righteousness. Careless words. There is a time to hurt and a time to heal, but the people I know, didn't heal at all. They were like surgeons who went in and cut something out, then didn't finish the job and left you there bleeding, told you to stitch yourself up. After all, it was your fault you had the sickness, whatever it was in the end, so you should take care of yourself.
I am not one of them, not anymore. Non-Christians have done more for my faith, than Christians have. I'm tired of dogma. I'm tired of chains. I'm tired of being scared, and I'm tired of seeking refuge in the false sense of security that is, "So long as you don't do anything on this long list, you have no reason to be scared." I want adventure. I want experimentation. I want life to be interesting. I don't want to be constrained to boring old...fear.
I want to live.
We got back together, by the way.