Well, it wasn’t actually that day. Looking back now, I can see that it all began at lot earlier. But one fine Spring day in a classroom at a small university in West Texas, I got my first taste of what it feels like to be rejected for one’s faith.
At a staunch Southern Baptist college, I had one radical professor who insisted we read the Bible with new eyes, like we had never been exposed to it before. Mind you, he was talking to a room full of life-long Christians, most (if not all) raised in strict, conservative evangelical homes. We had been memorizing scripture since before we could write. And this doctor of theology wanted us to read the New Testament without preconceived notions, to think for ourselves for the first time in our lives.
I was secretly thrilled for the challenge. So I did. Or at least, I tried.
It was in classroom discussion later in the semester, that I opened my mouth and uttered an interpretation that differed wildly from everything any of us had ever been taught. And the looks I got were some of the angriest I have yet encountered.
Several of my friends refused to speak with me. Some for nearly a month. It rocked my little world in such a way, that I never again criticized the accepted doctrine while attending university. At least not while the critics were listening, and only vaguely, tangentially when in the company of my dearest friends.
And for the next fifteen years, I towed the doctrinal line in public, and harbored doubts and questions in private. Until a couple years ago, when the exhaustion of all that deceit finally got to me, when I was maligned and judged by people who had no real insight into my life or my faith. When a casual comment revealed months of hurtful gossip, and I walked away.
I have mentioned before that I am not an open book. My internal workings, thoughts, hopes, and dreams are not on public display to be perused, discussed, judged, and dismissed. I developed the art of concealment in response to well-meaning Christians who behaved as though transparency was a requirement rather than an option. And I learned long ago, in that fateful classroom, that to avoid the pain of rejection and judgement, I had to keep my big questions, doubts, and ideas to myself.
It is thanks to dear friends like the Agnostic Pentecostal, and new-found sojourners like Rachel Held Evans, that I hold some semblance of hope that I can work out this faith and all its questions. And maybe this time, just maybe, I won’t be rejected. Maybe I’m not actually wrong for seeing the world differently. Maybe I’ll be ok.