The Insults You Call Me
In my line of work--especially on the internet--I'm subject to quite a bit of name-calling and insults.
I don’t consider myself to have all that thick of skin.
I know it’s only supposed to be sticks and stones, but the words of others, hurled without care or compassion, harness potential for harm no matter how you shake it.
What people think (and say) about me matters to me more than I wish it did.
And yet, at the same time, over the past decade since I’ve been doing this kind of work publicly, I’ve noticed how my responses to various people’s insults differs.
Sometimes (most times, really) the names they use don’t come close to landing with any emotional weight. Occasionally though, as much as I might pretend otherwise, they do.
And then there’s that one time someone called me “foppish.” Full disclosure: I didn’t know what it meant. After looking it up (“concerned with one's clothes and appearance in an affected and excessive way; typically used of a man”), I just chuckled.
Yeah, Ben, you’re not wrong.
To Be Clear
Last week I ran a series on my social media titled, “To Be Clear.”
The point of the series was to highlight some of the names/insults thrown my way by conservative/evangelical Christians.
What I’ve learned over the years is that the people who call me these things don’t fully understand that their words don’t actually land they way they might assume. I’ve learned to deploy a sort of Aikido-esque maneuver when I read or hear people call me names such as “heretic” or “false-prophet.” They send their negative energy my way, I receive it, then deftly redirect that energy in such a way where I am left un-harmed.
As a result, I can literally read through hundreds of comments like this and it truly doesn’t bother me.
Until it does, as you’ll see below.
I thought I’d compile my entire “To Be Clear” series in to one article here to show you a bit of what I mean.
(These are shortened/modified versions of each entry. To read the full thing, click on the appropriate buttons below)
To be clear, when you call me “heretic,” I don’t entirely disagree with you.
Technically, a heretic is someone who opposes the “official or popular opinion.” In religious contexts, that means you oppose official church teachings. But here's the thing: some "official church teachings" are worth opposing!
So, yeah, I accept your label of heretic.
Because many of your beliefs deserve my opposition.
Granted, I hope I'm not always a heretic. I hope one day the "official" or "popular" opinions will be more... well, Jesus-y. Then I can take a break from all this heresy.
But until then, I'll be over here in my corner with others who identify as progressive Christian and who aren't content to just let the "official" church beliefs go unopposed.
To be clear, when you call me "False Prophet," I don't entirely disagree with you.
A "prophet" is someone who speaks on behalf of God (or a god, or, the gods). And in this case, since I know a bit about your god (don't forget, that's the god I worshipped and served for many years), I think I can safely say that yeah, I'm a really crappy prophet for that god.
If your god
plays favoritism, and blesses some (while cursing others),
is cool with some people enjoying eternal bliss while sending (or allowing) others to burn forever just because they didn’t have a specific belief inside their brain,
is of the opinion that being gay is abomination,
then yeah, you’re right, I’m false.
It’s import that you know that I know that I'm a very bad, very false prophet for your god.
And I’m good with that.
WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING
To be clear, when you call me “Wolf in Sheep's Clothing,” I don't entirely disagree with you.
It's just, your concern is misplaced.
I'm not sneaking through the gates to prey on unsuspecting sheep, leading them off to some scary destination. They're in no real danger, I promise you.
No, I'm sneaking in--okay, actually I'm making my entrance pretty damn loud and obvious--but I'm coming to take on the shepherd, baby.
Sheep are at the mercy of their shepherd. They eat when the shepherd says. They go where the shepherd tells them. They believe the doctrines and ideas the shepherd teaches (whoops, slipped a bit in to the metaphorical there).
There's a lot of really bad evangelical scented shepherds out there, and you bet your @$$ I'll be using my voice, my platform, and my life's mission to liberate their sheep from such harmful ideas.
So yeah, I'm a wolf.
And if dressing like a sheep gets me closer to the shepherd so I can expose their (okay, let's be pronoun-ly accurate: it'll be a "he") expose his bad ideas...
Then bring on the wool.
NOT A CHRISTIAN
To be clear, when you call me "Not a Christian," I don't entirely disagree with you.
Not because I don't identify as a Christian (I do). Not because I don't believe myself to be Christian (I am). But because I actually know that what you mean when you insist that I am “not one,”
is that I am not an “evangelical Christian.”
You see, you have a very narrow/limited view on what Christianity is and what it means to be a Christian (trust me, I know, I used to think that way too). And, to be fair, in your narrow view you are correct. I don't qualify as "Christian."
But that's not the whole picture.
In reality, I just don't fit the parameters, I don't check the right boxes, I don't qualify to be an "Evangelical."
And I am TOTALLY fine with that. Been there, done that. No thank you.
It's why I identify now as Post-Evangelical. (Not so much Exvangelical, though I totally get the sentiment. For me, it's less about me being ex something, and more about me having moved past it. Beyond it.)
The brand of Christianity that passes for Evangelicalism these days:
those who are anti-LGBTQ;
who believe that women are less than men;
who voted for and then supported Trump;
who are married to a twisted type of Christian Nationalism + White Supremacy.
Yes, please, make sure people know I'm not that kind of Christian.
To be clear, when you call me "Liar,"
okay, well, that one actually hurts.
With the previous four names (Heretic, False Prophet, Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, Not a Christian) I can honesty say, "yeah, I don't entirely disagree with you."
However... when it comes to some of the other names people (for reasons I’ll never comprehend) feel fine calling me—and again, remember, these are people who call themselves “Christian”—names such as:
Worker of Satan
try as might, those blows do sometimes land.
Turns out, I'm human after all. Which is something I don't think people on the internet take into consideration: The humanity of people different from them.
It hurts--as it turns out--to be told I'm a liar. That I'm manipulating people for my own gain. That I'm wicked and a coward.
It hurts because I know, in my heart, I'm doing the best I can. Might I be wrong--absolutely! I say this over and over again. But lying? God, no. No.
So to be accused, repeatedly, of fundamentally being something--someone--that I know I am not...
well, it can wear a person down.
It can hurt.
And hurting other people should be something that matters to you.
Want To Talk About This With Me?
Today we’ll be discussing the above article and why folks call us names like this and how to respond.
Reader Discussion: How Do You Deal?
Do you find yourself on the other end of conservative Christian’s fear and insecurity?
Do they hurl insults at you?
If so, how do you handle it?