Verbal Vandals

I was standing in front of my Church with my family and some friends, lingering and chatting after a particularly pleasant fellowship the other evening, when a couple of kids walked by and shouted the name of a famous member of my religion in the general direction of the group of us there.

You don’t see people walking by a Catholic Church shouting “Mel Gibson!” Why is it any different with mine?

See, my Church, which I have attended for over 25 years, is right across from a large university and there are always students out and about. This particular member is well-known to that age group—he’s well-known to any age group, really—and has been outspoken on the subject of his beliefs, so this wasn’t the first time this had happened.

It is strange though, right? To walk past a house of worship and bark out the names of the religion’s members? Not even a local, mind you, just another human being who marks the same religion box as me on a survey, and who happens to be a celebrity.

I mean, who would scream “Mel Gibson!” walking by a Catholic Church? Who waits for a Jewish temple to let out and drives by calling Adam Sandler’s name? Or marches past a Kabbalah Center toting a “Madonna” sign? As if these were the “parishioner poster children” of their respective faiths.

And that night was different than all the other times name-dropping verbal vandals feebly attempted to pigeonhole or define me, our congregation or this church.

It’s just that I suddenly realized those kids—with their prejudice and all-too-ready willingness to try to harass or embarrass perfect strangers walking out of a church, any church—are my child’s peers. They could be in class together.

It was different because my two amazing children were there with me. My younger boy had just transferred back home to be near his family and attend the university right across the street from his church. Our family church. The church being taunted by a name.

I know, it was “just a name.” They weren’t slinging rocks or bombs or racial slurs.

It’s just that I suddenly realized those kids—with their prejudice and all-too-ready willingness to try to harass or embarrass perfect strangers walking out of a church, any church—are my child’s peers. They could be in class together.

It hurt because for the first time, I worried about what my son might face as a Scientologist in a world where respecting the religious beliefs of others is apparently optional.

Author

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