Denise was a good Christian. I know she was a good Christian because when I worked with her at a bank in the early 1990′s she told me she was a good Christian frequently. She loved all things Jesus, even brought a bible to work, which she’d fuss over and highlight in between calls.
I was no stranger to good Christian women. I was educated by nuns up until high school. My mom’s family was Catholic, and my Dad’s family was southern Baptist and Methodists. They were all good, honest, hard working people, not without their faults, but their time with God tended to be more private and intimate, not so brazenly in my face.
Something about Denise’s Christianity was more aggressive. It felt more offensive, or at least I felt more guarded and guilty around her.
Back in the early 90′s I was but a wee queer, still somewhat closeted and not-at-peace with my gayness. The output resulted in me being a mild mannered, agreeable, clean cut banker by day / boy crazy, booze guzzling, sinner by night. So while Denise rubbed many of my coworkers the wrong way, I entertained her biblical ramblings. Denise was my penance, a reminder of how un-Christian I had become.
I still had a lot of guilt in my early twenties. I was far from being the priest I dreamed of becoming in the 2nd grade, back when Jesus was my best friend too. Engaging Denise was like hearing about an old childhood friend, but discovering how much he’d changed. Through Denise I learned that Jesus had become more angry and judgmental, less friendly than the generous man I knew as a boy. He’d gotten bitter with age, had a scowl embedded in his face… Jesus had done the unthinkable, he’d become a hater.
One typical afternoon – Denise speaking in tongues, my coworkers gouging their eardrums with letter openers – I noticed cops talking to the Director. My heart began racing, when they looked in my direction…
There’s nothing more sobering than watching your boss escort the police towards you when you have a bag a weed in your backpack. An image of my brokenhearted mother morphed into a man named Bubba, my cell mate to be… Before I could fall to my knees and beg for forgiveness, I realized something. The police weren’t there for me. They were there for Denise, who I’d soon discover had been embezzling money from customers.
I was naive to take Denise at her word. Her Christian banner with the blinking arrow had distracted and mislead me. Had I been paying attention to her actions, not her words, I would’ve realized Denise wasn’t so Christian after all. She participated in potlucks begrudgingly, yet ate more than her share. She never pitched in when extra hours were needed or a coworker’s shift had to be covered. And perhaps most telling, she always rushed customers off the phone, so afterwards she could judge and mock them, determine who was going to heaven or hell based on their debits and credits.
Although I never claimed to be otherwise, I was guilty of being unchristian the afternoon Denise was arrested. I took satisfaction in seeing her led away in handcuffs a couple hours later. I was comforted by her hurt expression, when I announced to my coworkers, “There goes a good Christian woman.”
I’ve known and loved many good Christians in my lifetime, but they never boasted about their Christianity. They never used Jesus as a weapon, because doing so was unchristian. Instead, they lived life by Christian values. They were gracious, kind, and forgiving, and offered help when they could. They left judgement to the almighty.
Be Christlike and loving: forgive the sinners, care for the poor, and embrace your lepers. But get your bible out of my face.
Don’t tell me you’re a good Christian. Prove it. Be more like Jesus, and strive to make the world a better place…
Choose love over hate, starting with yourself.