November 16, 2010

Scolded for Not Attending Church

scoldI was mildly scolded at work recently for not attending church. It does not seem to matter that I work at a state university. The Christian privilege of the "bible belt" is pervasive enough as to outweigh anything as trivial as the law. But believe it or not, this particular scolding did not bother me and is not really even the subject of this post. That may seem strange, but I can clear it up easily.

The person who scolded me was not a boss and has no authority over me. The scolding was done in a joking manner by someone I like. If I had been scolded by a boss for not attending church, this would be a very different post because I would be reporting on my trip to the office that handles complaints along these lines. In this case, the scolding was done in a joking manner and is not something that upset me at all. It was fairly easy to recognize it for what it was, dismiss it, and move on.

What made this incident worth mentioning at all is that I realized afterward just how limited my acceptable range of responses was. I was the one who had been scolded for something as silly as whether I went to church or not, and here I was having to be careful how I responded lest I become the villain. Remarkable!

Imagine the various ways I could have responded, many of which would have given the person who scolded me and our audience reason to complain about me.
Of course I don't go to church! Why would I want to waste my time like that?
Had I said something like this, I would have been guilty of disparaging someone's religious beliefs and could have easily found complaints filed against me. Of course, I could have gone the more antagonistic but safer route and said something like:
Whether I go to church or not is none of your concern, and I do not particularly appreciate being criticized because of how I choose to live my life.
This would have been unnecessarily dickish and dishonest since it made me sound far more upset than I actually was. I will certainly defend myself if I feel like I am being attacked, but I did not feel that way in this situation. In this particular scenario, laughing it off as I did was the best course of action. I don't regret doing so at all.

What I do regret is how few "safe" options we have in similar situations. It would have been very easy for me to get myself in trouble if the persons scolding me had been someone I already disliked. I also regret how nobody hesitates to scold people for not wasting their time in church while there would be considerable outrage if the tables were turned and I had scolded someone for doing so.

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